Children love water play. And seeing that the British summer has been kindly blessing us with hot weather so far this year, there’s never been a better time to let our boys and girls out in the garden and have lots of (wet) fun. Water play is great for several reasons. Firstly, it helps your children keep cool when it’s really hot, so they can enjoy being outdoors for longer (and getting a nice vitamin D top up). Plus, water play is always a great source of giggles and laughter, and it can be really inexpensive to set up too! So if you’re looking to have some fun with the children this summer (and in your own back garden, no less) here is a list of super-fun ideas for water activities.
1. Just give them a bucket.
How simple is this? Give younger children a bucket of water to dip their hands, feet, toys, or even themselves in, and they’ll be having hours of fun! Let them experiment with emptying the bucket or seeing the water overflow when they put bigger objects in. Does their plastic boat float? Does a pebble sink? For added fun, you can even raid the kitchen cupboards and put a variety of seeds and nuts in the water and see what happens. Or why not add some washing up liquid, grab a whisk from the kitchen, and let the children mix it all up and see what happens?
You may think they’re ‘just playing’, but through splashing, stirring, and pouring, they’re actually making sense of the world around them and learning as they do. It’s all so simple and yet so powerful! And if you have older children who are past this experimentation phase, just give them a bucket each, and they can just have a water fight instead!
2. Get a paddling pool.
A paddling pool could set you back a little bit – obviously, this all depends on the size you decide to get. But you can get really good-quality, good-sized paddling pools for a relatively cheap price if you shop around or plan ahead and buy in the sales towards the end of the summer to be ready to go for the following year. Give them goggles, masks, or, if you have little ones, armbands and bath toys. The added benefit is that if you get a paddling pool that’s big enough, you can get in yourself and join in the fun. (We know that secretly you’re just trying to cool yourself down!)
3. Have a water fight.
Water balloons and water guns come to mind here. All children love a good gun (make-believe) fight. It gets their creative juices going, and the chasing bit is just plain fun. There’s nothing better than a day spent running around the garden with your siblings, parents, neighbours or friends! If you have any pool noodles at home, fill up some water balloons and get the family involved in a pretend game of cricket or baseball. Of course, you’re all guaranteed to end up totally wet, but that’s the whole point, right? And if you have no balloons or water guns handy, how about throwing wet sponges at each other instead?
4. Put the sprinklers on.
When the weather is really hot, there’s nothing easier than just putting the sprinklers on and letting the children run wild in their swimming costumes. Or even their underpants. Because, surely, that doubles the fun! And if you don’t have sprinklers, you can always chase them around with the garden hose! Just be sure to protect them from the sun with UV-protective clothing or sun cream if the children are going to be outdoors during the hottest hours. Either way, it may be a good idea for them to have frequent breaks to sit in the shade for a bit and away from direct sunlight, to avoid the potential risk of skin damage.
5. Play with bottles.
Maybe your children are still a bit young to be running around with water balloons, water guns, or being chased by a garden hose. Or maybe they simply prefer quieter, less energetic activities. If they do, maybe they’ll enjoy filling some spray bottles with water and cooling themselves down that way. You can help them make some holes to the bottom or to the sides of some empty plastic bottles and let them have fun watching what happens when you pour water into the bottle. Or you could even attach and secure a water bottle to the garden hose and let the children have their very own, home-made garden sprinklers!
6. Wash something.
Well, if you’re going to play with water (and get wet) anyway, you may as well do something useful! Why not wash the car or your children’s bikes or scooters? If not, you can always play pretend. Maybe your children’s dolls need a wash? Or they toy animals? Their dinosaurs? Surely, with everything they get up to on a daily basis, dinosaurs need a wash too! If your child is into dinosaurs, you may want to check out some dinosaur-themed party games here. Or why not set up a little car- or train-wash station? Toy cars and trains always get dirty! Just make sure you supervise the selection process so that your children’s remote-controlled cars don’t end up in the water.
7. Play with ice.
Just because it’s summer, it doesn’t mean your children can’t experiment with ice. In fact, this is the time of year when you may be going through a lot of ice anyway, trying to keep your drinks cool. A great activity that your little ones will love is to fill up empty cartons of milk or juice with water and freeze them, maybe overnight. When you take the containers out of the freezer, remove the cartons, and you’ll be left with big ice shapes. Let the children have fun with them. What happens when you try and build an ice castle? Do the blocks stay on top of each other, or are they too slippery? Do they feel sticky when you touch them? If you add some food colouring to the water before you freeze it, what does the ice look like? This can be amazing for sensory play, as the activity allows the children to explore and learn through their senses, as well as developing their cognitive abilities and problem-solving skills in many other ways too.
8. Make a water table.
While most nurseries have water and sand tables they can use outdoors with the children, you may not have one at home. Smaller, generally plastic-made water or sand tables are available from all major toy retailers if you’re willing to buy one. But if not, this is where you may need to get a bit creative yourself. Do you have anything that could double up as a water table? Maybe a large, empty plastic toy box? Fill it with ice cubes and let the children mix and stir with some kitchen utensils. This is perfect for toddlers or pre-schoolers, for example. Or you could make a small world in the water table for them. Add boats, pebbles, or any toy sea creatures you may have, and you’ve just done wonders for their imagination!
Another option is to fill up your box with water and then add a few drops of food colouring into it to create coloured water. Let them experiment and see what happens when they add more colours, or when they add more water in. How do the colours change? If you add salt to the water, you can even practise floating or sinking different types of toys. As always, be careful with your wooden or any battery-operated toys as you don’t want those to end up in the water. These activities are all great for your children’s imagination – they help your child develop a variety of skills, including eye-hand coordination and cognitive abilities. With water, they can experiment with cause and effect and problem-solving in an age-appropriate way without even being aware of it!
9. Make a tin foil river.
If your children like getting involved in a little DIY project, why not make a river of tin foil? Grab some heavy-duty tin foil and literally create the bed of a (pretend) river. If you’re prepared to use the whole thing, you can make quite a good-sized river! Put something underneath so it’s downhill and add some ‘obstacles’, like pebbles or sticks that your children can find in the garden. Pour some water from the top of the river and watch it flow to the bottom. If you don’t want to waste the water, you can collect it at the bottom through another bucket and feed it through your river again and again. Let the children lead the way here – listen to their ideas and their input. Let them experiment and see what they come up with. You’ll be amazed at how resourceful and creative your children can be.
If you liked this post and are looking to have more garden fun with your children while the good weather lasts, you may be interested in our post with ideas for fun and free garden activities.
Over to you now – do you have any ideas or suggestions for fun water activities that your children love?