Lately, I’ve been working a lot with Gresham (age 4 1/2) on learning to read and write, and I decided that I need to make sure that our preschool time includes plenty of hands-on/sensory/practical life activities as well.

Here are some ideas for water play with preschoolers.  Yes, water is messy, but it’s not as bad as, say, paint!  And boy are preschoolers entertained a looooong time with some water and some things to pour with!

Idea 1:  Practice Pouring Water

Gresham was thrilled the other day when I announced that we were going to practice pouring water as part of his preschool for the day!  I gave him an assortment of cups, and he happily poured the water back and forth.  The point of this activity was to do a good job pouring.   I also encouraged him to observe how the water level was lower on a short, wide cup than it was on a tall, narrow cup.  He still thinks there’s more water in the tall, narrow one, but the experience is good for working on that concept!

Suggestions for keeping down the mess:

  • Once water is being spilled on purpose, the game is over.
  • Provide a small towel for your child to wipe up spills as they happen. Cleaning up becomes part of the activity.
  • Set a timer, and keep this activity to 10 min. or so.

Idea 2:  Play Float and Sink

Fill a large bowl with water, find some stuff to test, and see if it floats or sinks!  Somehow, this activity never loses it’s magic…

Idea 3:  Set up an Outdoor Water Station for Messy Play

This morning, we took our large float-and-sink bowl out to the back patio table, and set up a water play area.  I gave Gresham a few cups for pouring and a toy alligator to play with in the water.  I made this “sprinkler” by poking holes in the bottom of an empty plastic tub with a nail.  Instant fun!

I have learned that this type of activity goes MUCH BETTER if only one child plays at a time.  Gresham got to go first.

And Owen wanted a turn.  And I told him he needed to wait.

And that did not go over well!

But he got his turn soon enough, and had a GREAT time pouring!  Usually, we are telling him to stop playing in water (like people’s cups that they leave on the table… the toilet…), so he was happy to be allowed to pour and splash!

What other water play ideas do you have?  Summer is a great time for water play!


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  1. kay Jun 14, 2011

    What a wonderful topic for a blog! Great ideas. Thank you.

    1. Margaret Jun 17, 2011

      Great blog. Another fun an inexpensive summer water activity is a paint brush and a cup or bucket of water. You can "pain" the concrete, brick or fence. It the heat it dries so fast they can do it again.

      1. Sarah Jun 24, 2011

        Oooh, that's a great idea! My 2 year old loves to paint!

      2. Amanda Aug 11, 2011

        I did this with my 2 yr old and he LOVED it. And I was able to cook without him on my hip! It was messy but since it was water, the kitchen floor got cleaned really well that night. Of course, now he wants to do this with any type of liquid that he has in his cup. HA!


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