The first child spent time arranging the pipe in the perfect position to accomplish his goal…to get water to flow down into the sandbox so it would form a puddle at the bottom. Slowly and carefully he used the hose to fill his bucket over and over. Next he tested if the water would flow down if leaves were in the pipe, and then if sand was there too.
A bit later he discovered a large pipe filled with sand was in his way. He tried to move it but found it was too heavy, so he went to find his friends (the firefighters!) to help. Once they got the pipe where they wanted it, they worked together on how the three of them could use the area together, despite having three different ideas at first.
All in all, this process took over an hour and the children were actively engaged in their play the entire time. Ninety minutes of free exploration time can seem like a loooong time to adults, but this time is vitally important for the children.
These children experienced hands-on science & math, worked on their fine & large motor skills, practiced their balance & coordination, made predictions and tested their ideas, experienced being a leader & a helper, and had sensory experiences with soft sand, cold water, crunchy leaves, and squishy mud. They experienced cause & effect, developed their attention span, practiced problem solving, and worked on the very important life skills of negotiation and conflict resolution.
All of this learning was possible because they had a long period of time to play!