The Best Water Games for Kids
With summer just around the corner, you may be thinking ahead for ways to occupy your kids—without spending a fortune! Children, almost universally, love playing with water, and water games are a fun way to spend an hour or so on a sunny day.
Below you’ll find our pick of the best water activities for kids (many of which are completely free), to help your family enjoy a happy summer!
- Supplies for Water Games
- Best Solo Water Games
- Fun Group Water Games
- Other Water Outdoor Activities for Kids
- Why is Water Play Good for Kids?
- Best Water Games for A Great Summer 2023
Supplies for Water Games
Gathering together a few key supplies in advance means that you’ll have plenty of options for fun family fun when the warmer months arrive. Here are the things you need:
- Paint brushes of various sizes
- Spray bottle
- Washing-up bowl
- Range of plastic jugs, tumblers, and other utensils
- Food coloring
- Paddling pool
- Camping tarp
- Cheap shampoo
- Colored chalks
- Large sponge
Best Solo Water Games
Fun and Colorful Water Pictures
Whether you have preschoolers or a busy toddler, this fun water game is a great outdoor activity to enjoy on a hot, sunshiney day. Simply set your kids up outside with paintbrushes and some pots or cups containing water, with a couple of drops of food coloring in each to create an interesting selection of shades.
Show your children how to use the paintbrushes to dip them into one of the pots of water and then create pictures, patterns, or letters on the concrete or patio stones in your backyard. This easy water activity idea is a wonderful way to keep your kids occupied, with minimum spending and clearing up—perfect!
Create Your Own Backyard Water Wall
Take your backyard playspace to the next level with an exciting water wall that’ll have your kids wanting to be outside all day! You can buy ready-made versions, or have a go at putting your own together. To create your own water wall, first figure out what you’re going to attach all the components to: this could be a fence, deck rails, a section or lattice, or even a baby gate—the main thing is to ensure it’s secure and there’s no risk of it toppling onto your toddler.
Once this frame is in place find a selection of plastic containers: raiding your recycling crate is likely to be a good idea for this! Plastic bottles, containers, and tubes of various shapes and sizes will all work well. Next, think about the placement of each item to ensure water will flow through each as it makes its journey through the water wall. When you’re ready, secure each of the containers using either a staple gun or punching holes in each and using zip ties or florist wire to attach to the stand.
Once your homemade water wall is complete, you’ll be happily surprised at just how much time your preschooler or toddler spends pouring water into the first container at the top of the wall and watching, fascinated, as it splashes through each.
Playing with ‘Boats’
Water games for kids don’t come much simpler than this! Fill a washing-up bowl with water (add some bubble bath for additional foamy fun) and set your little one up with this outside. Gather some of their favorite small plastic toys, that won’t be damaged by being in the water, along with a few plastic container lids—again, raid the recycling bin!
Show your child how to float the lids on the surface of the water, and then conduct an experiment to see how many of the small toys can fit onto the ‘boats’ before they sink! Put out some jugs, utensils, a watering can, and plastic cups, too, and see where your child’s imagination takes them.
Put Together a Water Sensory Bin
Very young children love sensory bins—so why not make a watery version to help entertain them and beat the heat at the same time? Partially fill a paddling pool or use a low, wide plastic container. Add some small plastic toys, and other age-appropriate items for your little one to explore: these could include pebbles, shells, ice cubes, plastic balls, or leaves.
Set up a Toy Wash
Young children tend to adore this water activity, and it’s super easy to set up! Give your child a bucket or bowl filled with warm soapy water, another with plain water, a towel, and a selection of their favorite plastic toys. Now ask your little one to give each of their toys a lovely bath! Once they’re all scrubbed, pop them onto the towel to dry.
Make a DIY Slip and Slide
You can buy a ready-made slip-and-slide set for outdoor watery fun, or have a go at making your own! If you decide to DIY it, all you need is a camping tarp, a garden hose, and a bottle of cheap shampoo.
To get started, simply spread the tarp on a spot in your backyard that has a slight slope. Set the hose up, pointed at the tarp, to provide a steady stream of water. You could consider attaching it to a clothesline or a nearby tree branch. Finally, pour a generous amount of shampoo over the tarp to create a super slippery surface. And you’re done! Kids will love playing on this homemade slip-and-slide: in fact, it’s likely to become their favorite outdoor activity of the season (which is why you should only use cheap shampoo—you’re likely to get through a lot of it over the summer)!
Want to take the fun to the next level? Fill the water slide with water balloons and watch your kids lose their minds as they plow through the brightly colored balloons!
Fun Group Water Games
Water Balloon Pinata
If your child will be celebrating their birthday in the summer months and you’re planning a party, then setting up a water balloon pinata is a fabulous idea that’ll go down brilliantly.
All you need to do is string a rope across a section of your garden, fill multiple balloons with water, and hang them from the rope at regular intervals—they can be at varying heights, too, if you like. Once you’re ready, get the kids to take turns hitting the balloons with a bat or a stick until they pop!
