Friday, July 18, 2014

More Summer Projects to do with Kids

This is project # 5 in my series on Fabulous Activities to do with Kids this summer!
Build a Water Wall
This wet and wonderful project is a gift that keeps on giving.  Build one today and your kids will play with it all summer long.  Appropriate for ages 5 and up but expect to be heavily involved in the process.

Today I am going to share a REALLY fun activity that I have been seeing all over Pinterest lately. However, when I clicked on those pins, they took me to blogs and sites that showed perfectly constructed projects, many with limited instructions on the actual assembly.  In this tutorial I will offer step by step instructions, construction tips and I will discuss the materials and safety issues that a parent should know so their kid's walls are a smashing success.  

  • Pegboard
  • Zip ties, 8 inch
  • Recycled containers
  • Funnels, straws and/ or sections of hose(s)
  • Box cutter
  • Crop-o-dile hole punch, awl or other method for punching holes in heavy plastic (hammer with nails works too!)
  • Scissors
  • Duct/ plumbers tape and Metal file (optional)
  • Watering can or pitcher
Supply Information 
Pegboard - you can use the standard press board pegboard but it will buckle quickly and eventually break with water use.  They sell industrial strength pegboard which would undoubtedly last longer but it gets a bit pricey and will also deteriorate before the summer is over.  We used plastic peg board which came in 16" x 16" squares for $5.69 at Home Depot.

We only used 2 squares stacked on top of each other because I was working with littler kids and I wanted them to be able to pour the water themselves. We used screws to connect the 2 squares together, but this was not sufficient for the two squares to stand erect.  There was a bit of bend between the 2 pieces; a small inverted fold if you will, which interfered with the flow of the water from one container to the next.
I had to lay the board against the fence at an angle because the inverted bend was significant when I tried to stand them up erect.
As you can imagine, some of the younger, less patient kiddos found this a bit frustrating. This bend altered the way the water flowed which meant we had to redo a lot of the initial designs.  The bend increased as the heat of the day made the plastic softer. I would recommend purchasing some PVC pipe to zip tie to the back so that the squares have adequate support to stay erect. You could then slightly lean the entire unit against a wall, fence or table so the wall stands almost verticle.

I would recommend using 3 squares if you are able.  This way you can attach more items to the chain for more pouring excitement. If you put a stool (with slip grip) next to the water wall, the smaller kids can still pour.

Zip ties - you will need a lot of them because they will misjudge placement more than you think.

Recycled containers- The more, the better so they have lots of options to build with. Both plastic and tin too.  Plastic is easier to cut and mold, but tin will hold its form so the water flow from it is predictable. Coated cardboard (like milk cartons) are ok, but not as durable.
She could predict where the water would flow using these cans.  The water flow from the plastic containers changed with the flow speed and weight of the water making it less reliable.
*IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ADULTS* -I highly recommend pre-cutting the entry and exit holes prior to putting out all of the materials.  Cutting became a real point of contention with my group of kids because they had to wait for me to do this step for them each time they wanted to add a new element.  Cutting takes a lot of time for safety reasons. You will need to wrestle with awkward, unsupported, pliable surfaces when slicing these holes and you will be using sharp razor knives or sheers to accomplish your task.  There will be sharp plastic edges, metal slivers and injury inducing "pokeys" immediately following these cuts that will need to be modified, covered with duct tape or filed to be kid-ready.  I don't know any water-wall-age-interested-kids that can master this process so by getting this step out of the way, the kids can get started on the fun, lickety split.

Funnels, straws and/ or sections of hoses - These items are not imperative but will pump up the excitement considerably!  You can get a set of 2 or 3 for a $1 at the Dollar Tree, and if you go into the automotive section, they even sell those oil change funnels (see below) with tubes which you can cut into 2 pieces if you want. You can hit the hardware store for all kinds of tubing or cut up an old garden hose if you have one.  You can straws too! Both the large slurpee sized and the bendy-at-the-neck kind will work.  The kids will just have to play with the connections to make sure water actually enters the smaller holes rather than running over the sides.

Box cutter, crop-o-dile hole punch, awl or other method for punching holes in heavy plastic (hammer with nails works too!), scissors, metal file and duct/ plumbers tape - These are all tools to cut water entrance and exit holes, to poke holes for the zip ties to attach to the walls and for protecting the cut edges so little ones don't get hurt.  I suggest that all of these items stay in the hands of adults.  I didn't even let my 11 year old poke the hanging holes because this kind of plastic and metal have sharp edges. Honestly, I cut myself several times.

Watering can or pitcher - The kids should use the largest container they are strong enough to pour.  The more water, the longer the fun lasts.
 Don't use a hose.  Using a hose takes a way from the wow factor. Watching the beginning when the water starts to run through the contraption, then the flow as it all works together, then the end when the last bit of water exits the last container is what makes the whole process fun.
A constant flow of water causes the activity to lose its novelty quickly.  Plus when you use a single watering can everybody gets a turn to watch, then a turn to pour, then they can make adjustments and additions and start pouring all over again.

To Do:
1. Lay the peg boards down flat on the ground and let the kids gather the items they want to put in their water fountain chain.  I let each child start their own chain with 1 or 2 containers, then they merged their chains together for 1 or 2 spills, then they would create split off fountains.  Most of the 2 square boards started with 2 different containers, but ended with 3 or more "faucets."

2. Let the kids put out two water pour steps before you attach the containers to the wall with zip ties.  Stand the wall up-right so they can see if the first containers exit hole will line up with the next containers entry hole. The way it looks laying down changes when you push the container to the wall flush as it will be when secured tightly with a zip tie. 

3. Lace the zip tie through the container and peg board holes and pull tightly so that the container will be able to support the weight of the water as intended.

4. Repeat this steps until you have a chain of containers, then test to see how it works.

5. Add, modify or recreate as desired.

A few more comments
Little fingers have a lot of trouble threading the zip ties so in most cases, you will be an active participant with this activity.  This is great if you have the time and interest, but if you were looking for a little break while the kids played or are running low on pacience, this may not be the activity for today.

Conceiving how the water pouring flow will change with gravity and the zip tie attachment angle can be frustrating for kids, BUT this is an awesome lesson on spacial recognition, influence of variables, and structural strength that will be invaluable to your child.  These are not concepts that can be grasped from a book. These are sensory abstractions that are learned with hands-on experience through trial and error. Through-out our childhood kids learn that objects, sequences, events are impacted, manipulated, altered by conditions, variables, forces.  Creating a water wall with a child is a magical way to watch a little human comprehend an assortment of truths you would otherwise need "a lot of words" to explain.

This may seem like loads of work with all of the prep time and hands on assistance required for the project to be successful and safe, but it is totally worth it!  Not only is it a ton of fun, very educational, a wonderful opportunity for bonding and a great way to stay cool with water play- you can redo your water wall over and over again!  Let us know any tips you have to improve the process and how it went with your kids!


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