Surprisingly Easy Ideas for Water Play

Surprisingly Easy Ideas for Water Play

By Michelle Mady

Water play is key to so much development in the toddler years. Toddlers love to get messy, feel various textures, and explore the different ways materials move. They experiment to find various outcomes, learn cause and effect skills, and have a blast doing it.  

But how much effort can we put into creating diverse ways to play? I mean, with all of the other things on our to-do list, water play is messy, time consuming, and takes more preparation than dinner and more clean up than a birthday party.  

Luckily there is so much more to water play than a pricy water table and toys that squirt water everywhere! Here are some of my go-to water play ideas. And, although there’s always a bit of sloshing, these have considerably less set up and clean up than a free-for-all water table.

Water Prints 

All you need for this is a few sponges (you can cut them in shapes if you are feeling extra crafty), a bowl of water, a warm, hard surface, and a sunny day. The hard surface should be something like stone, pavement, cement, or even wood. Anything that changes in color when wet. Sit your toddler down and let them create art by making water prints on the surface! 

The best part is that as it dries, the surface becomes ready to decorate again. And, as an extra bonus, the only set up and clean up is filling and then dumping the bowl of water.

Spray the Day Away

Spray bottles can be purchased at your local dollar store and are worth every penny and more. Fill them with water, hand them to your toddler, and let them spray down anything they see outside! Swing set? Spray it down. Playhouse? Spray away. The side of the house? Go at it, kid! Not only is this no prep and no mess, it also will keep your toddler occupied for enough time for you to finish the next chapter of your summer read.

Car Wash

The car wash activity is slightly messier than others on this list, but it is sure to entertain.  Get a bowl of soapy water, some cars (or any water safe toy), a rag or scrubber, and a few towels. Let your toddler wash their toys to their heart’s content. 

If you are feeling extra adventurous, add some water soluble paint in the mix! Let them paint their cards, then wash them clean again. Of course, this adds to your prep and mess, but it’s sure to be a hit.

Water play has so many benefits and there are ways to make it fun with little hassle.  The best part about water play? It engages your toddler and keeps their attention for long enough for you to sit back and relax for hours…. Ok, maybe minutes, but it will FEEL like hours.


About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey. 

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