With warm days ahead, there’s no doubt you’ve been thinking of ways to cool your toddler off in the summer heat. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that you can tackle the summer sun with water play for toddlers that can help your toddler developmentally, socially and physically!

Why Is Water Play Good For Toddlers?

Even when the weather isn’t hot and sunny, water play for toddlers is a fun and engaging way for your child to pass the time. Ever notice how much your wee little one loves taking a romp in the bath? That’s because water play has been proven to be relaxing to young children as it stimulates their senses.

Additionally, many water play activities for toddlers boost language development as you begin to introduce your toddler to words and phrases connected to the play activity that they have never heard before. It also introduces your toddler to concepts of science and math. All of this does well to boost your toddler’s brain, all in the name of having fun!

See the link between cognitive development and sensory play for an even better understanding on how your child’s play can be directly linked to learning!

Lastly, water play for toddlers is great for building both gross and fine motor skills. Depending on the water play activity, your toddler may be utilising his or her large muscle groups as well as small muscle groups. Small muscle groups are targeted when your child engages in activities like using a child-sized tweezers to pick up objects,  using scoops to transfer water to various containers and so on. This is known as “fine motor”. Large muscle groups are activated by activities such as swimming. This is often referred to as “gross motor”. 

Top 10 Ideas For Toddler Water Play

With all of the above reasons to immerse your toddler in water, allow us to jump start your water play excursions with a few tried and true suggestions of our own to entertain your wee littles all day in the UK!

Ice Cubes

Sounds pretty basic, right? Actually, toddlers love playing with ice cubes, and this is especially convenient on a hot summer day.

Stick smaller items like blueberries, pom poms or miniature figurines into the ice tray filled with water and freeze overnight before watching your toddler squeal with joy as they play and the ice begins to melt. An ultra cute idea we saw is to freeze small flowers within each ice cube. The result is really quite beautiful and your toddler will appreciate the effort!


No, we aren’t asking you to allow your child to splash in his or her supper.

Rather, encourage your toddler to “cook soup” by adding whatever he or she can find in nature to water. This can include rocks, grass, flowers, you name it! The possibilities are endless.

Just keep an eye on kiddos who are young enough to actually want to put these “soups” in their mouths!

“Toy” Wash

Bring out the sponges, soaps and flannels and get your toddler ready to wash down some toys!

Simply put out a basin of sudsy water and add to it some washing utensils and you’ve got hours of fun just waiting to happen.

Want to kick it up a notch? Grab toys like animal figurines and whip up some fresh, homemade mud (water and dirt) and slosh their figurines in it before allowing them to wash it all off.

Just be careful not to allow your little ones to submerge any toys that are electronic or battery operated in water, of course.

Fun With Containers

This is a good ol’ fashioned and easy way to cool a toddler off in the summer heat! Simply add different shaped containers and ramekins to water and let your toddler have a ball!

Ideas are to add old yogurt containers with lids, condiment squirters, different sized spoons, measuring cups and more. This can even be done for bath time for even more fun.

“Car” Wash

Remember the toy wash we had mentioned earlier? You can turn also that activity into a “car wash” with any toy vehicles you have. Got a large sized plastic vehicle that your toddler loves riding in? Give him or her a sponge and some soap and let them go at it. They’ll love feeling like they’re washing up their car just like mum and dad.

Some activities never get old and water balloons are a real classic. Just be sure to clean up any leftover water balloon shards after they’ve broken to avoid potential choking hazards.

Water Balloons

Some activities never get old and water balloons are a real classic. Just be sure to clean up any leftover water balloon shards after they’ve broken to avoid potential choking hazards.

Themed Water Trays

Your toddler will likely love themed water trays and there are oh so many ways to make them! You can get creative and think up your own or you can simply recreate an ocean theme by adding water, a few pieces of plastic greenery, some ocean animals and a pinch of blue dye to visually stimulate your toddler and encourage play.

To amp up the education factor a bit, consider adding dry pasta to your themed water tray. These serve as “pollution” in the water. Ask your toddler to fetch the pieces of pasta back out with tweezers or other fine motor tools.

