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Top 10 Water Play Activities for Kids to Help Keep Cool

Our Top 10 Water Activities for Kids to Help Keep the Cool in Your House this Summer

Water play is the perfect sensory play activity for kids this summer.

Kids love to play in water.  It’s not only fun and great way to keep cool in summer but it’s also a great sensory play activity helping to stimulate and strengthen growing brains and senses.  Forget the expensive plastic water play tables and check out our top 10 water activities for kids this summer. *Check your local council’s water regulations before you play with water!

Sprinkler on the lawn

You simply can’t bypass this retro classic water activity for kids!  A basic sprinkler head is around $6 at your local hardware store.  The fancy ones may be better for your lawn but they’re not as fun for kids.  Let them run and squeal and then feed them watermelon and wash all the sticky pink mess off under sprinkler.  Keep moving the sprinkler around the yard and garden and everything gets watered while they play.

  • Suits mobile children of all ages

Coloured water play bottles

Save up clear plastic bottles from soft drink and water and remove the labels.  Collect all sizes.  Fill all the bottles in your favourite play spot outdoors in the shade – a lawn is perfect for this activity as any spills and mess just water the lawn for you.  Add a drop or two of food colouring to each bottle filled with water. 

Practice making different colours together.  Watch the colours swirl through the water then give them all a quick shake.  Give your kids a few plastic bowls to pour the water into and let them pour and mix their coloured water together.  This activity introduces the concept of primary and secondary colours to children and allows them to experiment and play with colour mixing without creating too much mess for you to clean up.

  • Suits toddlers to pre-schoolers

Apple bobbing

This is the perfect fun water activity for kids on a hot summer’s day.  Simply fill a plastic tub with water and float some apples on top.  Older kids must keep their hands behind their back and attempt to pick up an apple using just their mouth.  Younger kids can hold onto the side of the tub.  This is a great game for summer birthday parties where you can give each child their own apple bobbing tub.  Hilarity will ensue so keep your camera handy.

  • Suitable for older toddlers through to school aged kids

Water sensory tubs

Put some water in a tub or an old baby bath and add a few cups, jugs, stirrers, colanders and soup ladles and you’ve created a sensory tub.  As long as you have the plastic tub to put the water in you’ll be able to find everything you need around the house.  Get creative and use your imagination – which makes this a great sensory activity for parents too! 

As long as it won’t break, isn’t toxic, and is water safe, then it’s fair game for the water sensory tub.  Cloths, spray bottles, Styrofoam balls, paintbrushes and Panadol syringes all make great items for your kids’ water sensory tub.  Adding ice cubes or a few drops of food colouring can enhance the sensory experience for them.

  • Suitable for toddlers of all ages and older

Pouring practice to develop motor skills

Pouring practice is a bit like an entry level version of water sensory tubs.  Once your child can safely and confidently sit without support find a shady outdoor area and give them a clear plastic jug filled with water and several plastic cups.  Keep a hose handy or a large bucket of water ready for quick refills.  This is one of those water activities that keeps most kids happy for an extended period of time so bring a book and relax while you can.  This water activity for kids helps to build strength, hand eye coordination and motor skills.

  • Suits babies who can confidently sit unsupported to young toddlers

Ice play

Ice play can be a distinct water activity by itself or a great way to enhance the sensory experience of other water activities.  Freeze coloured or glitter water to further enhance the sensory benefits.  You can also add chopped vegetables, favourite small toys and flowers.  You’re limited only by the available space in your freezer. 

Add them to other water activities your kids love or put them on trays, on the lawn, pavement or sandpit and let them play creatively.  If you’re outside you can pour jugs or watering cans of water over the ice to accelerate the melting process, add interest and cool down.

  • Suitable for toddlers through to school aged kids

Duck race

Fill a large oval or rectangular plastic tub with water.  Float plastic duckies on the surface and give your kids spray guns.  Show them how to move the duckies around on the water by shooting them with the jet nozzle of the spray gun.  If there are two or more kids participating in this water activity they can race the ducks from one side of the tub to the other.

  • Suitable for older toddlers through to school aged kids


Fill your plastic tub with water either at an outdoor table or somewhere in the shade on the ground.  Give your child “ingredients” to add to their soup and a large wooden spoon to stir their soup.  Once the soup is finished they can use a soup ladle to transfer the soup from the tub to plastic bowls.  This water activity for kids helps to develop fine motor skills and co-ordination.   Soup ingredients can be anything from garden leaves and flowers, plastic bath toys, ping pong balls – anything that floats can be added to the soup.

  • Suitable for toddlers through to kindy aged kids

Spray chalk

Use one of the widely available recipes online to make up your bottles of spray chalk.  They’re basically a mix of tempera paint with water and corn-starch to thicken it in a clear plastic spray bottle.  Kids love to use spray chalk on foot paths, driveways, fences and wall.  Spray chalk is not as messy as regular chalk and a bucket of water or a really quick blast with the hose removes all the evidence unlike with regular sidewalk chalk.  Children can experiment with mixing colours, creating shapes or just enjoying watching how the colour drips down the wall.

  • Suitable for toddlers through to kindy aged kids

Washing the car

Like a sprinkler on the lawn this is one of those retro water activities for kids that just never seems to go out of fashion.  Give them a big sponge, a bucket of water and the hose, then let them play with water as they clean the car for you.  They probably won’t do as good a job as a professional car detailer but at the very least it keeps them occupied, cools them down and gives you a chance to sit down and drink a glass of water.

  • Suitable for older toddlers through to school aged kids

Water play activities for kids

As long as you have a plastic tub to put water in and somewhere you don’t mind getting wet then you’re set for a cool and educational summer filled with fun water activities for kids.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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