25 Water Activities for Kids in the Backyard

I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love water play.  Even the smallest bin or bucket of water will keep my preschoolers and toddlers happy for hours.  They splash, they paddle, the stir, and pour.  In the warm weather, we have some sort of water activity set up here in the backyard almost every day.  It’s the first thing the hooligans gather around when they arrive, and they often spend the better part of the morning playing with whatever wet and wonderful activity I’ve set up.

Today, I’m sharing 25 of my very favourite activities that you can set up for your kids in the backyard.  If you’re looking for a guaranteed way to keep the your troops entertained warm day, you’ll find all kinds of simple ideas for water bins, water tables, small worlds and water-sensory play in this collection.

All of these water activities are easy to set up using things you already have around the house. Each one has been tried and tested here, and has received a huge stamp of approval from the hooligans! Simple, fun and inexpensive, they’re guaranteed to keep your kids learning, laughing and staying cool in the backyard this summer!

25 backyard water play ideas for toddlers

25 fun and easy water play ideas for the backyard:

 Each description contains a clickable link which will take you to full post for the activity. Once there, you can simply press your “back” button to return to this post. 


kids melting toys frozen in ice

 Ice Age Bin – Melting ice with salt and water is one of our favourite preschool science activities. You can keep your kids busy for ages excavating frozen treasures out of a block of ice.


garden soup water play idea

Garden Soup – here’s a great sensory activity for kids to do in the backyard.  This activity has them exploring in the garden, creating concoctions, and strengthening fine motor skills while keeping cool.


kids playing with coloured water

Colour Laboratory - One of our favourite backyard science activities.  Kids can be little scientists mixing colours and potions in the backyard on a warm summer day.


tongs and ice and water activity for preschoolers

Frozen Fractals Soup:  Fans of Disney’s “FROZEN” will love this ice and water activity! Ice and water never fail to keep the hooligans entertained.


kids playing at a homemade water wall

backyard water wall is easy to make with a few recyclable containers.  The hooligans have enjoyed hours of fun with this one over the years.


coffee shop pretend play activity

Sand, water and soap are all you need to set up a pretend coffee shop for your little ones.  The hooligans ages 1-7 played with this for an entire morning.


window art with water and foam shapes

Water play doesn’t get any easier than this.  Toddlers can create window art with foam shapes and a bowl of water.


kids playing with sea water bin
Create an under the sea small world with a bin of water and a few found items.  My toddlers played with this one for hours.


containers of coloured water for play

Kids can learn all about colours and colour mixing with this simple coloured water experiment.  It’s great for fine-motor and gross-motor development as well.


clothesline activity - bowl, pegs and cloths

Laundry day pretend play:  life skills, fine motor development and water play all wrapped up in one fun activity.


kids playing with a mud and water car wash

Set up a muddy car wash for a morning full of fun!  Dirt, cars and soapy water!  It will keep little car-lovers entertained for ages!


water displacement activity for kids

This terrific water displacement experiment is great fun for preschoolers!


preschooler playing with water and flowers

Got a garden full of herbs?  Let the kids explore their textures and aromas by chopping them up into a big batch of sensory soup!


kids washing dolls in water bin

A baby bath station is the hooligans’  absolute favourite.  It’s an easy go-to activity that’s guaranteed to keep toddlers entertained for hours.


melting ice with salt and water experiment for kids

Dino dig!  This dinosaur excavating activity always keeps preschoolers engaged until they’ve freed the very last dinosaur from the ice.  We’re talking an hour or two of free entertainment here, Mom!


kids playing with water in camping jug

Here’s an easy and inexpensive (or FREE) way to add running water to any outdoor play space!  Great for the sandbox, tea parties, mud kitchen and for washing up too!


preschoolers playing with pvc pipes and water

Set up a simple water works activity bin. A few pvc pipes and funnels kept the hooligans busy for ages one morning, scooping, pouring, assembling and splashing.


