9 All-Wet Water Play Ideas for Hot Days

Motivate kids to move on a hot day with these easy, inexpensive water play ideas for your backyard or park. They are suitable for a broad range of ages and simpler than packing everyone up for a trip to the pool (but don't forget the sunscreen either way).

One important caveat: If your community is facing drought conditions, stick to public pools or splash parks—which likely are recycling and conserving water—instead of (over) using your home water source. Even if you don't have any water-use restrictions at home, it's smart to multitask with your water play, such as by watering your plants and lawn while kids play. You can also collect water in a rain barrel for gardening and washing your car.

1

Hose Hijinks

boy and girl with hose
Bellurget Jean Louis / Image Bank / Getty Images

Get out your garden hose and ask kids to help water plants around the yard. Then liven things up with water play like a game of limbo or high-jump (create a bar with a stream of water, then try to go under or over it). Suggest target practice on the driveway, a fence, or a tree (use chalk to create a goal); or use the hose to push lightweight plastic balls across a line.

2

Car Wash

Bring out the buckets and soapy water and give your vehicles a good scrub. Kids can help suds the car and rinse it clean. Give bikes, kiddie ride-ons,​ and outdoor toys a wash, too. When you're done, use the sponge for a rousing game of sponge tag.

3

Fountain of Youth

Do you have a splash pad in your community? Some city parks have water features designed to allow for interactive play. They are irresistible for most kids, and prompt lots of active play and experimentation (you might need to remind kids of safety rules, like no running).

4

Wet "Paint" Play

Equip kids with a few buckets of water and some large paintbrushes or rollers and let them "paint" your fence, porch, playset, driveway, sidewalk, or garage. They can even play tic-tac-toe.

5

Up a Creek

Visit a babbling brook for a cooling nature walk. Bring along your own toy boats, or create some out of scavenged natural materials. "One day I enticed my daughter and her friend to go to the creek by suggesting that we take Barbie for a swim," writes Rick Van Noy, the author of A Natural Sense of Wonder. "She [Barbie] shot the rapids several times. Much screaming, but brother Sam was ready with the net to rescue her [the doll] from the maelstrom."

6

Dribble, Dribble, Drench

Try this cooling-off version of Duck, Duck, Goose. Have players (kids and grown-ups) sit in a circle. The first person to be "It" walks around the circle with a cup, pitcher, or watering can, dribbling a few drops on each person's head—until they choose a victim to be drenched with all the water from their container. Then the wet player chases "It" around the circle while "It" tries to claim the victim's empty spot in the circle.

7

Outdoor Bath

Fill up a kiddie pool with water, then add bath toys and an assortment of lightweight containers and objects: pitchers, cups, sieves, funnels—even short lengths of PVC pipe or chunks of pool noodle. Let kids' imaginations rule as they come up with new ways to play (and get wet).

8

Ice Castles

This one requires some advance prep, but it's worth it. Freeze water in milk cartons and plastic containers to create large blocks of ice—you can even add a drop of food coloring to each if you like. Take them outside and have kids build with them (a little salt helps the blocks stick together). Take a picture of the creations before they melt.

9

Water Balloons

Yes, it takes time to fill them up, but the kids are sure to get moving when they have a water balloon battle. Or use squirters, buckets, or sponges for a playful water fight.

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  1. Cuadrado E, Tabernero C, García R, Luque B, Seibert J. The Role of Prosocialness and Trust in the Consumption of Water as a Limited Resource. Front Psychol. 2017;8:694. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00694