The smell of summer is in the air. It’s the perfect time to blow up the paddling pool and start water play for kids. You can choose a range of water activities for toddlers and water activities for preschoolers. That means all your little ones can play with water together.
Looking to add water games for kids to your summer activity list?
I’ve got you covered with the best water games for kids.
Have you seen the effect water has on cranky, bored children?
Give kids a bucket of soapy water, and the next thing you know, dinner is ready, and kids may also wash your car. Use this in combination with your Breakfast Invitations, and you can drop the mic in summer. – Even if this means we are home all day.
Waterplay for toddlers is a great science experiment. Kids learn the shapes water play makes and how it reacts to different temperatures.
Not sure where to start?
Check out my top water activities and create a sensory experience for your kids over the summer.
Why are Water Games Important?
Playing with substances (such as water) is the foundation of learning.
- Infant and toddler stage: during this phase your child explores the physical experiences, using senses to understand better how things in the world fit together. Water games begin this sensory exploration!
- Preschool: around this time children now add social play into the learning and explore substances side by side. They are communicating and making comparisons with their discoveries. As children pour and scoop the water, they are exploring capacity.
- Middle years: When children get to the middle years, they will become more analytical with what they are learning since they had a chance to touch, move, and explore. They are now ready to take the next level with greater ease since they already had the opportunity to explore what water looks like, how it feels, and how water begins to change shape. As an older child learns a new vocabulary word, they can connect it to an experience.
- Children can show how what they have learned at the teenage stage, pulling all the learning experiences together.
What Is Water Play?
Water games are a fun and winning way to explore learning through play.
Water play and water activities use water and ice (technically the same thing) to create a sensory experience.
Sensory play engages a child’s touch, sight, smell, sound, or taste to enhance learning.
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.
What Are the Benefits of Water Play?
Waterplay for toddlers is an incredible way for them to explore physical experiences. It uses their senses to understand better how things in the world fit together. Water activities begin this sensory exploration!
- Social Play and Communication – Water activities for preschoolers introduce social play because they communicate and compare their discoveries.
- Gross and Fine Motor Skills – As children pour and scoop the water, they explore capacity, improving their gross and fine motor skills.
- Engage Sensory Play and Curiosity – Water play for kids is an endless science experiment as they explore how water is affected by temperature and what textures sink, float, or get soggy. It engages children’s senses and curiosity, perfect for learning!
RELATED: I have an entire collection of 50+ fine motor activities if you’re eager to develop your child’s motor skills.
35 Water Play Activities for Kids
Kids do not have a preferred state of matter. Take the water straight from the spout, or freeze it for the following day. – Both work like a charm.
I searched through many of my favorite bloggers to give you this gigantic water play roundup with 35+ ideas. I also typed it all up so you can hang this summer list on your fridge for ideas when you need them.
You are going to want to dive (😂) deep into this activity list.
Nature Water Play
- Get messy with muddy water – combining containers and scoops with mud is a sure fire way to have fun. It allows kids to experiment with texture, take risks, and make predictions. (Days with Grey)
- Add flowers to a water bin – introducing flowers sparks curiosity as children ask about different parts of the plant. The smells and colors are very engaging and it’s an excellent option for waterplay for toddlers.
- Make an ocean bin with sand and seashells – creating an imaginary world (especially an under-the-sea one) makes anything fun. The mix of sand and seashells provide a mixture of textures and exploration.
Science Skills Water Play
- Add plastic tracks to water bins – adding pipes and ladders to run water and toy vehicles down helps kids with problem-solving and speed.
- Try water beads with ages 4+ – adding beads to water activities for preschoolers is great to watch how objects expand and shrink. It encourages motor skills as kids scoop, pick up, and squeeze the beads. Small objects can be a choking hazard so make sure the child is over 4-years-old.
- Cut pool noodles to make water tracks – pool noodles attached to a peg board make excellent chutes to put down objects and watch them whizz out. These types of water activities for kids will keep them amused as they experiment with shapes and speed.