homemade water slide for kids

For the price of a camping tarp, you can make an awesome backyard water slide!  Keep the kids cool and having fun all day long!


kids making fairy soup with water and flowers

Snipping, scooping, pouring, stirring…  This fairy soup activity is jam-packed with tons of fun and learning!


kids playing with syringes and water

Here’s another ice and water activity that FROZEN fans will love! Melting Elsa’s frozen hands with coloured salt and water.


dinosaur water bin

A dinosaur small world will keep dino-crazy kids busy for hours!


polly pocket water bin for toddlers

Throw a Polly Pocket pool party!  If you like you can switch out Polly with whatever small figures your child loves: Lego men, Little People, Barbies, farm animals… the possibilities are endless.


supplies for ocean water bin activity

Set up an ocean sensory bin with a variety of found items and underwater toys.


kids watering artificial flowers

How about a pretend play flower shop where the kids can plant and water their own floral arrangements?


painting with water and paint rollers
And lastly, I don’t have a post written to go along with this one, but it’s always a hit with toddlers and preschoolers.  Painting with water and paint rollers!  A paint tray, some old rollers and brushes and a little water keeps them busy decorating the fence, driveway, deck and patio for ages.

Wait!  Don’t leave yet!

If you’re looking for more easy, affordable ways to keep the kids entertained outdoors at home, be sure to check out all the awesome no-cost play features I’ve added to our back yard play area!  You’ll find them here:

18 Free (or almost free) cool play features to add to your backyard play space this summer!


Get the 3-5 Playful Preschool e-Book!

25+preschool activities by 25 bloggers, 10 printables, 50 links to activities not featured in the book all for $8.99!

Download your copy today:

3-5 Playful Preschool 3-book


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The Fastest, Easiest, Cheapest way to Add Running Water to your Backyard Play Space

Wouldn’t it be great if your kids had access to a water supply at the sandbox or in the mud kitchen?  Well guess what!  They can!  I’m going to show you how you can add a source of running water to your backyard play space in minutes.  It’s a simple solution that’s fast, easy and cheap.  In fact, it may not cost you a dime!

If your kids love water-play as much as the hooligans do, you’re going to love this idea!


How to add water to an outdoor play space


The quest to add running water to our play area:

Now, to be honest, what I really wanted was a water pump like Teacher Tom’s.  I mean, what kid wouldn’t love to pump his own water from an antique hand pump?

For a while, I kept my eyes open at auction sales and flea markets hoping to come across an old in my price-range, but they’re a little hard to come by I guess.  I never managed to find one.

That’s ok though – because, resourceful thinker that I am, I realized there was a super-easy, super-inexpensive way  to provide the hooligans with their very own backyard water source.  In fact, I had it set up in just a few minutes, and it didn’t cost me a thing!

IMG_3277 copy

Some of you may have to fork out a few bucks for this contraption, but trust me, it will be worth every penny!

There’s a good chance that for many of you, installing running water in your mud-kitchen will require nothing more than a quick trip to your storage room!

The 20 dollar (or less) item that transformed our outdoor play space.

toddler pouring water from camping water carrier


Ta-daaaa!  It’s the water carrier that we use for camping!

Brilliant or what?  If you’re not a camper, and you don’t happen to have one of these in storage at your house, don’t worry.  You can pick them up in the outdoor section of most hardware stores or big box stores.

Also, check out second-hand stores and thrift shops!  Our local consignment shop has a shelf full of water carriers in all shapes and sizes.

Likewise, you can use my affiliate link to see a variety of water carriers here on Amazon.com.

This is the one that we have that we have:


A portable water carrier is perfect for water play in the backyard!  The carrier is easy to fill with the garden hose, it holds a LOT of water, and I can easily move it to wherever we’re playing in the backyard.

Who knew the humble camping water-jug had so many uses?

