Heat can turn even the sweetest preschooler into a sweaty mess of anger and tantrums. If you’re frantically searching for ways to beat the heat this summer, use these 11 fun water play activities for preschoolers that help build developmental skills.
Before jumping into water fun, make sure you review water safety rules with your preschooler.
- Never swim alone.
- Never go to a swimming area (lake, pool, river) alone.
- Always ask permission before playing in or with water.
Mom and Dad, remember it only takes a moment for your child to slip into a body of water. Be vigilant and watchful around all standing water — even kiddie pools.
1. Small-World Sensory Tubs
Water beads are fun sensory experiences for preschoolers who are past the stage of putting things in their mouths. They’re soothing and fun to handle, which keeps kids at the bin longer, allowing their imaginations to take off. Get a bin and set up small worlds by adding themed toys: ocean animals for an ocean theme, pirate ships and figures for a pirate theme, etc.
You can also make a sensory world with water and toys. This fun sensory tub from Danya Banya shows how to make a watery ocean world.
2. Kiddie Pool Add-ins
Preschoolers love jumping in and out of the kiddie pool, dunking their hair, and splashing around. Give them some add-ins, and they’ll stay in the kiddie pool even longer, having a great sensory, imaginative experience. Some fun ideas:
- Water balloons
- Pool noodles
- Water balls
- A kickboard
- Plastic toy animals
- Measuring cups, strainers, spoons, and small buckets
- Colored ice cubes
3. Wash the Lawn Furniture or Yard Toys
Grab some sponges and a bucket of soapy water, and direct your preschooler to wash the lawn furniture or yard toys. It’s slippery and wet, which makes the process a fun sensory activity. Plus, preschoolers hone their scientific observation skills as they see what happens when they squeeze the soapy sponge. If the lawn furniture actually gets clean in the process? Bonus!
4. Splash Pad Play
Head to your local splash pad for some cool gross motor development. Running, skipping, jumping, and crawling through the spray structures helps your preschooler learn where her body is in space and gives her confidence in what her body can do. Plus, it’s incredibly refreshing on a hot day!
5. Ice Play
This science-based activity is so fun, and it helps to improve fine motor skills while learning cause and effect. Fill a plastic container with water and add small objects, like buttons and small toys. Place the container in the freezer.
When ready, take the ice block out and put it in a bin (or on the lawn if it’s a hot day!). Give your preschooler some tools that will help in freeing the toys:
- A spoon
- Salt shakers
- Driveway salt (you can use food coloring to dye the salt for a fun effect)
- A bowl of water
Then sit back as you watch your preschooler work with determination to find a way to free the toys. If this can be done with a friend or sibling, it’s even better because the preschoolers learn cooperation as they problem solve together.
6. Water Potions
Let your child be a scientist for the day with this water activity for preschoolers. Gather a variety of utensils and containers from your home:
- Spray bottles
- Empty hand soap bottles
- Ice cube trays
- Dishes and bowls
- Measuring spoons and cups
Add a few drops of liquid watercolor to water in different containers, and then let your preschooler experiment with the water and utensils. They’ll get hands-on experience with how different colors change when mixed together, and they’ll also be fully immersed in fine motor development — scooping, carrying, squeezing, transferring, controlling how much they pour… it all combines for a colorful, wet, fun learning experience.
7. Toy Car Wash
Gather your plastic cars (make sure you don’t grab any with batteries) and set up a car wash in your backyard. Use buckets, bowls, tubs, cups, spray bottles — whatever you have on hand — for the wash. Fill some containers with soapy water and some with clear water. Give your preschooler some wash rags, a toothbrush, and/or sponge, and let her imagination finish the job.
8. Go Fishing… in Your Backyard… with Balloons
This fun idea from The Empowered Educator builds fine motor skills, gives you an opportunity to practice color recognition, build hand-eye coordination, and more. Add small balloons to a tub filled with water. Give your preschooler a strainer, cup, bowl, and/or spoon and challenge him to “fish” for the balloons.
9. Water Relay Race
If you have a few kids at your house one day, cool them off with some fun water relay race games.
- The children can build balance as they walk with a bowl of water on their heads and empty it into a bucket at the end of the relay.
- Increase hand-eye coordination as they carry a small water balloon on a serving spoon, trying not to let it drop and break.
- Poke a few holes in the bottom of a disposable cup. At one end of your relay, have the children fill the cup with water from a full bucket. Challenge them to pass it overhead from person to person until it gets to a bucket at the end where the last person dumps the remaining water. This builds gross motor skills (and is refreshingly cool!).
- Set up an obstacle course and give each relay runner two buckets full of water. Have the children run the obstacle course with the buckets, trying not to spill. Whoever has the most water at the end wins.
10. Water Limbo
Create a limbo “bar” with your water hose. Use your thumb to make the water shoot in a line. Have your preschooler try to go under the line (the traditional limbo move is fun, but you can also have them crawl, hop like a frog, go backwards, run under the line while spinning, etc.). Keep lowering the line for more fun. This builds gross motor skills and coordination.
11. Pool Noodle Race — A Pool Game
Your preschooler can play this game even if he needs to wear a Puddle Jumper or life vest in the pool. Have each player straddle a pool noodle and race from one point in the pool to another. This builds muscles, coordination, and gross motor skills, while also encouraging sportsmanship.
These fun water play activities for preschoolers will keep your child busy — and cool — all summer long!
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we believe children learn through play. Scientific observations are more meaningful, fine- and gross-motor skill activities are more impactful, and cause-and-effect hits home far stronger when children are having fun. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour of the preschool.