- Scoop bubbles – just like at bath time, whipping up soapy bubbles is always a winner. Adding a scoop into this water activity enables kids to explore the texture of foam and it’s mixture of liquid and solid.
- Add food coloring and water to squirt bottles – let your young ones choose colors and drop them in the water to see them swirl and develop a science mindset. Adding it to a spray bottle is an additional bonus to increase motor skills.
- Add funnels to water – learning how to pour water through a funnel and see how it comes out teaches a child how water flows and reacts using different tools.
Literacy Water Play
- Make alphabet soup – adding letters to water play develops kid’s literacy as they scoop and familiarize themselves with the alphabet.
- Splash the Alphabet – Incorporating letters into water activities for preschoolers makes literacy a lot more fun. Using a spray bottle to target the alphabet helps with pencil grip, scissor skills, and hand-eye coordination.
- Alphabet Ice Evacuation – freezing letters under ice is an amazing way to mix science with literacy. Children become intrigued by the trapped letters and eager to explore them once they work out how to thaw the ice.
Math Water Play
- Add large buttons to a water bin – using large buttons in water play helps children practice stacking and makes them easy to count. It’s an excellent activity to develop math skills.
- Make counting bear soup – Kids can count and color sort the bears (e.g., all the green bears together), which helps their math skills. Add ladels and bowls to this water play to incorporate fine motor skills.
- Put measuring cups in a water bin – including measuring cups in water play is a simple way to introduce kids to numbers and volumes of water. How much they need to fill each one and what happens when you put in too much.
- Add plastic beakers to water play – this is such a simple water play activity that provides lots of fun. Children use the cups to practice pouring and they can stack them as an easy way to explore counting.
- Pour to the Lines – Water Play Measurement Fun. – Ever had a little one try to pour milk only to see it go all over the table? Playing with water to fill containers develops kids’ measurement skills and increases their strength.
Motor Skills Water Play
- Have a relay race with water beads – turning water play into a race takes the activity to the next level. It’s amazing physical exercise and develops gross motor skills as they run back and forth.
- Make pom pom soup – chucking squishy and fuzzy textures into water activities benefits children as it expands their knowledge. Using smaller objects make great water activities for preschoolers to develop their fine motor skills.
- Make cranberry soup – the bright colors of cranberry’s in water play make them easy to see as children learn to scoop and pour. It develops their fine motor skills, essential for getting themselves a drink or pouring milk.
- Rubber duck race water play – an incredible waterplay for toddlers to enhance their fine motor skills. Using these light weight toys and a spray bottle to spur them on is fun for both adults and kids!
- Scoop limes from water – water activities for toddlers need to be simple and this is a great one to enhance their motor skills. The ladle is large enough to grip and scoop as they try to catch the limes bobbing in the water.
- Add paint and water to squirt bottles – both colorful and practical, little fingers will have to concentrate to spray the paint out of the bottle. It’s an incredible form of water play for grip strength.
- Add eye droppers to water – I love this activity because it feels like we’re all in a science class! When children use eye droppers they have to really concentrate and it’s great for fine motor skills.
- Scoop apples with a ladle – scooping large objects make brilliant water activities for toddlers. It engages their motor skills and they can sort apples into two colors (red and green). This helps their math skills later in life.
Creative Water Play
- Wash toys in soapy water – this is such an incredible method to teach children how to clean while making it enjoyable. It develops attention to detail as they look for each part to wash. It also keeps those toys in sparkling condition! Well, almost…
- Add play food to a water bin – play food in water play gives children an opportunity to experiment with mixing textures and encourages imagination.
- Add food coloring to water pitchers – letting your children add colors to water play allows them to experiment cause and effect. The pitchers give kids the opportunity to develop their strength and accuracy.
- Put markers in water containers – when children play with water and marker pens it makes an incredible science experiment. They watch how water effects ink while practicing their drawing skills.