Sometimes I set the water carrier on a stool beside the sandbox, because hey, wet sand is WAY more fun than the dry stuff.

You have to have running water when you’re getting messy in our mobile mud-pit.


Running water is a must when we’re making concoctions…


and having tea parties…

Pouring water at the tea party


and playing “coffee shop”


The kids love having complete control over that simple, little tap.

It’s handy too, for rinsing off when we get really sandy or muddy.

washing hands at the camping water carrier

The kids love gathering around the water spigot to fill their containers.Kids filling up at the water jug

Cranking that handle is a bit tricky.  It requires strength and co-ordination to turn the tap off and on, but they work together and help each other to make it happen.


To conserve spills and wasted water, simply place a large bowl or container underneath the spigot of the water carrier.  Your kids can use it for play or for watering the flowers.

Get the 3-5 Playful Preschool e-Book!

25+preschool activities by 25 bloggers, 10 printables, 50 links to activities not featured in the book all for $8.99!

Download your copy today:

3-5 Playful Preschool 3-book


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Window Art with Foam Shapes and Water

Toddlers who like to create and play with water are going to LOVE this easy art activity!  We’re making window art with foam shapes and water.

Water and windows and foam, oh my! Creating window art with foam shapes is always popular among my toddlers and preschoolers.  It combines two favourite kids’ activities: art and water play!  It’s such an easy activity to prepare and clean up, and it will keep your little one entertained for ages!

window art with water and foam shapes

Check it out!

kids sticking foam shapes on window

To make window art with foam shapes you’ll need:

bowl of foam shapes, bowls of water and paintbrushes

See?  Does that sound easy or what?

Ok!  Let’s create some window art!  Hand out the brushes, and let the kids “paint” away!

painting with water on glass doors

They can brush their water directly onto the window or on to their craft shapes.  Then they’ll press their shape against the glass window or sliding glass door, and voila!  Instant art!  The foam adheres very well to the window.  All of our shapes stayed on the window, and we were playing for about an hour on this day.

3 kids creating art on sliding glass door

You can create your art on a window or a mirror, or you could do what we’re doing, and use a sliding glass door.  Our patio door makes the perfect canvas for group of little ones to gather around.

The hooligans had a great time brushing the window with water, and arranging and re-arranging their foam shapes.  The built a zoo, and they paired baby animals up with their mothers.

Depending on your foam shapes, you could also play around with patterning, or your child could group shapes, sizes and colours.  You could use foam letters or numbers to work on early literacy and math skills or… you could simply play, which is exactly what we were doing here.

One little hooligan discovered that the wet foam pieces stuck together!  Cool!  That made for some fun layering!

2 foam flowers

What a great outdoor art activity for a warm day!

child standing in front of glass window

Another way to play with foam shapes and water is in the bathtub!  They stick to the tiles like magic!  Your kids will love decorating the the sides of the tub and the walls as they’re playing in the bath!

Know of another way to create with foam shapes?  I’d love to hear it!


More fun window & mirror art for kids:

tissue paper art on a window

painting with shaving cream on a window

painting clouds on a mirror

sensory art on a mirror

dry erase art on a mirror


Get the 3-5 Playful Preschool e-Book!

25+preschool activities by 25 bloggers, 10 printables, 50 links to activities not featured in the book all for $8.99!

Download your copy today:

3-5 Playful Preschool 3-book


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Ocean in a Bottle with 3 Simple Ingredients

Make an ocean in a bottle with 3 easy ingredients.  One of the fastest and easiest-ever science activities for preschoolers.

I love making homemade toys for the hooligans.  Discovery bottles are always a favourite here.  They look so beautiful, and no matter what we fill them with. This particular ocean in a bottle has to be the most amazing looking bottle we’ve made yet though!  It was SO easy to make, and you likely already have everything you need on hand.


