Wacky Water Play

Summer months mean hot temps and no school. Parents want their kids to play outside, soak up the sunshine, and not spend too much time in front of electronics. But finding new and creative things to do outdoors is challenging!

KneeBouncer games are perfect for rainy days, along with family movie time and cuddles. But for hot, sunny mornings and afternoons, we have a couple of wacky water play ideas the whole family will enjoy!

Toy Wash

It’s time for the toys to be cleaned, but are you tired of running them through the dishwasher? Get your little one involved by making it a game. Mix some soap and water in shallow plastic bins or a kiddie pool. Then, give your tot some sponges or washcloths and make washing the toys a game!

white green and blue plastic toy

Alternatives are to create a theme for your toy wash. You could make a car wash or fill the bin with rubber ducks or plastic frogs for a pond theme. Another fun option is a baby doll bath!

Backyard Water Slide

Using the hose, turn a playset or plastic slide from your backyard into a water slide! Place the bottom of the slide in a kiddie pool, attach the hose so water is sliding down the slide, and let your tot go to town in their own water park!

You can add sprinkles or splash pads to enhance the water park theme and build upon this wacky water play idea!

Sponge Bombs

If you’re like me, you love the idea of a water balloon fight but hate cleaning broken balloon bits out of your yard! Additionally, water balloons can hurt if thrown too hard, and balloons are ideal for kids under three as they present a choking hazard.

Instead, try these DIY Sponge Bombs from Messy Little Monster. These wacky water toys are easy to make, fun to play with, and a great way to cool off! Or, if you’re like me and hate the mess of traditional water balloons, try reusable water balloons!

Rainbow Water Bin

One of the best sensory toys I ever used as a preschool teacher wasn’t an actual toy. Use plastic, reusable ice cubes, which you can find at almost any store! My favorites are the fruit-shaped ones, but they also have cubes, stars, hearts, circles, and cylinders.

Buy a few dozen and freeze them, toss them into a kiddie pool or sizeable shallow bin with water, shovel buckets, plastic fruit, and colorful foam blocks, and you now have a rainbow water bin!

Build a Beach

This idea takes some prep and requires space, but if you can pull it off, it is a fantastic way for toddlers to play outside. Fasten a tarp to the ground with yard stakes and cover part of the area with sand. Place a kiddie pool filled with water on the other half of the tarp.

Free A Family Playing on the Sand Stock Photo

Add beach toys, a kid-size chair, an umbrella, and a backyard beach! Cover the entire area with a larger tarp, fastened to the ground at night to prevent animals from getting into the sand. Another option is to use a second kiddie pool filled with sand as the beach instead of a tarp.

Of course, kids still love the traditional options of running through the sprinkler or playing with the hose, so don’t feel you need to purchase dozens of new items for outside water play. Water play is the perfect way to engage your child’s senses in active play and cool off simultaneously!

Always supervise young children when playing with water; drowning is the leading cause of death in the United States for children ages 1-4 and second for children 5-14, averaging 4,000 per year, according to the CDC.

Updated May 24th, 2024, by L. Elizabeth Forry

written by

L. Elizabeth Forry 

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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