10 Water Activities for Kids in the Summer

Kids playing in water

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Summer is almost here and most of us can’t wait for some fun in the sun. Although the warm weather can bring priceless memories, it can also be very draining. Sometimes a water-based activity is the perfect thing to keep your kids occupied, entertained, and cool at the same time, all while playing in the hot summer sun.

As fun as water activities can be, it's important to keep a close eye on your kids at all times. Don't leave young children unattended near filled kiddie pools, buckets of water, or even running hoses.

Keep reading to get some easy-to-set-up water activities from experts who are also parents. Whether you have a huge backyard or live in the middle of a big city, these water activities will have the whole family spending the summer months engaged and excited.

Car Wash

Washing the car isn't just a chore. “A car wash is a great way to incorporate water play with a bit more direction,” says Jennie Monness, co-founder of Union Square Play, a global virtual parenting community and play space in NYC. “You can do this with bikes, scooters, toy cars, or anything." You could even opt to wash the family car together.

All you need for this activity is a foaming soap or bubble bath, some sponges or scrubbing brushes, and containers filled with water to rinse. You could also put smaller bikes or toy cars into a kiddie pool to make sure it doesn’t cause a patch on the grass.

Metal Bowls

If you're looking for a fun activity you can do with some basic household supplies, look no further. “One of my favorite things to set up in the summer is water play in metal bowls,” says Monness. “It seems so simple, but it offers so much more than it seems. Metal is reflective and intriguing to young children. It also offers a quality of sound making that other containers don’t—especially when you clang them together or combine with metal utensils."

This is perfect for all ages, and very easy to set up. Set out a variety of metal bowls with water and add some metal cups, spoons, and other soft items like pom poms for smaller babies. Kids can pour, bang, and dunk to their heart’s content! Just make sure to keep a close eye on them at all times around the filled bowls.

Balloon Egg Ice Rescue

This activity takes a bit of prep work but will keep the kids entertained for hours in the end. “One of my favorites is one that not only helps my kids cool off in the summer heat but also refines their fine motor skills,” says mom of three and DIY expert Viviana Marino of @Making.Marinos on Instagram.

This activity is very simple. Add a tiny toy or figurine to a water balloon and fill it with water. Tie off 12 and freeze. “Once the balloons have frozen solid, you can cut and peel off the balloons, leaving an egg-shaped ice cube with a little frozen surprise on the inside,” says Marino.

Add the frozen eggs to a cupcake tray and bring it outside for the kids. “Give them some [age-appropriate] plastic picks and tools for them to chip away at the ice. The kids love discovering what is inside the eggs and it will keep them entertained so you can sit back and enjoy the sunshine,” says Marino.

Water Painting

Water painting is a fun and simple outdoor activity that can change based on your child's age. For this, you’ll need a bucket for water, paintbrushes or nature items like leaves, and chalk if you have a cement or asphalt driveway or walkway.

“Kids can ‘paint the fence’ using a beach bucket filled with water and a sponge brush or paintbrush,” says Shari Stamps of NavigatingParenthood.com. “My kids like to dip their fingers or feet into the water and then draw designs or make prints with the water on the cement. Sometimes they incorporate other elements like a flower or leaf and use that to draw with the water. Kids can also make a game of trying to outline their creations with chalk before the water dries!”

Be sure to apply SPF to your children and yourself before heading outside, and watch them at all times around the water buckets.

Water Run

If your kids love building obstacle courses or tracks for toy cars and marbles, they might enjoy making a water run. “A water run can be created in the bathtub, on a backyard fence, or in a sensory tub. This is essentially a marble run, but for water!” says Stamps.

You can adjust this activity to be inside or outside, using materials that work for you. You could use plastic cups, a halved pool noodle, or even a PVC pipe. You’ll also need scissors and duct tape, and a cup to pour the water.

“To create your own water run, set up your tubes (using cups, PVC, or a pool noodle) so that they feed into each other and zig-zag,” says Stamps. Once the materials are assembled, pour water and watch it go!

“Want to extend the play? Add a leaf, tiny toy figure, or boat to the water run to see it move with the water, and have older kids take notes on what happened with each different item. Then discuss why they think certain items got stuck in the water run or why others went really fast through the course,” adds Stamps.

Splash Pads

A great option for city dwellers is to check out the local park for a splash pad. “Splash pads are exciting play areas for small children that offer plenty of fountain features and rain-like elements that provide an afternoon of fun,” says Nicole Kitzman, director of Lead Generation & Community and baby gear expert at BabyQuip.

“The best thing about visiting a splash pad is that they don’t have standing water. This eliminates the need for lifeguards or other strict supervision that is required at a pool or waterpark,” adds Kitzman. However, it is still important to keep a watchful eye on your kids at all times.

There is no equipment required, but bringing some cups or buckets to fill can add to the fun. Be sure to dress your child in a bathing suit and some slip-proof shoes that can get wet. Parents can sit back and relax on a nearby bench as they watch their little ones splash and play.

Water Tables

Much like a sand table, "adding a water table to your child’s supply of outdoor toys is a great option to keep kids cool and entertained for hours on end,” says Kitzman. Many are affordable and come pre-assembled with gadgets and gizmos galore.

Kids can pour, splash, and scoop water, all while working on their fine and gross motor skills. Water tables can also help kids learn hand-eye coordination and cause and effect. “Don’t have a water table? Improvise with a big cooler, but keep in mind that either option requires continuous parental supervision,” adds Kitzman.

Squirt Bottles

Affordable at any major retailer, Amazon, or kitchen store, a condiment spray bottle can be repurposed with H2O to water plants in the backyard, spray rocks, make letters on the driveway, or safely spray siblings or parents.  

Squirt bottles and spray bottles are easy and fun!” says Monness. “Squirt bottles as in ‘ketchup’ bottles are literally one of the most engaging things for a child of all ages. It’s less sinister than a water gun but offers the same experience."

Go Fishing

"Go Fish" isn't just a card game. To play a water version, you’ll need a kiddie pool, plastic tub, or big bowls of water. Use bath color tablets to make the water dark blue. Drop-in some plastic fish figurines or other marine life toys you may have and find the fish!

“We used metal bowls and put in four cups of water with two blue bath tablets,” explains Monness. “We dropped in some toy fishies and then used metal strainer spoons (metal adds a layer of sensory experience when it clangs on the sides of the bowl) to scoop water and find our fish!”

Ocean Rescue

Playing ocean rescue is a great activity that will also teach kids the value of recycling, the importance of not littering, and how to keep our planet clean. “Use an outdoor sensory table or pet pool, filled with water and ‘garbage.’ Give your child tongs or fishnets to rescue the garbage from the water,” says Monness.

A Word From Verywell

With so many unique water activities to choose from, your kids are sure to stay entertained this summer. Be sure to stay safe in the summer sun—remember that all water activities should be supervised by an adult to prevent any injuries or drowning accidents.

 

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning facts.