Ocean in a bottle


This oil and water experiment isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s a classic preschool science activity that’s been around for years.  I actually can’t believe we haven’t done it until now!  Yesterday, I happened upon this learning discovery bottle over at Play Trains, and I decided we’d make an ocean bottle of our own today.


bubbles in ocean bottle

To make our Ocean in a Bottle, we used:

  • water
  • cooking oil (we used canola, but vegetable would work well)
  • blue food colouring
  • large bottle (2 litre pop bottles work well, but we used a mouthwash bottle with a child-safe lid)
  • funnel

If you want to explain the scientific details to your child, pop over and check out this article explaining why oil and water don’t mix.

Making your ocean bottle:

I didn’t have a 2L pop bottle on hand, so we used an empty mouthwash bottle.   I like that the lid is child-safe, and too challenging for little hands to twist open.  If you’re using a bottle that’s not child-safe, you might want to run a little hot-glue around the inside of the bottle lid.

Fill approximately 1/3 of your bottle with water.

Add several drops of food colouring.

Have your child shake the bottle to disperse the food colouring.


child shaking bottle of water and food colouring


Now, simply top up the bottle with oil.  I filled ours right to the top and then popped the lid on.

Let the fun begin!

Tip the bottle upside down and watch your ocean come to life.


Ocean in a bottle


The pictures really don’t do this activity justice.

You have to see it in action.  The way the waves roll cascade inside the bottle is just beautiful!




To see the big blobs of colour swoosh and fall through the yellow oil is really fascinating.

The more you agitate the bottle, the more the bubbly the ocean becomes.  Set your bottle down occasionally to let the bubbles settle, and then start all over again.


bubbles in oil and blue water


Doesn’t it look amazing?


For more easy, awesome science experiments for kids, check out our:

Water Displacement Experiment

Salt, Glue and Watercolour Art

Wax Resist Art

Melting Ice with Salt and Water

Colour Mixing Experiment 


Get the 3-5 Playful Preschool e-Book!

25+preschool activities by 25 bloggers, 10 printables, 50 links to activities not featured in the book all for $8.99!

Download your copy today:

3-5 Playful Preschool 3-book


Follow the Hooligans on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!


Playing with Coloured Water: Backyard Activity for Kids

Is there a child who doesn’t love playing with coloured water?  This backyard water and science activity is a super way for kids to learn about colour-mixing, to strengthen fine and gross motor skills, and it’s a terrific way for children to keep cool on a hot, summer day!

This water activity is one of our favourites from our collection of simple science activities for toddlers and preschoolers.

colour laboratory

Ah, good-old water play!  What child isn’t happy when they’re playing with water?  The hooligans love it when I set up a water bin in the backyard. Truth be told, we have some kind of water bin or water activity set up almost every day in the warm weather.  The kids especially love playing with water tinted with food colouring.   I add colour to almost all of our water bins because colour makes any water activity a little more exciting.  With this particular activity, the coloured water IS the activity, and it’s always a big hit with the toddlers and preschoolers.

We called this the “colour laboratory” because the children work away like little chemists throughout the morning, pouring and mixing and measuring with a variety of containers and instruments.  This kind of water activity is very easy to pull together, and it doesn’t have to cost you a cent.

kids mixing colours


Setting up your colour laboratory:


supplies for setting up a kid's colour laboratory

for your convenience this post contains affiliate links

Raid your bathroom and kitchen cupboards, and your recycle bin to gather up an assortment of interesting plastic containers and instruments such as:

*white bowls and ice cube trays are best for viewing the changes in water colour

We filled each bottle up with warm water and a drop or two of dish soap.  Then we added a few drops of liquid water colours, and gave it a good shake.

liquid water colours


Liquid water colours are very vibrant, and you only need a few drops to get intense colours.  Wilton Icing Gels are an excellent alternative; a small amount will produce a really rich colour. Liquid food colour will work too.  You’ll just need to add a generous amount if you want intense colours.

