10 Easy Water Play Ideas

Most kids love playing with water. In summertime we have outdoor water play outside pretty much everyday. A few inches of water in a shallow bin or tub, or in a small paddle pool, plastic containers to fill and pour from and a wooden spoon or two, and my little water nymphs are as happy as larks for ages.

If your children love water play as much as mine do, here are 10 simple water play ideas that are sure to extend playtime next time they are ready to splish and splash!

Water play

10 Easy Water Play Ideas

Playing with water is a wonderful tool for laying the foundations for future mathematical thinking and scientific learning, providing children with hands-on experience with;

  • Learning about measurement: Which container holds the most/least? Which container holds more/less?
  • Experimenting with scientific concepts: Which object will float/sink and why?
  • Learning new vocabulary: Empty and full, shallow and deep, wet and dry, etc
  • Learning how to sort or categorise: These objects all float, these ones sink.

Plus, water play is a fabulous sensory play idea and the benefits of sensory play for young children are well documented.

Here are ten cool water play activities to increase the learning potential and up the fun factor;

1. Squeeze It: Add a big car cleaning sponge for squeezing water into containers as an alternative to pouring. Mesh bath sponges are fun too.

2. Good Clean Fun: Add dolls, figurines or cars and a cloth for washing toys.

extending water play

RELATED: Getting Started with Water Play for Babies

3. Exploring Flow: Add plastic drinking bottles with holes punched into them, plus a waterwheel and some lengths of clear plastic tubing from the hardware store.

10 ideas for playing with water

4. Bubble Trouble: Add a little dishwashing detergent and some whisks and let your kids create bubbles in the water.

5. Tea Party: Take your child’s cooking play outside – tea set, pots and pans, cups and saucers, and spoons for stirring, then add water, and even a little sand if you’re feeling brave.

water play ideas

6. Keep It Natural: Try water play with natural materials – small river stones, seed pods, leaves, small sticks and bark.

7. Floating and Sinking: Choose a range of objects that will float and some which will sink. Notice these properties out load as your child plays with the objects in the water.

8. Build a Boat: Challenge your child to make a boat from recycled materials and add your child’s plastic people or animal figurines for a day of boating on the water.

ideas for water play table

9. Water Painting: Give your child a bucket of water and a chunky paintbrush for water painting. You will be amazed how much fun toddlers and preschoolers have with this water play activity.

Painting with water for toddlers and preschool

10. Get Muddy: Go all in and add sand for some seriously fun play with mud! Make mudpies and mud cakes or drip castles! Here you’ll find our pick of fifteen of the best mud play ideas.

For even more outdoor fun, check out these related articles;

7 Essential Steps to Creating an Outdoor Play Area Kids Of All Ages Will Adore
Outdoor Scavenger Hunts Ideas
21 Old Fashioned Yard Games for Kids


  1. SquiggleMum says:

    Ooh… loving the holes in the bottle idea. It's often the simple ones that are the most effective.

    Christie you're excellent at demonstrating ways to allow learning to happen naturally through play.

  2. PlanningQueen says:

    We love the buckets and paintbrushes here, but we have never tried the bottles with holes in them. My older kids would love to make the holes themselves. We shall have to try this when it is hot next.

  3. Narelle Nettelbeck says:

    We have water play here most days too. The children love it when I put ice into the water. You can just use ice cubes OR to make it more fun, grab a balloon and fill it about 1/4 with water, add a little food colouring. Tie the balloon and pop in the freezer. When the balloon is frozen, peel off the rubber balloon and you're left with a big ice block. Freeze a few for a variety of colours.

    The children also enjoy it when I set out 2 tubs of coloured water (eg one yellow and one blue) and then let the children mix away!!

    I haven't tried the bottle idea but I have cups in the water play box with holes in the bottom – the children love that so I can't wait to try the bottle!

  4. Teacher Tom says:

    It's the middle of winter here, and we still have water play almost every day. We have a rain barrel that collects rain water from the roof. Lately, the kids have been making mud then using shovels to "catapult" it against the side of the building! They've got it as high as the second story and are strategizing how to get it even higher.

  5. What great ideas! As a day care provider, I don't use a wading pool with the kids–too much risk with all those little bodies and a pool of water–so I'm so glad to see so many great ideas that use smaller quantities or smaller containers. It's winter now, but I'll definitely keep all these ideas for warmer weather! We have had a great time with "painting" with ice cubes on hot pavement, watching it melt and then dry away. I never thought of adding food coloring, but that sounds like fun too!

  6. leechbabe says:

    Great ideas. I'm making notes for Heidi's birthday party next year. The ice treasure hunt was very successful this year, thank you. Added bonus that water play is super easy to clean up after. 🙂

  7. Honor Bowden says:

    Hey there, your blog rocks! We've been reading for a while now and have been trying out lots of ideas… am super excited about the edible fingerpaint! We're off to try your water ideas now… it's soooo hot here on the Gold Coast too. Roman (1) and Mum. x

  8. Phunkyrockgal says:

    That looks like so much fun! I can't wait for summer again!

  9. Fantastic blog!

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