Glue Bottle Squirters

Have old glue bottles just sitting around the house? Probably not. But the next time you run through a few, go ahead and set them aside. Apparently, you can reuse glue bottles to make some pretty dynamite water squirters for kiddies.

Who knew?

Mixing Colours

Adding a few drops of dye to individual containers of water and allowing your toddler to mix the colours has the potential to keep your toddler entertained all day! Watch them shout with glee as they combine one colour with the next to see what new colours they yield!

Blended Bubble Foam

From what we hear, a blender, some water and a bit of soap can create some pretty amazing foam that your toddler won’t be able to keep their hands out of.

Add a bit of food colouring to make it that much more appealing. Set up a theme, such as construction trucks or any other theme your child might be interested in. These toys are something for your toddler to submerge into the bubbles.

Is Water Sensory Play?

You may already know why sensory play is so important to your child’s development, but you may wonder if water play constitutes sensory play the way other types of play do.

Since sensory play utilises the use of smell, touch, taste, sight and sound, water play can definitely be defined as such. Many sensory activities involve water, and water is one of the best and most affordable types of sensory play activities out there.

As always, you’ll want to watch your toddler closely anytime there is water involved. For even more ideas on types of sensory play for toddlers, check out these other great sensory play activities for children

What Materials Can We Incorporate Into Water Play?

As you can see from above, the materials that can be incorporated into water play are virtually endless. Just be sure to exclude items that are clearly not for water or that may pose a choking hazard to young children. Furthermore, it is imperative that you never allow children to submerge electronics of any kind in water as doing so puts your child at risk for electrocution.

Great ideas for water play include:

  • Pots and Pans (Kiddie-Sized or Regular)
  • Sponges
  • Figurine
  • Spoons
  • Measuring Cups
  • Natural Items (Flowers, Rocks, Sticks, Blades of Grass)
  • Toddler Tweezers and Other Fine Motor Tools


How long can a baby play in water?

For very young children, namely those under a year, you’ll likely want to limit water time to 30 minutes. This includes ocean, lake or river water. But be careful. At the sign of your baby getting cold or upset, you should remove the child. Warm them up quickly as their body loses warmth faster than adults.

Blue or purple lips, shivering, goose bumps and crying are all indications that it is time to get out of the water.

Think your baby may be running a fever after a day of fun in the water? This can happen when a baby gets too cold or has ingested contaminated water. You may wish to carry with you a waterproof thermometer to carry with you on the go.

Can I take my 2 month old to the beach?

Taking a 2 month old to the beach may be tempting as the weather warms up or if you are going on a vacation. But you should do so with caution. Keep a firm grip on the baby and come prepared with CPR lessons, just in case. 

Always go to beaches and pools where lifeguards are present. They’ll have the equipment needed to resuscitate your child if something goes wrong. You may also bring a travel first aid kit in case your baby incurs any nicks or scratches whilst in the water.

When can you dunk a baby underwater?

As parents, we have many questions, especially when we are parents for the first time. Questions like when can my child use a bumbo seat and when can you feed a baby mashed potatoes are the types of questions that plague parents daily.

A more interesting and pertinent question, however, concerns dunking babies underwater. While many parents may be horrified at the thought, there is evidence that babies under the age of three have a water instinct. They actually have a built-in mechanism that allows them to be submerged in water.

And though this may be true, there are other factors to consider such as how long babies can stay underwater and whether or not they may accidentally swallow water which can lead to your baby getting sick or experiencing uncomfortable ails such as diarrhea or abdominal cramping.

To err on the safe side, we don’t advise you to dunk babies underwater. If you choose to, do so under the guidance of a trained professional, such as at a baby swim class, to ensure you do so safely.

Water Play For Toddlers Made Easy!

All in all, water play for toddlers can be fun, easy and even educational for your littles. Try any of the aforementioned ideas or check out these balancing activities for toddlers for oodles more fun in the sun!