Let the fun begin!

squeezing red water from a shampoo bottle into a white container

What do they learn by playing with coloured water?

After colouring the water, the girls were pretty excited, so they quickly donned their aprons, and got started.  They poured, filled, squeezed, scooped, transferred and dumped the water from container to container, ooohing and aaaaahing as the colours changed before their eyes.

pouring, squeezing and transferring coloured water

It looks like child’s play, but there is so much brain and body development happening here.

Little hands are learning how to grasp and carry wet and sometimes heavy containers without spilling or dropping.   Through trial and error, they’re figuring out how to pour just the right amount to fill a container, controlling then slowing and finally stopping the flow.  And they discover what happens when there’s an overflow.pouring purple water

Look at the concentration as this little one lines up the test tubes and transfers water from  one to another, and how she’s managed to hold two test tubes in one hand.

transferring coloured water from one test tube to another

Fine motor skills and strength are required to open lids and to use the syringes and droppers.

fine motor: opening bottles and squeezing droppers

Muscles are challenged as they lift full and manipulate heavy bottles.  As this little one struggled with the green bottle, she huffed and puffed and said “too heavy” several times, but she stuck with it, and was able to line it up, and fill the container underneath it.  Success!

gross motor functions and muscles are challenged lifting heavy bottles

They stirred and whisked the water to revive the dish-soap bubbles,

whisking soap bubbles

and of course they learned about colour mixing…

squeezing water into an ice cube tray

…and wonderfully wet, colourful messes on a late summer day.

pretend play colour laboratory


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Water Displacement Activity

This simple water displacement experiment is one of the best science activities we’ve ever done here in my daycare!  It was simple, it didn’t cost a thing, and the kids saw with their own eyes what water displacement is all about.

Now, when it comes to science experiments for preschoolers, I like to keep things simple and affordable, using items we already have around the like the house.   That’s definitely the case with this water play activity ,

We have quite a large collection of stones for play so it was easy to pull this activity together, and the hooligans had so much fun with it!

water displacement activity - happy hooligans

When I was young, I was fascinated by a fable called The Crow and the Pitcher, a story about a thirsty crow who knew all about water displacement.  He dropped stones into a pitcher half-full of water, to raise the level of the water high enough that he could take a drink.  

We re-created that story using a few items that we had here at home.

Items needed for your water displacement activity:

water displacement activity supplies

  • a clear, plastic container
  • stones and rocks
  • plastic toy
  • permanent marker

Conducting our water displacement experiment:

We experimented with a few different containers, and discovered that the one with the largest opening worked best.

We filled our container with water, and I marked the level of the water on the container so we could monitor our progress.

.mark the water level on a partly filled container of water

Then I hooked a plastic toy turtle to the top of the container, and the fun began.

The children worked together, dropping the stones into the container.

dropping stones into the container to raise the water level

They were amazed to see how quickly the level of the water rose.
watching the water level rise
water displacement activity  - adding stones to the water
And they grew more and more excited as the water rose higher.
adding larger stones to the container
After using up the small stones, the water still hadn’t reached the top of the container, so we got out our larger beach stones and rocks.
experimenting with different sizes of stones to raise the water level
The medium-sized stones still didn’t do the job completely, so the children removed some of them, and experimented with the largest rocks, moving them this way and that, to get them to fit into the container.
adding the largest rocks to the container
It took lots of thought and co-operation to get it just right, and then finally…  SUCCESS!
the last rock raises the level of the water to the top of the container

Looking for more easy science activities for toddlers and preschoolers? Check out our:

Expanding Ivory Soap (Microwave) Experiment

Dino Dig – Melting Ice with Salt and Water

Glue, Salt and Watercolour Art

Wax Resist Painting



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Fairy Soup

Fairy Soup: fine motor and sensory play in the garden!

