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4 min read

Water play is so great throughout the early years because it engages multiple senses.

The feel of water, its temperature, and the sound it makes can be very stimulating and enjoyable for children.

Water play is also just so active and engaging for young kids.

They like to pour, scoop, splash, and experiment.

“Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes about through his movements.” Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.

And while my children love any sort of swimming, wadding, and splashing, I'm also conscious of wasting water. I know my kids would love to run the hose for hours if I let them!

If your family is the same, everyone will enjoy the water-conscious activities below.

11 Activities for Children Who Like Water Play

Practical Life Activities with Water

1. Watering Plants - you can do this indoors with a small watering can and potted plants or go outside and water the garden and grass. For children that are interested in maximum effort activites, try offering your child a full-sized outdoor watering can. You might not be able to fill it but they're still likely to enjoy that heavy work.

2. Water Transfer Activities - toddlers tend to enjoy pouring water from one container to another so you can offer two pitchers they can transfer water between. You can also transfer water with an eyedropper or between bowls with a sponge.

3. Washing Hands - give your child time and space to wash their hands. We usually wash our hands during quick transitions (before a meal, after a meal, etc.) but giving them time to just hang out at the sink and explore the water, soap, etc. is really beneficial and fun.

If you're worried about wasting water, give them a bowl with water to wash at.

4. Cleaning the Windows - This is much more fun than it sounds! It's a very popular activity in both the Toddler and Casa classroom. Offer a small, manageable spray bottle & squeegee, demonstrating how to spray the window and then wipe it with the squeegee.

5. Washing the Dishes - set up a bin (or you could use the sink as long as it’s accessible with a Learning Tower) with some soapy water, a scrub brush and some dishes that are safe for the child to wash independently.
For young toddlers, I would recommend just one bin because it's easier for them to just do the one step - "washing". As they approach three, you can introduce a second bin to rinse the dishes in. Add a towel to dry the dishes with when finished.

6. Washing Fruits and Vegetables - I recommend ones that won’t easily bruise like oranges, potatoes, carrots, etc. This activity becomes even more meaningful if they can use the fruits and veggies right after for snack or meal prep.

7. Mopping - A child-sized mop is one of the most popular practical life tools in most toddler classrooms. Children love mopping up spills and cleaning the floor.

8.  Wash Outdoor Toys - Have your child help to wash outdoor vehicles, scooters, bikes, wagons, sand toys or anything else that's gotten a little dirty from living outdoors. You can fill a small basin with soapy water and offer some rags.

Other Water Play Activities

9.  Water Table Ideas - There are endless possibilities with a water table. In infancy, it can be as simple as a shallow container with a little water for them to explore. Once they’re on their feet and standing, you can introduce a water table or large bin, along with pitchers, small containers, funnels, colanders, etc.

Other ideas for water tables:

  • Bubbles & a Whisk - fill the water table or basic with water, add in some liquid dish soap and show your child how to whisk the water. The more they whisk, they more bubbles appear. Such a simple activity and great for fine motor skills.
  • Cleaning Toys - Offer your child a scrub brush, soap, and plastic animals or cars to wash. If your child likes muddy play, you can even offer a small bin of mud or dirt to get the cars and animals dirty first.
  • Create Themes - For example, marine life, boats, etc. Toobs are great for creating themed water tables. You can also add some blue bath tints.
  • Add Fruit or Flowers for added sensory play - Add sliced citrus fruits or flowers to explore and engage the senses (it’ll smell great!). You can also add tongs or scoops to scoop up the fruit/petals and get a closer look. Older children love these additions because they can play pretend chef, making soups, teas, and potions.

10. Sink or Float Experiment - gather items around the home (or outside) that will either sink or float in the water. This is a great “first” science experiment for toddlers. You can choose objects that will make a splash for some added excitement.

You can also add two additional containers for your child to sort the items that sink vs. float, then talk about it and make predictions about what they think will happen. This is a wonderful activity for language development.

11. Water Painting - This activity is great for children as young as one. Offer a bowl of water and a paint brush. You can do this indoors with construction paper (with a small bowl of water so that the paper doesn’t get overly saturated) or outdoors where your child can “paint” rocks, the sidewalk, brick walls, etc.

Doing it outdoors is fun because the sun will dry the water and your child can repeat it as many times as they like.

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