10 Educational Water Play Activities That Are Simply a Splash

Sensory water play is so much fun and it helps your kids learn at the same time!

Published May 9, 2023
Playing in the Bathroom

Water play is an essential part of summertime fun. However, when we think of this pastime, it normally involves pools, lakes, oceans, and sprinklers. For the parents looking for practical, learning opportunities for their young kids, consider engaging in these fun sensory water play activites you can incorporate into your daily routine.

The Importance of Water Play

Sensory play is a spectacular learning opportunity for your toddler and preschool-aged kids. Health experts note that "activities that engage your child's senses, [help] them develop language skills and motor skills. It also helps with cognitive growth, fosters social interactions and encourages experimentation."

One fantastic way to do this is to introduce water play activities. Best of all, these pursuits can be done with items that you have lying around the house! All you need is a large plastic container, a water table, your kitchen sink, or the bathtub to make this type of play happen. Try these engaging sensory water play activities for kids to get started!

Scooping for Treasure

scooping water play activity

This activity has so many possibilities! Whether it's playing in the sink, a water table, or a big plastic storage container, your kids will build their fine and gross motor skills by engaging in this simple game.

Water Play Materials:

  • Ladles

  • Mesh strainers

  • Tongs

  • Tupperware containers

  • Plastic toys with solid surfaces or objects from around the house

The Rules:

Use the tools provided to get the sunken treasure out of the container - no grabbing with your hands! Once you have retrieved something, sort into the proper containers. Sorting can be by object type, color, or size.

How to Play

  1. Fill your large bin or sink up two-thirds of the way with water.

  2. Drop in your toys or objects. These can be rubber ducks, old wine corks, the lids from your kid's applesauce containers, or your son's army men. The only thing that is required is that they can fit in the scoops you are providing.

  3. Line up your tupperware containers. These will be where your kids sort their sunken treasures.

  4. Let them start scooping for treasure!

Alternate Game Options:

Make this game a precursor to mealtime and have your kids fish for their fruit! Simply grab the biggest mixing bowl you have, fill it two-thirds of the way with water and dump in grapes, berries, cherries, and apple cubes. Then, have them scoop and sort their sweet snack.

Need to Know

Parents of toddlers need to cut up their fruit into the appropriate sizes and remove the pits before playing this game in order to avoid choking incidents. Check out our Baby Led Weaning Cutting Guide for tips.

Looking to get out of the house? Another way to enjoy this game is to head to a body of water in your area and let your kids scoop and sift through the natural waters and sediment and see what they may find!

Pipe Play

Mom taking bath for little baby in bathtub

This game requires that parents purchase some pipe toys in order to play. Amazon Prime members can quickly snag deals for under $20! Some fun options include:

Water Play Materials:

  • Bathtub

  • Pipe and cog toys

  • Clear plastic cups

  • Masking tape

The Rules:

The intent of this game is to have your little ones fill up their cups to the designated marks. This helps with following instructions, building gross motor skills, and learning the concept of stopping and starting.

How to Play

  1. Fill up your tub like you would for bath time.

  2. Set up your pipes and cogs.

  3. Take your masking tape and mark different areas on your cups.

  4. Using one of the cups, have them pour water through the pipes and then fill up the other cups to their designated marks.

Helpful Hack

For young toddlers, work on "stop" and "go" by repeating the word "go" while the cup is filling and then shouting "stop!" when they reach the line. This can help them better understand these concepts.

Mini Archeologist

dinosaur toys in ice

Think your kids might want to dig for dinosaurs someday? Give them a taste of this unique profession by letting them excavate some unknown items in ice! This is another easy activity to build fine and gross motor skills.

The Rules:

They are not done until they have found every creature that is frozen in time!

Water Play Materials:

  • Large tupperware containers

  • Small solid plastic toys

  • Turkey Baster

  • Medicine Syringes

  • Wooden Spoons

  • Kosher salt

  • Freezer

How to Play

  1. The day before you plan to play this water game, grab a handful of large tupperware containers. Before you start make sure that they can fit in your freezer.

  2. Fill up the container halfway with water and sprinkle in an array of small plastic toys.

  3. Place it in the freezer and allow the water to harden.

  4. Repeat this process again, filling up the rest of the container with water, adding in toys, and then freezing the remaining water section.

  5. On the day of play, remove your giant ice cube from the tupperware. This can be done by placing a lid on the container, turning it upside down and allowing warm water to run over the sides of the container for a few minutes.

