by Rusty Keeler

Water water everywhere but not a drop to play with? Nonsense! We all know that children love water. It splishes, it splashes, and it’s always changing and reacting to children’s experiments. I don’t need to tell you: you already know how great water play is for children. You see the wonder of water tables everyday in your classrooms. But how do you get water outside on the playscape? Isn’t it against health regulations? Even against the law?? Ha! It turns out that there are many ways of safely adding water to your playscape that fully comply with health and safety regulations (and are still fun for children).

In recent years health concerns have prompted regulations to help keep children safe from dangerous hazards on the playscape. One such hazard is standing water. Not good. But that doesn’t equate to “no water” (as some overzealous licensors or inspectors sometime mistakenly say), it just means that you can’t have pools of water on the playscape. Easy solution: don’t let the water stand! Let it flow!

Centers and family childcare programs all over are creatively adding water to their yards. Some people are adding recirculating fountains to their playscapes with fresh water added daily. Other groups are installing fresh water pumps with troughs and tubes. Other folks are creating fantastic sand and water play extravaganzas with children pumping their own water into huge seas of sand.

The complexity of your water additions doesn’t matter. You could have the grandest water feature this side of the Mississippi or the simplest water sprinkler hooked up to a garden hose. The important thing is that you are providing children with the opportunity to interact with water. Splish splash….


1. Water Sculpture

Albany, NY. A custom water play sculpture set into the sand area. Concrete and mosaics with plumbing inside hooked directly to a water line. Made by artist Sherri Warner Hunter.

2. Push Button Fountain

Portland, OR. A ‘foot wash station” fountain made by Most Dependable Fountains. Push the button for a spritz of water.


3. Recirculating Waterfall

LaJolla, CA. A “pool-less” recirculating fountain. The water spills down the waterfall through gravel and is pumped back up to the top. Dinosaurs love it!


4. Dog lick faucet

LaJolla, CA. What a simple idea! This is an inexpensive dog faucet that you can buy at many pet stores attached to a hose hookup. Children (and dogs) can push the small trigger to send a trickle of water pouring out.


5. Dog lick faucet + log waterfall

Syracuse, NY. Here the dog faucet is attached to a hose mounted to the end of a cedar log. Parent volunteers carved the logs into a nice trough waterfall spilling the water to a gravel base below.


6. Water Pump to Sand

Berlin, Germany. A large scale kid-controlled water pump sends water down a stone waterfall into a giant pit of sand below.


7. Artistic Outdoor Water Table

Portland, OR. Mosaics, tiles, shells, and jewels line the bottom of this sensory water table. Made by artists Marvin and Lilli Ann K. Rosenburg.

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