The smell of summer is in the air; it’s the perfect time to blow up the pool and stir up the best water activities for kids. Have you seen the effect water has on cranky, bored children? I have. Give them a bucket of soapy water, and the next thing you know, dinner is ready, and the kids may also wash your car. Yes! This summer activity list will not disappoint! Here are 35 low-prep water activities and games for toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids.
How to have fun with water without a pool
If you feel like everyone has access to a pool this summer, think again. Many families must bring the water play and the blowup pool to their backyard. Remember the days in the sprinkler as a child? Yep, we are talking about lots of fun without the expense of pool membership. Here’s a short list of water activities without a pool:
- Add food coloring to water bins
- Add soapy water to make a bubbly sensory bin
- Alphabet Ice Pods
- Bear Soup
- Bubble Activities
- Muddy Water Sensory Play
- Neon Colors Water Play
- Ocean Sensory Bin
- Paint the Ice
- Pour to the Lines
- Scoop the Limes
- Scoop the Sea
- Squirt the Numbers
But before diving in (little play on words there), look at our favorite water toys for kids.
What will your kids DO this summer?
Take the guesswork out of your days with the Summertime Bundle.
- Startup Guide creates your summer routine.
- Activity cards have easy activities.
- The PDF calendar puts your plan in place.
What Is Water Play?
Water play and water activities use water and ice to create a sensory experience. They are a fun and winning way to explore learning through play.
But why sensory play? Sensory bins enhance learning by engaging a child’s touch, sight, smell, sound, or taste. You can do anything from setting up a sprinkler or adding items to a paddling pool. It’s a quick and cheap summer activity that provides hours of fun.
RELATED: Take a look at these outdoor sensory play supplies to kickstart the summer. Spoiler alert: most of this can be found at the Dollar Store!
What can we do with water for fun?
Drumroll, please! I searched through many of my favorite bloggers to give you this super fun water play roundup with 65+ ideas. I recently updated this post so images match the activity you want to head to.
I divided the idea list into five water play categories:
- Creative water play ideas
- Frozen water play
- Literacy and math water play
- Nature water play
- Science water activities
RELATED: Beth, where is the sand? Don’t worry; we have the best sand sensory activities to pair with this water list.
Creative Water Play
Ready to get creative? These clever water activities for kids include outdoor activities and easy ideas you need to set up in a pinch for too-hot days. We eventually reach a point here in the southeast where the air conditioner is a must!
1.Baby Doll Washing Station (The Workspace for Children): An activity you can do with supplies around the house!
2. Best Collection of Water Play Supplies for Birthday Gifts: My everything-you-need and already-decided-for-you list for a super fun birthday gift!
3. Bottle Cap Fine Motor Gear (Fantastic Fun and Learning): A low prep activity to work on fine motor skills.
4. Bright and Sour Sensory Bin: Cut open some lemons to practice using a lemon squeezer and strengthening small hands. (use indoors to prevent acid burns in the sun)
5. DIY Watercolors: A classic (and super easy) paint activity.
6. Easter Egg Foamy Water Bin: Who doesn’t love foamy water for some springtime fun?
7. Eyeball Soup: A spooky water play activity!
8. Hallowen Water Play: Spooky water play activity number two!
9. Plastic Egg Water Wall (Teaching Mama): Okay, this one is super creative and let’s kids explore gravity and water all in one.
10. Play on Ketchup and Mustard: Quick, fun, with simple supplies around the house. Not to mention helps curiosity to learn more about color play.
11. Pool Noodle Water Wall (Teaching Mama): Just 3 supplies and a whole lot of creative play.
12. Scoop the Sea: All you need are three supplies, and you’re going to an exploratory and fun water play activity.
13. Watercolor Painting for Kids: A classic activity every kid should learn.
14. Watercolor Snowmen: A wintery twist on watercolor activity!
15. Watercolor Shape Painting: Educational in so many ways! Let your kids learn about shapes and get creative to make shape creatures!
16. Water Table Kitchen (Happy Toddler Playtime): Such a cute way to keep your toddler entertained and familiar with kitchen play.
17. Water Xylophone (Teaching Mama): Explore sound with this DIY activity.
Frozen Water Play
Frozen water play is your future best friend! Make it now, pop it in the freezer, and pull it out when you need something to help entertain your kids at home.
1.Alphabet Ice: Integrate sensory play with letter recognition.
2. Color Your Ice: Sensory play, fine motor play, let the exploration begin!
3. Fourth of July Sensory Bin with Ice (Playground Parkbench): A fun activity for a summer holiday.
4. Ice Rocks (Happy Toddler Play Time): Freeze rocks in a muffin tin for this frozen water play!
5. Frozen LEGO (Happy Toddler Playtime): A great fine motor activity using legos.
6. Halloween Frozen Water Play: A spooky-themed activity! Frozen water play is my preschooler’s jam, and I love adding these frozen pods to any water play activity.
