Kids love playing with water and it’s a great learning experience. Try one of these simple, no fuss, super fun easy water play activities.
When my kids were toddlers they were all obsessed with water play. If there was water anywhere within reach they would sprinkle it, spill it, flick it, run their hands through it, fill up something with it, tip it out and generally enjoy it. The problem is, I didn’t always enjoy their impromptu water play!
But after watching my toddler pour his drink into his lunch and play with it for the third day in row, instead of losing my mind I decided to embrace water play and that started a real love of water play activities for toddlers and kids of all ages.
Water Play Tips for Keeping Your Sanity.
Water play can get a little messy, it’s hard to keep the water in the tub when you are having lots of fun, but it doesn’t have to mean huge puddles of water on the floor, and there are ways to manage the mess.
There are a few tips and tricks that can help save your sanity when it comes to water play activities.
- Safety first!
Remember a small child can drown in just a small amount of water so you need to supervise water play.
- You only need a small amount of water!
Less water means less mess, and lots of water play activities only need a really tiny amount of water. 1 or 2 cms of water in the bottom of a tub is enough for lots of fun but not too much mess.
- Catch the drips!
If you are playing inside put a big old towel on the table under the tub, or on floor under your play space. It’s also useful to have a space or table beside your water play table covered in a towel for the kids to put wet things from the tub.
- Take it outside.
Set up your water play outside on the grass and you’ll have no problems with puddles.
- Expect the kids to get wet.
They are going to get a bit wet so either dress them in clothes that can get wet, put their swimmers on, or do the activity in the bath.
Water Play Table Options
If your kids love water play as much as mine, investing in a good water play table is worth the money. A Little Tikes basic water play table (affiliate link) is great for toddlers or more sturdy water tables (affiliate link) will last a lifetime. Or you could try making your own PVC pipe water table.
But if you don’t have room in your home, or your budget, for a big and fancy water play table there are lots of other cheap and easy options.
A plastic under bed box works brilliantly, or even a couple of small tubs, a big mixing bowl, or even some recycled plastic containers.
Try one of these five easy and cost effective alternatives to a water table.
The kitchen or bathroom sink are also good places for water play, but the ultimate, low mess, water play space is the bath, plus the kids get clean at the same time!
Easy Water Play Activities.
There are lots of fancy sensory play ideas you can do with your kids, but the joy of water play is that it is easy! You don’t need lots of fancy equipment, and it doesn’t take a long time to set up. Keep it simple and your kids will have lots of fun.
These water play ideas use items you probably already have at home, or you can easily buy from the supermarket or order online. Most don’t require much time to set up, and can be done with kids of any age.
A little bit of water, a doll, and a face washer or sponge is all you need. You can do this in a tub, in the bath, or in the sink. You can add to the fun by including some soap or bubble bath, and try adding an old toothbrush for dolly too.
Washing the Dishes.
This can be as easy as a little soapy water in the bottom of the kitchen sink, a dish brush, and some non breakable items to wash (spoons are good). Or you could set this up in a water table, or a tub, with plastic plates, cups and cutlery and a dish rack and tea towel on the table to dry the dishes once they are washed.
A little bit of water in the bottom of a tub and some small items to wash – face washers and socks work well for this. You could add to the fun by setting it up outside and putting a clothes airer and some pegs next to it to hang out the wet clothes.
Painting With Water
This is a super simple idea that is perfect for toddlers. All you need is a a small bucket or container (a bucket with a handle works best) and a big paint brush. Add a little water to the bottom of the bucket and head outside to ‘paint’ with the water.
Scooping, Mixing and Pouring.
Find a collection of cups and bowls of all sizes, add spoons, and scoops, and kitchen measuring cups, or anything you can scoop, pour, and mix the water with. You don’t even need a tub for this one, just set out the bowls on a table covered with a towel (outside is a great option for this one) and let the kids mix and pour the water. For added fun add a big bowl with a little water and a big squirt of hand soap and a kitchen whisk to make bubbly foam, or try adding some water beads (for older kids).
