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 activities 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

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.

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  1. Jenny says

    I got out our camping water carrier today and my daughter was very pleased, I couldn’t believe how quick she emptied it though! Mainly on the floor “watering the plants” (grass)!

  2. says

    My mother works as a vet nurse. Vet clinics that do surgeries can go through barrels of distilled water once a week or less. As a consequence I was able to source an easy half dozen or more -clean- 20L water barrels for water play all year ’round. As the toddlers and babies would often struggle with the tap I could set it on the tiniest trickle which would minimise water waste and create this beautiful calm aesthetic.

    The first time I put a water barrel out in the sandpit there was a cluster of about 8 preschoolers and toddlers around it, carefully filling containers and waiting turns with -zero- conflict. When our director had the barrels put away after a parent complaint about water play over winter (this made me rather angry as it was a poorly informed and weak choice) my mud pie kitchen went from having most children spending 20minutes + (often up to an hour) in that playspace with water, to having maybe 3 children spend 10 minutes in it without water.

    So check at vet clinics and hospitals and dental surgeries. They’re bound to have clean barrels they’d otherwise just throw. And that’s absolutely free.

    • happyhooligans says

      Well, that is just a brilliant suggestion, Pixie! Thank you! One of my best friends is married to a vet. I’m going to check with him!

  3. Marcy says

    What are your thoughts about using a laundry detergent bottle with a push button spigot that has been thoroughly cleaned out? We have access to water on our playground, but our hose does not stay out all the time. This would be a great way to give sandy hands a rinse.

    • happyhooligans says

      I think it’s a super idea as long as it’s well washed – maybe give it a rinse with some hot vinegar water after you’re sure all the soap is gone. It will help to get rid of any residue.

  4. Viviana says

    I have always used well washed laundry bottles full of water in stock for emergencies. But never thought of useing them as a water play resource! This coud be a good combo with water table :)

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