If you’re looking for play ideas that will get your child/ren loving the time they spend outdoors (whilst also being very beneficial for their development) then Water Play needs to be top of your Play Bucket List!

Firstly, what exactly is water play?

Water Play is simply play that involves using water, as well as tools (such as spoons, funnels and containers) that enable children to explore it.

What are the benefits of water play?

  • Water Play supports sensory exploration– it enables children to explore their senses through varied sensory experiences.
  • Water Play supports motor development– it gives children the opportunity to develop their gross and fine motor development, through practising skills such as pouring, scooping, carrying and squeezing. These skills also support the development of children’s hand-eye coordination.
  • Water Play supports the development of problem-solving skills, whilst also enabling children to explore Maths concepts, such as volume and weight. It also supports children’s literacy and numeracy e.g when they use a brush and water to paint.
  • Water Play supports the development of a child’s concentration span– by really engaging them, children learn to hold their attention span and focus for longer periods of time.
  • Water Play supports children’s social and communication skills, when played as a group.

Setting up your water play:

Most Early Years settings have water tables. These enable children to stand around them and play with their peers, which makes it a great activity for supporting social development.

When playing with water at home, all you need is a large tub, tray or container! If you have one, a tuff tray makes a fantastic all year round water table, whilst also serving as a great shallow ‘paddling pool’ for babies and toddlers in the summer months. Young children get cold very quickly, so adding warm water (same temperature as their bath) helps extend play.

Pipes also act as a wonderful alternative (or addition) to a water table. We have some attached to a fence, with a bucket at the bottom. My 2 year old loves scooping water from the bucket and sending it down the pipes!

N.B If setting up Water Play outside, be sure to set-up play in a shaded area, and never leave a child unattended when playing with water. 

My top tools and utensils for Water Play at home:

  • Plastic cups
  • Old plastic food containers (different sizes, some with holes)
  • Funnels (different sizes), bottles (different sizes), eye droppers and old Calpol syringes.
  • Different sized spoons (including a ladle and measuring spoons)
  • Buckets
  • Child safe objects and toys of different weights (for exploring floating and sinking)
  • Natural materials (e.g pebbles, flowers, sand)
  • Paint brushes (different sizes)
  • Plastic water dispenser, with tap

Ideas for developing Water Play:

Ice Cubes:

  • Let your baby explore ice cubes with their hands
  • Let your child explore transferring ice cubes between different containers
  • Let your child explore breaking the ice cubs using a child’s hammer or rolling pin
  • Let your child explore melting the ice cubes using cold vs warm water

Water in a tray/ container:

  • Let your baby explore splashing the water with their hands
  • Add plastic cups (different sizes)  and let your child explore scooping and pouring water
  • Add spoons and cups (different sizes) and let your child explore scooping and pouring
  • Let your child explore squeezing using old droppers/ syringes and transferring from one container to another


  • Let your baby explore grasping the sponges in the water
  • Let your baby explore squeezing water out of the sponges
  • Let your child explore ‘cleaning’ closed patio doors/a table (sponge, baby bubble bath and water)
  • Make a toy wash and let your child explore ‘cleaning their toys’ (sponge, baby bubble bath and water)

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy singing those lovely Nursery Rhymes and actions songs about water! 

Happy playing from my home to yours! 

Lucie x