Coloured Water Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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

I love setting up fun and educational water play activities when the warm spring weather arrives!  Colour mixing in the backyard with water and food colouring is one of the hooligans favourite ways to play and experiment with water. 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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  1. says

    I do this one with my kids in the winter in the snow. My kids love experiments and messy play and the snow is great for that too. I will try it this summer too. Thanks!

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