- Bright and Sour Sensory Bin – Lemons are so simple and cheap that it’s a go-to when setting up water activities for kids. It’s excellent waterplay for toddlers because they’re still experimenting and learning about basic tastes, colors, and textures.
Ice Water Play
- Make ice ball nature soup – freezing nature in ice then adding it to a tray of water makes fantastic water play. Children learn about flowers and plants and explore how water freezes then melts, releasing what’s inside.
- Freeze LEGOS in a muffin tin – you can freeze pretty much anything and lego is no exception. It adds color along with the slippy feel and coldness of ice. As the water melts your kids can start building with the lego blocks.
- Freeze rocks in a muffin tin – this water play is great for bringing a bit of nature indoors. It’s cheap and you can include different rock shapes and sizes. Your little ones will explore and compare their rocks before the ice melts.
- Freeze letters in a muffin tin – another great one to encourage literacy, letters in water activities for preschoolers adds fun into teaching.
- Let’s Paint the Ice – this type of water play for kids is fantastic for experimenting with how the paint looks on different textures. It’s great to progress their learning about how to identify and mix colors. It’s a meltable work of art!
Other Water Games for Kids:
- 10 Ways to Learn and Play with Water – (Toddler Approved)
- 21+ Spray Bottle Water Bottle Activities – (Happy Toddler Playtime)
- A Trip Into the Forest with Kids – (The Workspace for Children)
- Apple Scoop and Sort – (Days with Grey)
- Baby Doll Washing Station – (The Workspace for Children)
- Bottle Cap Fine Motor Gear – (Fantastic Fun and Learning)
- Bright and Sour Sensory Bin – (Days with Grey)
- Color Sorting Sensory Bin – (The Mama Workshop)
- Cranberry Water Scoop – (Days with Grey)
- DIY Watercolors – (Days with Grey)
- Eyeball Soup – (Days with Grey)
- Frozen Water Beads – (Busy Toddler)
- Oil and Water on the Light Table – (Happily Ever Mom)
- Outdoor Tracks – (Days with Grey)
- Plastic Egg Water Wall – (Teaching Mama)
- Play on Ketchup and Mustard – (Days with Grey)
- Pool Noodle Water Wall – (Teaching Mama)
- Rainbow Discovery Bottles – (The Paige Diaries)
- The Best Bath Toys – (Busy Toddler)
- Toddler Ice Grab – (Happily Ever Mom)
- Toy Washing Station – (Busy Toddler)
- Water Bead Relay Race – (Days with Grey)
- Water Buttons – (Days with Grey)
- Water Play Pouring Table – (Days with Grey)
- Water Table Kitchen – (Happy Toddler Playtime)
- Water Toys You Need to Own – (Busy Toddler)
- Water Transfer – (Busy Toddler)
- Water Xylophone – (Teaching Mama)
11 Ways to Play with Frozen Water
- Alphabet Ice – (Days with Grey)
- Alphabet Ice Excavation – (Teaching Mama)
- Color Your Ice – (Days with Grey)
- Fourth of July Sensory Bin with Ice – (Playground Parkbench)
- Frozen LEGO – (Happy Toddler Playtime)
- Frozen Paint – (Busy Toddler)
- Ice Bin Transfer Play – (Busy Toddler)
- Ice Cube Sculptures – (Teaching Mama)
- Ice Melt and Break – (Growing Book By Book)
- alphabet ice puzzle activity)
- Ice Rocks – (Happy Toddler Playtime)
- Paint the Ice – (Days with Grey)
- Pom Pom Ice Cubes – (The Paige Diaries)
- Rainbow Ice Town Excavation – (Fun at Home with Kids)
- Rescue the Bears – (Days with Grey)
Water Play Activities Are Great for All Ages
Whether you want waterplay 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.
Want to carry on the fun? Check out the library of outside activities for kids.