Water area

What do we mean by a water area?

Water in your school grounds can take many forms. It can be as small as a puddle, a trickle of water, buckets or water troughs, to sluices or ponds. All have their benefits for learning and development and can also enhance other play activities such as sand and mud play.

There are many benefits of having access to water for children’s learning and development. Not only do ponds create an excellent habitat that students can study; seeing the effects of weather and the seasons such as freeze and thaw and being able to see, touch and experience these will nurture links and a better understanding of our natural world.

Some of our schools have created safe and supervised ponds in their school grounds and as you would expect, there are health and safety precautions to consider if you want to introduce a pond.

Considerations for safety

  • We advise that ponds in our school grounds should be no deeper than 450mm and should be fenced to a minimum height of 1200mm with a lockable gate.
  • Only supervised access should be allowed
  • The supervisor should have line of sight to the water from all around the pond, this will need to be maintained as plants start to grow and may block line of sight.
  • Pond-dipping platforms and boardwalks should be fenced at all sides to a minimum height of 1200mm
  • all surfaces should be slip resistant, you can add a metal mesh to the decking where you will walk to prevent slipping.
  • Any timber decking or boardwalks around the pond should be treated appropriately and checked regularly for rot.

The image shown here of the boardwalk at Figgate Park is an excellent example.

Figgate Park, Edinburgh. A wooden boardwalk goes over a lake surrounded by trees


The pond must be fenced off and must be a minimum of one meter high with a lockable gate. The edges of the pond must be clearly visible. There must be appropriate warning signs visible to clearly indicate the presence of a pond.

Other uses of water

You can create meaningful experiences with water by simple methods of capturing rainwater and allowing children to play and experiment with it.

Your water can be used in outdoor learning with a purpose of channelling rainwater into planters, using buckets to create a small pond and see what plants and animals begin to inhabit it.

Using hoses and watering cans are all good ways to learn through play with water.

The movement of water along different surfaces and how it interacts with other properties like mud and sand is a great learning resource and can be simply done by taking water in a bucket to use at different destinations around the grounds. Children can also create their own watercourse with found objects and loose parts.

This watercourse at Dumfries House is a great resource where water can be poured into the start and dammed and released along the channel. This experience can be created in a variety of ways with loose parts like guttering and tubes.

Don’t forget about the great spaces you can visit outside the school grounds in and around Edinburgh that can enhance the learning even further.

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