Water Play

Yesterday, we had our first Play-date with Purpose“, and we made a big SPLASH! We gathered at the Lake Highlands Spray park, splashed around, and then found a shady spot for water songs, activities, and experiments. Many splashing families at the spray ground joined us, and we probably had about 20 kiddos, babies up through age 10 playing with us. We talked about water in different forms,and its many uses. We used a big sheet to make waves for a beach ball, then pretended we were “wading” in the ocean together. We did an experiment with food coloring, adding yellow and red, to make orange water. We tested out a container of random objects to see: “Does it float or does it sink?” The children enjoyed washing a baby, painting with water, having a “Tea party” with water, fishing, “cooking” with water, ‘washing dishes”, and more! (Of course, I was too busy to take pics – sorry.) Here are some of the tips and ideas I shared so you can enjoy your own water play at home, or even set up your own water play-date!

“PLAY is our brain’s favorite way of learning.”

Many benefits of water play: cognitive, physical, social-emotional:

improves fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, increases vocabulary, strengthens critical thinking and understanding of cause-effect, labeling/ classification skills, provides opportunities for imaginative/ dramatic play, imitation, math and science concepts, recognizing same/ different (ordination), multi-sensory experience, has a calming effect

Material Ideas:

plastic containers and dishes, various sizes, plastic cups, funnels, tongs, strainers, measuring cups, spoons, whisks, and other kitchen tools; eyedroppers, aquarium nets, food coloring, sponges and wash cloths, spray bottles, empty squirt bottles, corks, plastic tubing, foam paint brushes, toy boats, small plastic people and animals, plastic baby doll, water wheels, ice cube trays, plastic bead necklaces, spray bottles/ misters, rubber ducks

Ideas for more water play:

  • set up clothes line outside and washing station outside
  • baby or animal bath station
  • play outside in rain and puddles
  • car wash (toy or real)
  • painting/ writing with water – the wooden fence, the pavement (shapes, letters, etc.)
  • chores: wash windows, wash dishes, water plants
  • inside at sink and tub or on floor over towels/  plastic drop cloth
  • family spray-chase with squirt guns or hose

Be scientists:

  • Make predictions: “Do you predict it will sink or float?”
  • relative temperature experiment
  • discover how the same amount of water can fit into different containers (volume)
  • How long will it take to melt? to dry? to evaporate?
  • Which container holds more?
  • How much water will it absorb?
  • mix different things into water: do they dissolve?
  • talk about water cycle, many uses for water, conserving water

Your role in play:

  • Provide freedom to explore/ experiment.
  • Ask open-ended questions as children play: “tell me about it”, “What happens when….”
  • Play “I wonder…”, “I wonder what will happen if/ when ______.” “I wonder what it’s like to be a fish in the water..”
  • Sports-announcing as they play: “Josh dropped the rock in the water, and it sank!”
  • Add related props to make further connections (animals if you’ve been to zoo, etc.)
  • Use patterns/ song to build stronger brain connections
  • Have fun/ Engage/ Connect: “When we feel, we learn.” Say, “I like to _____ with you!”


WaterFollow the Water from Brook to Ocean (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)

Water DanceA Cool Drink of Water (Barbara Kerley Photo Inspirations)Baby Einstein: Water, Water EverywhereWater Sings Blue

Songs for Water Play:

  • Row, Row, Row your Boat”
  • “I had a Little Turtle…Tiny Tim”
  • “Wade in the Water”
  • “She Waded in the Water”
  • “This is the way we wash our hands/ take a bath/ splash our feet…playing in the water.”

Watch for 3 Stages of Play as you observe and encourage your child – in tub, at sink, in pool, in backyard:

  1. functional play – children learning qualities of water through their senses, exploration
  2. constructive play – children move from exploring qualities to manipulating for play, eg. bathing doll
  3. dramatic play – using water as a prop for pretend play like playing firefighters, fishing, car wash, etc.

I hope you’re inspired to splash and play with your little ones!

Here is another of my posts on water play, Indoor Water Play, with more ideas for you.


  1. Tamara says:

    Oh, that sounds so great! We were sorry to be unavailable.