Water play for toddlers is probably the most fun you can have your little ones doing out in the hot summer sun.
That’s because when it comes to water play, it’s one of the most flexible areas for fun play ideas to develop and your kids to enjoy without ever getting bored.
You’d be surprised at the amount of fun activities that you can perform with just a garden hose, a sprinkler, or a simple tub of water.
Not to mention that swimming pools or even kiddie pools are classed as the best places for some of the most fun water play activities for toddlers – as long as your little ones are under proper supervision at all times, of course.
While the key is to have as much fun as possible, it doesn’t mean that water play can’t also be a time where your tots establish and refine some of their key developmental traits like fine motor skills, creativity, and general problem-solving skills.
But with so many possibilities to choose from, which indoor and outdoor water play ideas are the best? Well, follow along down this list I put together and see which of these best fit your child’s preferences.
Water Play Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers
A note before I start: If you’re planning on doing some outdoor water activities with your kiddo, make sure to cover him in the proper SPF sunscreen to protect his sensitive little body so he can enjoy his fun water time fully.
With that said, let’s delve into some easy, fun ideas involving water.
1. Make a kiddie pool into a watery ball pit
Undoubtedly one of the most entertaining activities and the simplest to set up. Just buy a bunch of plastic balls, fill the pool up with water, scatter the balls around your tot’s little pool play area, and watch him have the time of his life.
A swimming pool can also do the trick, but only if your child has learned how to swim and you’re around to watch him just in case.
2. Sensory bins
While sensory bins can be anything and everything, water generally makes for some of the most fun ones, sometimes even better than your little one squishing play dough in his hands.
Anything from fake snow and ice cubes to wet pom-poms, water beads, and similar. You can make a whole water table of sensory play with water bins alone.
It’s a cheap and effective way to make use of water in a fun way all through DIY techniques.
3. Painting the driveway
This one may seem a bit odd, but it’s super fun to do and easy to execute. All you need is a tub of water, some clean paintbrushes, and a paved or concrete area.
Soak the brushes and then drag them across the driveway to make your masterpiece. It’s a lot safer than regular paint – for one, there’s no mess to clean up, plus also there’s no issue if your child happens to lick the brush out of curiosity.
Water is a great non-permanent way to have a whole load of fantastic fun.
4. Water balloon fight
While it might be a bit unfair for you to challenge your 3-year-old kid, you can always pit him against his friends for a bit of harmless shenanigans.
Just prepare a bunch of water balloons for them to be able to use as ammo.
If you’d like to spice it up a bit more, you can go out of your way to create a whole battlefield for them and adding a few squirt guns and/or spray bottles into the mix.
You can even add water hazards in the form of a sprinkler or two and a few inflatable water toys to serve as cover.
This way you get to make it a really memorable experience. Let the water games begin!
5. Food coloring ice cubes
It’s as simple as a toddler water activity gets. Simply get your ice cube tray and fill it with water, then put some food coloring into each individual one and freeze for an array of color options.
Once they’re frozen, take them out and place them in a bowl of clear water. Your toddler will be fascinated by how it melts and the color spreads. The more you put in, the crazier the color combinations are going to become.
Just make sure to not overdo it and ruin the charm of it by going all out at once.
6. Paper boat sailing
Here’s yet another fun activity for your water play table. Teach your kid how to make a sturdy paper boat out of a sheet of A4 paper or some old newspapers.
It’ll take a bit of trial and error, but it’s simple enough for preschoolers to grasp the concept.
That said, if your child is having trouble, just make the boat for him. I doubt he’ll mind.
While you’re in the process, you may as well make him a silly paper hat too.
After that’s done, head over to your swimming pool, kiddie pool, or bathtub if nothing else, fill it with water, and let the boats sail along. Your kiddo won’t be able to contain his excitement, trust me.
Even to this day, my 5-year-old son really enjoys making his own boats and seeing them sail down a creek or any body of water for that matter. It is a delight to see.
7. DIY squirt guns
Even though I’ve touched upon them earlier in the water balloon bit, nothing is stopping you from giving your child a different version of the scenario, though this time with squirt guns alone.
Squirt guns can easily be made out of some old and empty glue or ketchup bottles that you may have lying around. Simply make sure you clean them out properly before filling them with water. Nobody likes a jammed gun, after all.
Then presto, you’ve got your very own budget squirt gun.
And it doesn’t have to be a water war against others; your child can simply use it to doodle on the wall or driveway with a bit more precision than a paintbrush.
8. Water display
While I trust that you yourself can flex your creative juices, do let your child be the star of this neat water play for toddlers activity.
Grab some buckets, fill them with water, and arrange them as your child sees fit.
Do make sure that they’re all differently colored if you can to give your child more options in display construction.
If you want to make the display even more eye-catching, grab some bath toys or LEGOs and watch your busy toddler assemble his desired display.
This is one of those summer activities that seems bland on the surface yet both fun and educational to do, as your child learns some basic gross motor skills like scooping water in and out of specific buckets and transferring it over.
9. Foam blocks and sponges
The principle of this one is simple. Just fill up a pool and grab some foam blocks, put them in, let them soak up water, and let your tot have fun constructing his own shapes.
With the blocks wet, they’ll stick to each other a lot better, allowing for all sorts of crazy combinations.
The sponge works in a similar manner (though not as sturdy when wet), but it’s more for the satisfying sensation your little gets when squeezing the water out of it rather than building stuff with it.
10. Water slide
Everyone remembers the first time they ever went slip-sliding down a water slide. It’s always a fun experience and a classic way of water play for toddlers and adults alike.