Honestly!  Science activities were never this pretty when I was a kid! You may remember that on Thursdays in my home daycare this year, I have only girls here.  So Thursdays have become the day that we do our Fairy activities!  Last week, we made Fairy Mud, you can click here to see how wonderful it was!  This week, keeping with the theme, we headed out to garden for one of my favourite backyard water activities: Fairy Soup!  Making fairy soup is a great way for kids to enjoy some water play while exploring treasures from the garden and strengthening their cutting skills.

fairy soup - sensory and fine motor play in the garden (happy hooligans)


Tools for making Fairy Soup:

supplies for fairy soup

for your convenience, affiliate links have been added to this post

Extra “ingredients”:

extra ingredients for fairy soup

Making our Fairy Soup!

I filled up a large stock pot with water, added some food colouring, set it on the table and called the girls over.making fairy soup in the garden

They went for the glitter first.  I kind of thought they would.


If you know me at all, you know that the hooligans are a little glitter deprived.  I’m a total glitterphobe, but after the success that we had using it in our fairy mud last week, I was happy to bring it out again today.  I’m really making progress, aren’t I?  Mind you, it helps that we’re outside.  I’m pretty certain you’ll never see us generously dusting our crafts with the stuff.  It’s just not gonna happen!

They spent the next hour or so adding the shells and stones, and collecting flowers from the garden.IMG_0998

Our rose bushes are in full bloom right now, so the blossoms are plentiful, and they were really fun to pull apart and decorate the soup with.

adding roses to the fairy soup
snipping flowers into the fairy soup

They scooped and poured and transferred their soup from the pot into the bowls and back into the pot again.pouring and scooping fairy soup

The glitter shakers were quickly emptied, so the girls would pop the lids off, fill them with soup, and sprinkle the coloured water into the bowls.IMG_1002

They spent ages adding ingredients, stirring and then scooping out handfuls of shells and stones for sorting.IMG_1013


We ended up colouring a couple more batches of water before the morning was over, and when it was all said and done, we removed all of the shells and stones from the bowls, and we poured it all into the garden.

.fairy soup - fine motor, sensory play in the garden (happyhooligans

Easy, inexpensive, engaging and fun!  It was the perfect activity for a warm summer’s day

Similar posts that you may enjoy:

Garden Soup

Sensory Soup

Mud Kitchen

Coloured Ice Play

We’re not the only ones celebrating fairies right now.  Pop over to Nurturestore, and check out the fairy crafts that they’ve been making this week.

If you enjoyed this post, and want to see more of our easy and inexpensive arts, crafts and activities for kids, I’d love to have you FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK and JOIN US ON PINTEREST!


Coffee Shop {Pretend Play} Activity

This coffee shop pretend play activity with sand, soap and water provides hours of open-ended, imaginative play for kids of all ages.  It’s become one of my favourite backyard water activities here in my home daycare.

If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know that I’m all about easy and inexpensive that provide lots of opportunities to explore, experiment and learn. I especially love an activity that is captivating enough to hold their attention for a long period of time.  Our coffee shop met all the criteria and then some.

coffee shop activity with sand, soap and water (happyhooligans)

Last Friday was a P.A. day so a few of our “graduates” joined us for the day.  Because of the larger group and the wider age-range (1 to 7), I wanted to offer an engaging outdoor activity that would appeal to everyone.  I came up with the idea for this coffee shop activity just a few short hours before they arrived Friday morning, (cuz some of my best ideas come to me in the 11th hour) and I have to say, it was without a doubt, one of the best activities we’ve ever done here.

If you’re wondering where the inspiration came from, my hubby and I had picked up a couple of Timmie’s coffees the night before, and when I saw empty coffee cups in the recycling bin, a “light-bulb” went on.

kids working at the pretend play coffee shop

In the past, other super-popular activities that have held the hooligans attention for the better part of an entire morning have been our Muddy Car Wash,  Baby Bath Station, and our Ice Age Bin.  Please click on the links to see what they’re all about.  Each one is easy to prepare, and requires basic items that you likely already have around your home.scooping sand "sugar"

This one was no different.  I simply gathered some odds and ends from the toy room and craft room, and the only “ingredients” we used were sand, water and dish soap.

