It Not "Just Recess" Anymore!

Teachers often heave a sigh of relief when they take their students out to recess. Finally! The children can burn off the pent up energy they had been accruing for the past few hours indoors. But what if we change our outlook on outdoor play time? What if we create an outdoor environment that offered all of the learning opportunities that one would typically find indoors? What if children could run out to a well-planned play yard to find experiences in math, science, nature, dramatic play, water, building and construction, sensory activities, physical development, art and music? What if they play yard developed critical thinking, discovery, problem solving, and cooperative skills? The result would be that we wouldn't have "just recess" anymore. We would have The Outdoor Classroom!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Water Features and Dry River Beds

Our preschool is currently trying to put together an interactive water feature for our playground. We want something that will recirculate water through the day, is 'child powered' (hand pumped), and can be dumped out at the end of the day (to comply with local laws). We want the water to be zero depth, but also forceful enough so the children can maneuver the water with sticks, rocks, pebbles, etc. A "dry river bed" idea, but with some water flow. We've had two landscaping companies come out to bid, but I am short on ideas as to how to make this work. Here are a few photos we showed them. Does anyone have ANY photos or ideas on how to make this work? We would LOVE your input!

Something like this could work...if we could just get the water to recirculate during play & then dump out at the end of the day.

This would be perfect, except California has a "no standing water" rule.


Too deep for our purposes, but I love the way it looks like a real creek. I also love the little hand pump!

This feature is at a local park in Pasadena. With the laws on "fall zones," I like that this feature wouldn't require the kids to climb on it. But then again, climbing through a river bed is half the fun!


  1. Hi Kristin

    I think an engineer is your best bet or try asking Frode Svane via Facebook who is Norwegian.

    I've blogged about dry streams too -

    At the Swedish nursery a parent sorted out the flow but it was not easy as the water needs to be filtered each time if sand and other materials are dumped in the stream.

    A barrel hand pump which houses 50 galleons of water and comes sealed at the top - just a small gap for adding water as it's designed to be a water butt. These cost £150 so I guess in the US the price would be comparable or cheaper. This system is good in that the water is only available when it is pumped. If you have a wetland area at the foot of the pump filled with boggy plants then this is a good way of re-using the water after it's been played with in the dry stream.

    Best wishes

  2. Hi Kristin. I am a garden designer and properietor of Gardening4Kids - a gardening school in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I think it's best you contact a landscaper contractor who specialises in water features as they can be tricky to get right. In Scotland there are a couple of specialists - Water Gems & Splash Gordon I am sure there is something similar near you. Hope this helps. Regards, Joanne.

  3. Lovely post! In the post different water features looking amazing and beautiful spot.

  4. Beautiful water features ! I liked your post.Thanks...
    Posted by: Mary Davis | Outdoor Water Features

  5. I think that water features can add a lot to a yard. I would love to get a water feature like this in my backyard. It would look great and my kids would have so much fun!