Simply grab a large plastic tarp or plastic sheeting (even a couple of patched-together garbage bags will work) and set it across your lawn. Then provide a steady flow of water atop it to make sure it’s always wet.
After that, just let your kids get a nice run up and slide down the thing. It’s guaranteed to keep them busy and entertained for at least an hour or two.
11. DIY water wall
A bit more obscure than a water slide is a water wall – a setup of various funnels, pipes, and bottles that lead the water around in potentially unexpected places.
Honestly it’s a rather simple idea, but one that kids love as they simply love seeing water in motion for some reason.
All you need to do is find a nice vertical surface to attach all these components onto and run some water through it for your kids to have a whale of a time. I’ve found that grated surfaces work the best as they have a lot of flexibility with attaching things to it.
And if you’re looking to kick it up a notch, you can even add food coloring to the water as you pour it down for a more visually spectacular event, or you could make the design more intricate and more like a little maze.
This way your kids get to learn some problem solving by figuring out which route leads the water all the way to the end.
You can also add some noise makers inside the contraption to even become a feast for both ears eyes. Heck, it might end up so awesome that you choose to make it a permanent installment in your backyard.
12. Garden soup
Do note that by no means should you have your child eat any of this “soup.”
Now that that’s clear, making garden soup is still a very entertaining activity, especially if you have a vibrant garden full of different plants and flowers that you don’t mind getting a petal or two plucked from.
The idea behind it is to get a container of water, preferably something like a bucket or similar, and have your kids fill it up with grass, flowers, berries, and the like, then have them stir and mix it to create this weirdly pleasing display in the water that vaguely resembles a form of garden soup.
While it may seem simple and cute, this activity helps your toddlers learn about the stirring motion, thus improving on their gross motor skills.
13. Little scientists
Again, a deceptively simple activity that will get lots of laughs, squeals, and giggles from your little one.
All you have to do is position your toddler in a wading pool and arm him with a bunch of different objects and toys so he can place them in the pool to see if they sink or swim. Make sure to ask him every time before he puts one in to see if he gets it right.
If he does, prepare a small reward, that’ll ensure that he tries his best and retains that knowledge in his memory.
14. Water table
While a bit more expensive than any of the methods of water play for toddlers mentioned above, a water table is worth every penny and there are plenty to choose from on Amazon.
What a water play table for toddlers does is that it essentially combines a large number of the aforementioned activities in one place and allows your child to swap seamlessly between them.
I got this one by Step2 for my own kids and they’ve used it to great effect, though I’ve given it away to one of my fellow mamas a year ago after my youngest grew out of it.
That said, it still provided both my kids with countless hours of fun and I wholeheartedly recommend getting one if it’s within your budget to do so.
15. Mixing water and chalk
Here’s one that helps spice up the usual chalk scribbling on the driveway. The process is just as simple too.
First you have your little rascals draw what they want with chalk and afterwards you dip a paintbrush into a bucket of water before running it along the drawings.
This moistens the chalk up, making it softer and allowing it to blend with the surrounding colors, creating a more “watercolory” feel to the whole masterpiece. A rather delightful sight and a fun thing to try every now and again.
16. A good ol’ sprinkler
Sometimes all your kids need to have the time of their lives is for you to attach a garden quality sprinkler to the end of a hose, stick it in the ground, and supply the water.
The rest is on them to make their own fun by jumping over it or trying to avoid the water curtains.
17. Make a rainbow
This one is a rather simple trick – you don’t really need any of those special sprayer attachments for your hose (though they help a lot).
You can simply put your thumb over the end of the hose to make a spray and point it toward direct sunlight to manifest a neat little rainbow effect that your kids are sure to love.
18. Coloring water
While watching those colored cubes melt in water is fun, coloring a big tub of water directly is entertaining on its own. Simply get some harmless food coloring or an inkwell and dab a few drops onto the water’s surface.
Your preschooler will be captivated by the way it spreads through the liquid environment and is sure to experiment with it on his own.
19. Clean-up crew
It may sound silly that kids would find cleaning dirty items fun, but there’s an odd sense of satisfaction when you blast dirt off with a hose and your children are likely to think so too.
Just make sure it’s on a low pressure setting if you have a powerful extension, else the hose is gonna go wild.
20. Blow some bubbles
And finally, one of the activities I remember fondly from my own childhood days is grabbing some dish soap, mixing it with water, and making giant soap sud bubbles.
While not a form of water play with toddlers that will get him entirely soaked, it’ll still keep him running around the place full of energy and trying his best to make and pop the biggest balloon he can.
Make sure to have the camera ready for when he does though as those bubbles pop real fast.
The Importance Of Water Safety
Now, all of these activities may be fun and all, but there’s one aspect they share that each and every parent must adopt and follow, and that’s to keep your kids under constant supervision when they participate in water-based activities.
While most of the stuff I’m describing here is non-toxic for consumption, the water itself can cause problems, with potential drowning on the list of the most horrible.
To avoid this, make sure you have your kids within eyesight at all times and be attentive to any cries for help.
There are many forms of water play for toddlers – some simple, some a little more intricate – but all are effective at keeping your kid cooled down and entertained during a hot summers’ day.
If you’re having trouble deciding on which new water play activity to do with your kids, simply make a printable copy of all the activities that they like, place it on your fridge, and cycle through them.
Do keep in mind that you should always make sure your kids are safe during these activities regardless of their scale and complexity. You shouldn’t leave things up to chance and should protect your child to the best of your ability.
With that said, I hope you mamas found a few of these summer and late spring activities for kids entertaining and that you’ll give a few of them a go. Until next time.
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