This is one of the most fun water games to play when you’ve got a group of kids to entertain: but make sure children stand back and keep well clear of the bat or stick when it’s being swung.
If you’re looking for watery games that’ll get the kids moving, look no further than sprinkler limbo! Create a limbo rod using, for example, a broomstick, and set up a sprinkler nearby to add to the summer fun!
Play some upbeat music, and have the kids take turns attempting to duck, dance, or make their way beneath the limbo rod in whichever style they choose. If someone hits the rod, they’re out of the game—and keep lowering it periodically to up the ante!
Sponge Toss and Colander Toss
Sometimes the best games are the simplest! All you need is a large sponge and a bucket of water per kid. Get the kids to stand a little distance apart and put a bucket next to each. All the kids need to do is dip the sponge in their buckets and throw it to one another—points are deducted whenever the sponge is dropped. This easy-set-up game is a great way to keep children cool when the temperatures start to rise!
And for a different spin on this game (and for kids who want to get seriously wet!) grab a colander and some water balloons. One child holds the colander over their head while the other kids take turns throwing the water balloons, with one point awarded for each balloon that successfully goes into the colander.
Spray Bottle Tag
Fun water games for kids don’t get much more exciting than a game of spray bottle tag! Organize kids into two teams, and give each child a spray water bottle. Add a few drops of red food coloring to one team’s bottles, and blue to the others’ bottles—and have all the kids wear white t-shirts.
When someone gets sprayed, they’re out, and the last color left standing determines the winning team! This is a great way to get children running and moving their bodies, and you can be sure no one will be asking for a screen while there’s a chance that this game is on the cards!
Paddling Pool Ball Toss
Whether you’ve got two kids to entertain or ten, a game of paddling pool ball toss is a great idea. Fill the paddling pool and put an inflatable inner tube into the water. Give each player a few small plastic balls and have the children throw them, with the aim being to get as many balls as possible to land in the center of the tube.
Play Duck, Duck Splash!
A fun twist on the classic Duck, Duck, Goose playground game, this version involves—you guessed it—getting wet! Get children to sit in a circle on the grass and choose one player to be ‘it.’ Give this child a cup filled with water—they must now walk around the circle, tapping other players on the head and saying ‘Duck.’ When they reach their chosen ‘victim’ the child yells ‘Splash!’ and pours the cup of water over their head.
Now it’s a race: the person who’s been splashed must chase the other child around the circle, with the winner the one that gets back to their seat first.
Water Balloon Musical Chairs
Just like the traditional Musical Chairs game, this version involves players scrabbling to find a seat when the music stops, but with one key difference: there’s a water balloon on each seat!
To set up the game, set out one less chair than there are players and, each time a player is out of the game, remove another chair.
Hold a Back-to-Back Water Dash Race
Get everyone in on the summer fun with this timeless backyard game! Players work in pairs, with the pair that’s the first to complete the race without bursting their water balloon crowned the winner.
Get each person in the pair to face away from each other, carefully place a water balloon in between them, and have them link their arms to keep the balloon in place. Set up a start and finish line, and then it’s on your marks, get set, go!
Water Bucket (or Cup!) Race
Separate kids into two teams and get each team standing in two lines. Give each child a bucket, large cup, or other plastic container. Fill the first child’s bucket (on each line) with water, and say ‘Go!’ The first kid pours the water into the next in the line’s container, and this continues until the water gets to the last child. The team who has the most water left in their container is the winner! This is a great DIY game to play at camp, on the playfield during a picnic, or in your backyard.
Ideal for slightly older kids, this is baseball with a watery twist! Fill a bucket with water balloons, and have kids pitch these instead of balls. Get the children to take turns trying to hit the ‘ball’ using a plastic bat or stick—if a player bursts it, he or she can then run the bases.
Watch out though: you may find that the teenagers and adults of the household want in on the action!
This one’s perfect for slightly older kids and is played by two people. Gather together a pitcher of water, eight plastic cups half filled with water, and a couple of decks of playing cards. Put the cups and pitcher on a table, and a deck of cards (face-down) in front of each player.
To play, kids turn over the top card of their deck at the same time; whoever is lucky enough to turn the highest card gets to dump a cup of water over their opponent’s head! Trust us, this game will never get old.
Other Water Outdoor Activities for Kids
Have an Outdoor Bathtime
For very little kids and preschoolers, why not take bathtime outside to enjoy the sunny weather? This is also a lovely way for your child to enjoy the sensory nature of being outdoors: listening to the sound of the birds, feeling the breeze on their skin, and watching the movement of the leaves.
Fill a paddling pool with water at a temperature that’ll be comfortable for your little one, grab the bubble bath, shampoo, and baby wash, and get into the pool with your child for a lovely outdoor bath.
