On the Water - Outdoor Experience Guide

As the source and sustainer of life water is an important element. There are myriad opportunities to explore the water - from a neighbourhood creek to the mighty ocean. Because water is everywhere. it is easy to engage in sustained learning about the water cycle, water-based ecosystems and even water in myth with your kids. Water also offers an amazing sensory experience and time spent in the water can build skill and confidence. So head out to the beach or the stream and get wet. 



Sensory fun - Water is a wonderful, stimulating substance for kids of all ages. Embrace chances to get wet. Fill Rubbermaid bins with water to play in in the backyard, make puddles with the hose, dance in the rain, take off your shoes and wade in a stream or go swimming. Also find opportunities to mix water with other substances such as dirt and sand and dig in. 

Discover an ecosystem - Small areas of wetland or underwater ecosystems can be incredibly diverse. Explore the area where you are and keep track of what plants and animals you find. Take pictures, sketch in your nature journal and track what you find.

In, on and around the water- If you are a family who loves being out on the boat remember that the shore is rich in experience and learning too. Take a hike along the lake or ocean shore or go for a walk along a stream. If you don't usually make it out on the water, see if you can find opportunities to boat with your kids. Rent a canoe or a fishing boat for an afternoon and try it out. The perspective when you are out in the middle of the water is novel and often awe inspiring. When learning is your goal try a small motorless boat like a kayak or a canoe so that you can experience the serenity of the water and get up close and personal with nature. If you have access to a motor boat head out into the waves and then shut down the motor and drift. 

Collect some critters - Capturing small wetland creatures such as frogs, salamanders and minnows can be a safe introduction to getting up close and personal with wildlife. Bring a large bucket and net and see what you can find. Remember to handle the animals gently and release them when you're done. 


If you are planning on being out on the water for an extended time make sure to pack lots of snacks. Hungry kids are not great at paying sustained attention to canoeing or deep sea fishing. If you are going to be spending a lot of time on a boat consider getting a fishfinder or underwater camera. That way kids can see what is happening under the surface and keep track of underwater creatures. 




  • Ultimate Ocean-pedia by National Geographic - Another of National Geographic's bright, engaging and fun offerings. If your little ones love the ocean or you are heading their soon check it out. This book offers a thorough look at what is going on beneath the waves. 

  • Seashore: Explore Nature with Fun, Facts and Activities by DK - This book thoroughly explores the science of the seashore from animal life to how shores are formed. Nicely designed with pictures and interesting illustrations it is a great book to check our before a trip to the seashore. Make sure to make a rock pool viewer using the instruction in this book before heading out tidal pooling. 

  • Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner - With engaging illustrations, this storybook about a family canoe adventure deftly explores the natural elements that can be found around and under the surface of the water. 




While we can't always get out to the ocean we generally have opportunities to play with water at home. If you have spent some time at the beach, try and make your own shoreline at home. Combine sand and water with seashells, moss, driftwood or rocks that you've collected to create a mini waterscape in a dish or in the backyard. 

Water has been a key element in myth and story for thousands of years. Read some stories about water creatures or water gods and goddesses from varying cultures. You can also try your hand at channeling the watery muse. When you return home from spending time on the water write poems or stories inspired by your experience; share them together as a family. 


If you become very familiar with a specific watery landscape, be it near home or where you were staying on a hot getaway, try to gather all the information you can about the natural ecosystem in the area. Create an ecosystem web for that environment on paper as a drawing or collage or on the computer as a mind map or web document. Try to include as many plants, animals and microscopic creatures as you can. How do they interact with each other? Where do human beings fit into the web?