What I used to create our coffee shop:

  • metal or plastic tea pots, coffee pots or pitchers
  • milk foamer/frother (you could probably use a whisk or a hand-held egg-beater or even a blender)
  • clean milk/cream carton
  • plastic mugs, disposable coffee cups
  • stir sticks
  • spoons
  • spice shaker with large holes (ours still had popcorn flavouring in it)
  • small “sugar” bowls
  • sand
  • water
  • a few squirts of dish soap
  • plastic serving tray or cardboard take-out drink tray
  • our camping water jug so the children had access to and control of “running water” in the yard

This is what the coffee shop looked like before the hooligans descended on it.  The photo isn’t great, but the kids pounced on everything so quickly I wasn’t able to get a better one shot of the set-up.coffee shop activity set up

Inexpensive work table:

The table that we use for a lot of our activities is a really light-weight coffee table that I picked up at a second-hand shop.  Because it’s so light, it’s easy to move around the yard or in and out of the house to where-ever we need it.  I paid about 6 bucks for it, and I don’t know how we ever did without it.pretend play coffee shop

Easy prep:

I simply filled the teapots and coffee pots with water, and I added some sand to the “sugar bowls”.  I added water and a few squirts of dish soap to the milk foamer, and I pumped the handle a few times to produce the beautiful foam that you’ll see in the following photos.

Coffee time!

It was an instant hit!  They all crowded around, and there was a frenzy of activity that continued for most of the morning.IMG_9753

The milk frother was a big hit.  When the kids pumped the plunger up and down, the soap and water produced loads of gorgeous foam that was perfect for scooping or pouring onto their “lattes”.

soap and water in the milk frothersoap "milk" for the pretend coffee shop

Our camping water-jug is always a popular, warm-weather addition to our outdoor play space.  The kids enjoy having access to “running water”, and they love to crank the spigot to refill their containers or to rinse their hands.

a camping water jug in the outdoor play space

They poured “cream”,IMG_9719

scooped sugar, IMG_9742

stirred and shook,IMG_9725


and served up some of the best looking play-coffee I’d ever seen.


And shortly before lunch, they realized that snowball bush was in full bloom,IMG_9833

so they spent the rest of the morning running back and forth, gathering blossoms to garnish their drinks with.IMG_9844

Mmmmm Mmmm!  Muddy, sandy play never looked so good!

So good, in fact that this activity has given me an idea for another one that I think will be just as fun!  Stay tuned because we’ll be doing that one next week!

Get the 3-5 Playful Preschool e-Book!

25+preschool activities by 25 bloggers, 10 printables, 50 links to activities not featured in the book all for $6.99 until May 25, 2014. Price increases to $8.99 after the 25th. Download your copy today:

3-5 Playful Preschool 3-book


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Coloured Water Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Experimenting with coloured water for fine and gross motor development and a lesson in colour mixing:

We love playing with water when the warm spring weather arrives!  Colour mixing in the backyard with water and food colouring is one of the hooligans favourite warm weather activities.  We do some version of this activity several times a year here in my home daycare, and it always keeps the kids entertained for ages.

coloured water activity for toddlers and preschoolers

I like it because it’s so simple and virtually cost-free, and yet it’s educational, entertaining and provides lots of  opportunity for learning and fine and gross motor development.