As an extra option for the mixing and pouring set up, add a drop of food colouring to each container of water for a colouring mixing activity. Older kids will love using plastic eye droppers (these ones are great ) and you could set it up in a big cutlery tray for lots of sections for their colour mixing.
Save some clear plastic bottles and make holes in them at various levels (you can use a heated skewer to melt holes if you are careful). The kids will have loads of fun filling up the bottles and watching the water spurting out of various places. There is lots of opportunity to talk about concepts such as ‘full’ and ‘half’ with this activity. For added fun include some funnels and plastic tubes. For even more fun, make holes in the fingers of a rubber glove and attach it to a plastic tube… the kids will love it!
Floating and Sinking
You’ll need quite a bit of water for this one, so you’ll need a deep container. It’s a good one to do outside, or in the bath. Gather up a variety of items that will either float or sink, and see if the kids can guess what will happen when you put them into the water. For even more fun get the kids to collect the items and together write down your predictions before you do the experiment.
Ocean Small World
Setting up some ocean themed water play can be as simple as adding some plastic sea creatures to the water table or bath. You can get more elaborate by adding extras such as sand on the bottom, some rocks, and ‘seaweed’ made from leaves or cellophane. Another fun twist on this idea is to add plastic sieves or small aquarium nets to scoop out and catch the fish.
This is the perfect set up for just one child using a big plastic mixing bowl (this also works well in the sink) as the pond and adding some plastic frogs. You can also add lilypads, a log to jump off and more. Check out more details of our frog pond set up and some books and activities to extend it here.
You’ll need a little prep time for this water play activity, but it’s worth it. Fill various kitchen containers with water and freeze them overnight. Add the different sized ice blocks to a tub, water table, or the sink to explore. To extend this simple activity add some containers of warm/hot water and some eye droppers to melt the ice blocks, or add food colouring to the ice and watch the colours combine as it melts, or add some fun things to freeze in ice blocks and watch them escape as they melt.
This is the perfect outside water play activity. Grab some plastic bowls and containers, a few spoons, some jugs of water, as many leaves, and flowers as you can find and let the kids make magic potions. Add to the fun by including some coloured water and eye droppers, and for older kids off them scissors for snipping the flowers, and even some baking soda and vinegar to make their potions fizz. For even more ideas read our article on fun extras to include and what plants are great for making magic potions.
With all these easy water play ideas, you can set up a fun activity for your kids to enjoy.
What is your favourite water play idea?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Old pots and pans and plastic containers, mixing spoons and a small watering can full of water – OUTSIDE – kept my little two year old visitor amused for ages recently!
Washing the dishes- we haven’t tried that one yet.
We’re all sorted for tomorrow now. Thanks
We have coloured baths where we drop one or two drops of food colouring into the bath- it does not stain the bath or the kids. We also have outdoor baths in those large bucket style storage containers – a few jug fills of hot water, and top up with cold. The buckets are just big enough to squat in and the kids love it! Mind you, we are in central Qld so it is never too cold!
Christie @ Poppy Seed Baby says
Great ideas Kate! My little girl is obsessed with water at the moment too. If only you could get them to wash the dishes for real! :)
Actually Christie… it makes a bit more mess but I’ve been getting my kids to wash real dishes for years! LOL
I let my kids wash the dolls clothes. Wash them in bubbles, rinse them, then hang them on a line to dry, just in time to do it all over again! Another favourite in our place is painting with water – give them a paint brush, a bucket of water and an outside wall of the house and let them go for.
Fantastic ideas! I fight my toddlers from playing in water every single day. Where did you find the smock with elastic in the arm holes?
My Mum actually made that smock for one of my twins when she was little (she’s ten now! LOL)… but if you can get a smock with elastic sleeves I highly recommend it as then pushed up sleeves stay up!