  6. Next, give your kids a small dish of kosher salt, a bowl of warm water, turkey basters and medicine syringes, and some wooden spoons and let them chisel away the ice!

  7. Once all the items are found they are done!

Water Painting

colored ice

Painting with ice cubes is an entertaining sensory activity that engages the senses of sight and touch. This is a great project to do outside on a sunny day.

The Rules:

There are no rules! Let your kids' creative juices flow with this fun water-based art project.

Water Play Materials:

  • Butcher paper

  • Masking tape

  • Silicone ice cube molds

  • Food coloring

  • Old shirts you don't mind getting stained

How to Play

  1. The night before play, fill up your ice cube tray with water and mix in a few drops of food coloring in each square. We advise using large molds to allow your kids to easily grip onto their painting tools.

  2. Use masking tape to adhere large strips of butcher paper to a table.

  3. Let your kids have fun painting! For extended play, consider giving them a list of certain objects to draw.

Scrub a Dub Dub Cleaning Time

Siblings together in kindergarten

Teach your kids the importance of washing their hands and helping to clean around the home with this sudsy water play! This is another game that works on dexterity.

The Rules:

Everything needs to be clean! This game resembles a wash station like you would see in a kitchen.

Water Play Materials:

  • Two large plastic tubs

  • Bubble bath mix

  • Toys you don't mind getting wet

  • Sponges

  • Towels

How to Play

  1. Fill up one tub with soapy water, another with plain water, and then lay out a towel for your drying station.

  2. Have your kids scrub their toys, rinse, and lay them out to dry. This can be a great training session for when they get to clean the dishes when they are older!

Buoyancy Basics

Child surprised to see a large porous egg sinking in a beaker

Introducing science topics early is an amazing way to spark curiosity and experimentation. The density of an object determines if it sinks or floats. Heavier items sink and lightweight or hollow objects will float at the surface. This game explores these concepts.

The Rules:

Your kids need to determine what sinks and what floats.

Water Play Materials:

  • Large clear tub (the taller the better)

  • Cut up pool noodles

  • Coins

  • River rocks

  • Hollow, but solid-surfaced toys

  • Other objects from around the house

How to Play

  1. Simply fill up your tub with water and have your kids guess if an object will sink or float!

  2. Once they make their guess, let the experiment begin. Drop it in and watch to see what it does. If they guessed wrong, take the time to explain why.

The City of Atlantis Has Risen

Little boy playing with blocks in the tub

Think your kid might be a future engineer? Test their building abilities with this fun water play activity that involves stacking and balancing. Positioning blocks on the water is harder than it looks, so this is sure to build their concentration and patience!

The Rules:

Build a floating castle or city!

Water Play Materials:

  • Large clear tub (the wider and shorter the better)

  • Foam blocks (kitchen sponges can be a simple alternative)

How to Play

  1. Fill up a large plastic container with water and see what creations your child can make!

Water Sensory Bin

Little Girl Washing Hands in the Bathroom

Sensory water play is such a fantastic activity, so why not build your own sensory bin that uses the world's most important liquid?

The Rules:

Sensory bins are simply places where your kids get to explore different textures and play! The only rule is that they need ample time to investigate.

Water Play Materials:

  • Water beads (for older children only)

  • Small solid-surfaced toys or objects

  • Small tupperware containers

  • Funnels

  • Squeeze bottles

  • Scoops

  • Tongs

  • Sponges

Parents can also add in bubble bath mix or shaving cream if they want to participate in the fun (most kids need supervision around these products).

How to Play

  1. Assemble your bin! For instance, if you are going with an under the sea vibe, layer small river stones at the bottom of your bin, pour in the water and then add in a treasure chest of coins, fake fish, and aquarium plants. Get as creative as you see fit!

  2. Lay out all their tools and then let them pour, pick up, dig, and play in this unique water play space!

Water Play Can Happen Everyday

Water play is such a wonderful way to help your child learn and grow. While it may seem difficult, most of these activities can be incorporated into your everyday schedule. Your kids are likely already hovering in the kitchen during dinnertime prep. Let them play in the sink! Bath time is also the perfect window for water play and cleanup is easy.

Finally, investing in a sensory water table and toys for the backyard is a great summertime activity that will get used every week if you make the time to go outside! Kids love to splish and splash playing water games outside, so get creative and find fun ways to sneak in this fun type of sensory play.

10 Educational Water Play Activities That Are Simply a Splash