This St. Patrick’s Day water play sensory table is inspired by the city of Chicago’s tradition of turning the river water green as part of their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
The tradition of coloring the water vibrant green in Chicago became an annual event in 1962, but the origins of this practice started much earlier. A green substance was used to test the river water for pollution in the early 1900s and continued in the following years. People liked seeing the change in color, and in 1962 the practice was implemented for St. Patrick’s Day. In 1966 the powder used became a more environmentally friendly vegetable dye.
How The Water Turns Green
Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union 130 members turn the water bright green. The recipe is secret: an orange powder is spread on the water and mysteriously turns green when mixed in. The river water becomes fluorescent green for a stretch in the center of the city. Plumbers using a few boats carry out the procedure. One or more boats spread the powder on the water. Another boat mixes the powder in.
Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Activities
The river water in Chicago is turned green to coincide with a large St. Patrick’s Day parade that is held on the Saturday closest to the holiday. Irish dancers and kilted musicians playing bagpipes are feature performers in the parade. Many spectators gather around the shore or on one of the downtown bridges to watch the parade and view the brilliant green water.
Other events held in Chicago to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day:
- Iconic buildings, monuments, and streets are lit in green.
- Cruises are offered near the green river water.
- Irish bands give performances.
- Events are held featuring Irish music, dance, and storytelling.
- Irish refreshments are served.
- Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity for people to get together to have a good time and to recognize what the Irish have done for their city.
For current St. Patrick’s Day activities in Chicago, click here.
St. Patrick’s Day Water Table
This St. Patrick’s Day-themed water table has plenty of green items and a few gold ones and will offer your early learner a variety of sensory and sorting experiences.
Items in the sensory table include:
- green and gold coins
- marbles and buttons
- ping pong balls
- large plastic shamrocks
- foam shamrocks
- ice cube shamrocks
- small drinking glasses
- leprechaun hats
- cut necklace pieces
- foam dice
- storage containers
Some of the above items can be exchanged for sailors and boats.
As an alternative, skip the green food coloring and add bubbles for your early learner to experience some foamy play.
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© Annette Kaminsky March 3, 2020
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