The water table
500 Words: First Memory
I can’t say that I loved school when I was little but I did love ‘water play’.
One or two afternoons each week, the water play table would be set up outside our classroom. On the black asphalt that became hot and sticky during the long summer months, a large and sturdy rectangular metal table was set up by the teachers.
It was filled with three to four inches of water.
Various pouring containers bobbed on the surface as did funnels and jam jars, spoons and ladles, colanders and flour scoops. There were even a couple of little buckets and tea party sets thrown in. My earliest memory of being allowed to enjoy water play is from when I was about 6 years old and in first class at the local primary school. In the sun, without hats or sunscreen, my classmates and I gathered excitedly around the water play table.
Pouring and measuring, emptying and filling, laughing and giggling – it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, being creative and social. We were also being given a basic introduction to maths in a way that was fun and practical. We were learning as we played.
I can’t remember my teacher ever getting cross with us during water play. We never threw water at each other or splashed anyone on purpose. Even the naughty kids were good. I remember playing with the water as being a very calming experience.
It also encouraged our social skills – we interacted with each other and practiced our manners and sharing abilities as we asked for different containers or asked to borrow a certain something. We made new friends as we got to know each child in the class. There were never any tears during water play.
Nowadays, water play tables are made of brightly coloured moulded plastic and are fully accessorised, with spinning wheels, water elevators and shade shelters. Today’s water play tables probably don’t have sharp edges. But the metal water play table of my childhood will always hold a special place in my memory, despite its lack of sophistication and safety features.