10 awesome water play ideas for toddlers on hot summer days

Posted in Play and Activities.

Every mum knows the pain of those long, hot summer afternoons when the kids are climbing up the walls and your desperate promises that “Daddy will be home soon” are falling on deaf ears.

You know those moments when everyone’s hot and tired, and it’s that awkward time of day when it’s not quite time for dinner, but too late to go to the beach or swimming pool? That’s when you need a simple, water-based activity that will cool even the worst toddler tantrums.

Here are 10 awesome and fun water activities your baby or toddler will love

1. Wash the dishes

You gotta train them while they’re young, right? You’ll be surprised how much your toddler will love pretending to do ‘adult’ chores and wash up in a little plastic bucket or Tupperware tray. All you need are some plastic toy plates and crockery, water and bubble bath, and you have endless entertainment!

Activity inspired by Twin Mom Refreshed.

 2. Have a water bucket relay

This works well when you have a mix of toddlers and older kids. The game has a simple premise, with two teams (of two or more kids) lined up facing each other. The aim is to transfer water from one bucket full of water (next to the first child in the line) along the line to the empty bucket at the end. Kids do this by scooping the water and pouring it into the next child’s container. Give them 3-4 minutes on the timer, and the team with the most water in their end bucket wins.

If playing just with toddlers, eliminate the competitive factor and focus on transferring water from one receptacle to another.

Toddler pouring water with buckets and watering can

3. Try squirt gun painting

This is as epic as it sounds, and is recommended for toddlers old enough to operate a water pistol safely, though it’s always a good idea to be on hand to ‘help’. Basically, you fill up a water pistol with coloured water (dyed with food colouring) or liquid watercolour paint. Then set up art paper on an easel (or even just peg it to the clothesline) and let them go for it. The result? Entertainment for hours and some pretty funky artworks to display!

Activity inspired by Fireflies + Mud Pies.

4. Set up a pouring station

This can be as simple as a bucket with lots of plastic containers and cups of various sizes to play with, or complex as the set up below with bonus coloured water. Regardless of how you do it, toddlers absolutely love pouring and playing with water and you can guarantee this will give you at least 20 continuous minutes of peace and quiet.

Activity inspired by Busy Toddler.

Water pouring station by Busy Toddler

5. Make a kid-sized carwash

When we saw this awesome idea, we just knew we had to include it. Sure, it requires a whole lot of work to set up, but you could make this the first weekend of the school holidays and leave it set up all summer, ready for spontaneous water play fun. The kids could wash their little ride-on cars, scooters, bikes and any of their plastic toys, really!

Activity inspired by Mom Endeavours.

Kiddie car wash water play zone by Mom Endeavours

6. Go on a nature scavenger hunt and freeze what you find

Toddlers love finding small things in nature, and bringing home their treasures. But instead of finding gumnuts and flowers littered all over the house (and wedged between the couch cushions) why not freeze them in water using ice cube trays? Littlies will love filling their trays with water, and then feeling the cool ice melting in their hands on a hot summer’s day. Just be wary of really small kids putting flowers in their mouths – or avoid the stress by ensuring you only use edible flowers and leaves.

This quick, simple and fun activity is inspired by DIY Enthusiasts.

Frozen flowers water play activity

7. Make a fountain or mini waterslide for the water to run through

This setup takes a little longer to prepare, but as you can see, it keeps multiple children engaged and playing happily. These pipes and funnels often come as special sets, so wait for an annual sale and then pick one up as a bargain. Or create your own with a tub and assorted pipes from your local hardware store.

Activity inspired by Frugal Fun For Boys & Girls.

DIY water play table from Frugal Fun 4 Boys

8. Wet bubble fun

Everyone knows there’s very little that babies love more than bubbles. Take the bubble action to the next level by gently pouring water over them first (so their skin is wet) and then blowing bubbles. The moisture on their skin means the bubbles will land on their arms, legs and face and stay there for a while, before eventually popping. Here’s a brilliant bubble mix recipe that will ensure your bubbles are BIG and floaty!

Toddler happily playing outdoors with bubbles

9. Build some boats and test how they float

Set the kids a challenge to build some watercraft and see which one floats the best! They could build them from waterproof paper, corks, sponges, bark, foam or LEGO.

Find more great DIY boat ideas at Craftulate.

Mother and daughters testing paper boats on water

10. Make a fishing pond

Fill a large bucket or paddling pool with water and a whole bunch of small objects for your toddler to ‘catch’. They can use a kitchen ladle, butterfly/fishing net or even a play fishing rod. Some ideas for what you could put in: balls, bottle lids, buttons, LEGO figurines, plastic toy cars, plastic animals or beads (large enough not to be a choking hazard).

Activity inspired by Frugal Fun For Boys & Girls.

Water table activity

And if all else fails, nothing beats a simple water fight, slip ‘n’ slide or run under the sprinkler! (If current water restrictions in your local area permit, of course.)

SAFETY NOTE: It is important to ALWAYS fully supervise children around water – even small amounts. Make sure you know about these common drowning dangers around the home


Get more babyology straight to your inbox