Brightly-Colored Water Chalks
Simply get some sidewalk chalk (your kids may already have these in their craft supplies) and soak the chalk in water for at least an hour. After this time, spray your driveway or the sidewalk with water, and then show your kids how to use the wet chalk to make beautiful, paint-like effects.
Young children will love this game! Fill a paddling pool, washing-up bowl, or large container with water, and then pop in a selection of small plastic toys. Using a large spoon (or a small mesh net if you have one to hand) the idea is for your kid to fish out each toy. This is a great activity for promoting hand-eye coordination and developing fine motor skills, too.
Fascinating Frozen Dinosaur Eggs
Looking for things to do to help your toddler or preschooler stay cool? Making and playing with a batch of frozen dinosaur eggs is the perfect solution! Best of all, the only things you need for this activity are some balloons, a few small plastic dinosaur toys, and water (and, optionally, glitter).
Put a dinosaur into each balloon, fill it with water, tie them off, and pop them into the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, you should be able to peel the balloon away easily, leaving an ‘egg’ with a cute dinosaur embedded inside. If you like, have your kids sprinkle glitter over the eggs to make them look extra magical!
The sky’s the limit when it comes to imaginative play incorporating these dino eggs: hide them in the yard for your mini intrepid explorers to find, or encourage children to think about ways to help the dinosaurs to hatch out of their eggs—and (if safe!) try out their ideas.
Fun Sensory Play with Ice
And sticking with the ice theme—well, it is summer, after all—a really simple activity that toddlers will enjoy is playing with colored ice. To make things interesting, freeze water in containers of various shapes and sizes, and add food coloring to create pretty colors.
Once frozen solid, put these shapes on a mat outside and allow your child to explore them—you could suggest they see what happens to a shape when it’s put in the paddling pool, for example, or when it’s placed in direct sunlight.
Make an Aluminium Foil River
Using some heavy-duty aluminum foil, show your child how to create a watercourse—either have it running down a natural slope in your garden, or use rocks, a bench, or anything else suitable to make the ‘river’ run downhill.
Next, ask your child to find some obstacles to add to the river from around the backyard, such as pebbles and small sticks. Once they’re happy with their creation, have them use a jug or bucket to pour water into the ‘mouth’ of their river, and watch it wend its way past the obstacles to the bottom.
Let your children’s creativity run wild: perhaps they’ll want to see if they can create some rapids to sail a makeshift boat down, or will want to add tributaries to their waterway. This is a great activity for helping promote problem-solving skills and creative thinking—and it’s lots of fun, too.
Build a Water Obstacle Course
This activity requires a little bit of time to think through and create, but it’s worth it: kids will have tonnes of fun tackling the obstacles and completing the challenge. The nature of the obstacles will depend on the age of your child, but you can use some of the ideas above to create a course.
For example, you could incorporate a DIY waterslide, water balloon pinatas, and toy fishing into the obstacle course. Kids can either have fun working their way around the course themselves, or race against their friends to see who can complete it in the quickest time!
Why is Water Play Good for Kids?
As well as the fact that water activities are a lot of fun, and can help keep kids cool when the temperatures are soaring, there are lots of other benefits to this type of play.
Builds Motor Skills and Sensory Exploration
Water play provides so many opportunities for sensory experiences, which are a vital way that very young children learn about the world around them. Activities involving water are also great ways to develop motor skills and coordination, by pouring, lifting, carrying, jumping, and running.
Promotes Hand-Eye Coordination
Stirring, painting with water, pouring, ‘fishing’, and manipulating objects through water play is an effective means of promoting kids’ developing hand-eye coordination, and improving control and accuracy.
By providing experiences your child can immerse themselves in, you’re providing a great opportunity for them to develop the skills of focus and concentration. As such, water activities can be a good means of helping gently prepare pre-schoolers for the increased focus required in the classroom environment.
Introduces Basic Science Problems
By experimenting with water play, young kids are testing out many science problems, such as whether an object sinks or floats. By getting kids involved in some of the activities involving ice, as listed above, you’ll also be encouraging them to explore what happens, for example, when ice is added to water or left in the sun, and why.
Builds Social Skills
Playing some of the water games we’ve included above is a good way to help your child develop their growing social and communication skills. Many of the games require pairs or teams to work together to achieve success, which is a valuable means of encouraging teamwork and understanding.
Best Water Games for A Great Summer 2023
Most kids love playing with water—and even if you can’t get to the swimming pool it doesn’t mean the watery fun has to stop! Use the above ideas as inspiration to get the kids outdoors and active this summer—most of the activities or games we’ve listed are free or require just a few easy-to-find supplies to set up.
When playing with water, it’s vital to make sure young children are supervised by an adult at all times. Babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers shouldn’t be left alone in or near a paddling or swimming pool, no matter how shallow, even for a moment.
If you’re looking for ways to get the kids off their screens and out in the fresh air for some active fun, water activities are the perfect solution. What water games do your own kids enjoy? We’d love to hear your go-to activities—drop us the details in the box below!
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