For our coloured water activity, you’ll need:

clear squeeze bottles and food colouring for colour mixing activity

  • empty squeeze bottles
  • water
  • food colouring
  • large clear or white bowls or baking dishes

Use what you have to make an outside work surface:

When we’re crafting or “working” in the backyard, we use an inexpensive coffee table that I picked up for about 6 bucks at a thrift shop.  When it’s not in use, it lives on our deck, where it’s exposed to the elements, but because it has a laminate top, it weathers well, and cleans up easily with a wet or soapy cloth.
Alternatively, you can use a tall(ish) storage container with a lid as a water-proof work table.  If it doesn’t have a lid, simply flip it upside down and make the bottom your work surface.  A child’s wagon also doubles as a water table or work space when you’re outdoors.

Let’s get to it:

To start, set your bowl(s) or pan(s) on your work surface.  Clear or white bowls are best so the kids can see the true colours of the water, and what happens when they combine colours.

Now fill your bottles almost to the top with water.  We used the garden hose for this, which was an activity in itself, and then we added several drops of liquid food colouring to each container.  We popped the lids on and…

mixing coloured water

…sang the shaky song:  “Shaky, shaky, shaky, shake it all you can.  La la la la la la.  La la la la la la la, HEY!”   Lots of la la’s there because we’ve never bothered to come up with a second line to the song.

Now they can pop open the bottle tops and and squeeze, squirt, dribble and mix their little socks off.
popping top on squeeze bottle - fine motor

We have lots of great stuff going on here!  Water play for one;  I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love some good, old-fashioned water play.

squeezing water out of bottles - great for hand muscle development

Fine motor skills are put to the test, opening lids and twisting the tops on and off the bottles.

 squeezing, lifting, squirting water - gross motor development

Lifting those heavy bottles, holding them high and squeezing the water in to the bowls give those little arms and hands a work out.

colour mixing activity - 2 pans of coloured water

And of course, there’s the colour-mixing.  Kids are always fascinated by this process, and I have to say, as much as I’ve seen it a thousand times, it always looks a little magical to me too.

What a fun way to get some learning in while having fun and keeping cool on a warm Spring morning!

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Water Bin with Tubes and Funnels

If your kids love science activities and waterplay, they’re going to love this. It’s the perfect combination of both!  They’ll be cool and entertained for hours in the back yard with this simple water bin with tubes and funnels.

We have lots of great water play ideas here among the pages of my blog. Water bins are one of my absolute favourite, warm-weather activities for toddlers and preschoolers. They’re easy and inexpensive to set up, and they always keep the hooligans entertained for hours.

waterworks water play activity with coloured water, funnels and pvc pipes


Yesterday I dug through my husband’s stash of plumbing supplies, and collected some pieces of pvc pipe, and added them to the bin of water that the Hooligans were playing in, to see if  anyone was interested in them.


toddlers playing with water and pvc pipes


Today, I decided to take it up a notch.


preschool water play activity - pvc pipes, funnels and watertoddler pouring water through funnel

I set up this water bin activity specifically with these plumbing pieces in mind. I filled a clear storage bin with water and a few drops of red food colouring, as well as a couple more large bowls of coloured water.  I added clear cups for pouring, and a few funnels to make things a little more interesting.  I really didn’t know if it would hold their attention for long.  It certainly didn’t look terribly exciting, but I’m not kidding you, they played at this station for an hour and a half this morning.

preschooler pouring water through funnelstoddlers playing with "waterworks" water activity bin


This would be a terrific water table activity, but we don’t have a water table, so we make our own!  I set up a make-shift arrangement of storage containers set on top of stools, benches and over-turned containers.  Hey, it’s cheap, and it works!

They poured, they colour mixed, they put pieces of pipe together,


kids playing with water play activity bin


they co-operated, and collaborated, working together – one person carefully holding together the multi-pieced contraption that he’d made, and the other pouring the water into it.



They emptied the big bowls of water into the bin several times, and I kept filling them back up with coloured water.



By the end of our water play, everyone was soaked, and they’d re-arranged the tables and containers and turned the whole activity into a restaurant.



I love how these simple open-ended play activities get their imaginations working.



And I love that a simple, inexpensive water play activity can keep them learning, laughing, and experimenting for so long.


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