7. Ice Cube Sculptures (Teaching Mama): Create ice cube sculptures in just a few easy steps!
8. Ice Skating Bears: Grab your muffin tin and bears for this winter sensory play activity.
9. Ice Melt and Break : (Growing Book By Book)A beginning sounds activity; kids will love this.
10. Let’s Paint the Ice: Dare I say this is the coolest activity I have? If you have preschoolers, this is a must!
11. Make Ice Ball Nature Soup (Happily Ever Mom): A mess-free, fun activity that connects kids to nature and sensory play.
12. Rainbow Ice Town Excavation (Fun at Home with Kids): Another aesthetically pleasing activity where kids get to explore materials as the ice melts.
13. Rescue the Bears: Use squirt bottles to rescue the bears! Kids love creativity and stories. You’ll find them making up the plot as they go. If you need a fun and engaging activity – this is it!!
14. Toddler Ice Grab (Happily Ever Mom): Empty your freezer and entertain your toddler in minutes.
Literacy Water Play
Learn letter sounds and letter names through water play. Sign us up!
1.Alphabet Ice: I want my four-year-old to explore how letters are made up of lines, curves, slants, and tunnels. As my preschooler rescues the letter from the ice pod, he is also holding it in his hands, taking a closer look.
2. Alphabet Ice Evacuation (Teaching Mama) – Another hands-on way to explore letter recognition.
3. Splash the Alphabet: Strengthen little hands and include letter recognition with this fun activity!
Math Water Play
Give your water play a math spin by adding measuring cups, funnels, beakers, and plastic containers to fill.
1.Button Water Play: Sort, identify colors, and mix up colorful buttons in a sensory water bin.
2. Bear Soup: A great activity for outdoor exploration on the water table!
3. Pour to the Lines: An activity that helps with self-help for kids, like pouring and measuring!
4. Scoop the Apples: A super fun and creative way to explore colors.
5. Water Bead Relay Race: Get moving! The idea is to scoop up the water beads with your spoon from one end of the line and bring them over to your container on the other side. Count it up to see who has the most and crown the winner!
Nature Water Play
1.A Trip Into the Forest with Kids (The Workspace for Children): Find natural water sources on your next nature hike with kids.
2. Flower Sensory Bin: Have flowers that are coming to an end? Drop them in a sensory water bin to practice using scissors.
3. Cranberry Water Scoop: A fun holiday water sensory activity!
4. Muddy Water Play: Let kids be kids and get dirty for a little muddy water play. The best part? Pour on the grass to wash away when finished.
5. Ocean Sensory Bin: Time to explore the ocean and spark curiosity and sensory play with the kids.
Science Skills Water Play
1.Outdoor Tracks: As my children explored this physical Science activity with problem-solving, I got to catch my breath alongside them. Win. Win. If your children are into race cars, outdoor tracks, water play for kids may be what everyone needs.
2. Pool Noodle Wall (Teaching Mama): Don’t miss this cleaver water funnel system Teaching Mama created with pool noodles.
3. Oil and Water Mix (Happily Ever Mom) Do oil and water mix? Show your preschooler in real life with this water activity.
The Importance of Water Play for All Ages
Infant and Toddler Stage
During this phase, your child explores physical experiences, using senses to understand better how things fit together. Water games begin this sensory exploration!
Around this time, children add social play to learning and explore substances side by side. They are communicating and making comparisons with their discoveries. As children pour and scoop the water, they explore capacity.
When children reach the middle years, they will become more analytical about what they are learning since they can touch, move, and explore. They are now ready to take up the next level with greater ease since they have already had the opportunity to explore what water looks like, how it feels, and how water begins to change shape.
As older child learns a new vocabulary word, they can connect it to an experience. Children can show what they have learned at the teenage stage by combining all the learning experiences.
What Are the Benefits of Water Play?
Waterplay for toddlers is an incredible way for them to test physical sensations. Water activities begin this sensory exploration!
- Develops Gross and Fine Motor Skills – As children pour and scoop the water, they explore capacity, improving their gross and fine motor skills.
- Engages Sensory Play and Curiosity – Water play for kids is an endless science experiment. They explore how temperature affects water and what textures sink, float, or get soggy. It engages children’s senses, which is perfect for learning!
- Increases Social Play and Communication – Water activities for preschoolers introduce social play because they communicate and compare their discoveries.
RELATED: I have a collection of 50+ fine motor activities if you’re eager to develop your child’s motor skills.
Water Play Activities Are Great for All Ages
Whether you want water play for toddlers or water activities for preschoolers, these 35 ideas give you a great start. Help your little one learn and grow with water play.
Who has time to search for ideas?
Save with the PDF bundle to have everything you need on your digital device without ad interruptions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Water games with kids are easier than you may think! Often, items from your kitchen, such as measuring cups, large spoons, and a muffin tin to freeze water, will do the trick. Keep water activities for kids simple, and take a look around your house to see what you can toss in to buy yourself a few extra sips of coffee as your child plays.
Add a few drops of food coloring to change the color of the water or a few drops of dish soap to make the water foamy. You can also put the water in a muffin tin to freeze overnight for ice play.
Not at all! I love water play because it is simple to clean up. We do a lot of water games in our kitchen using a large bin and towel for my child to sit on as he plays.
Days with Grey participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.