Play it Cool: 5 Open-ended Water Play Activities for under 5s
It’s summer – and the temperature is up.
Time to head outside for some old fashioned water play. We've got 5 fun-soaked activities to help you cool off and stay waterwise. These open-ended water play activities will keep your under 5's engaged, learning and cool in the summer heat.
For this activity you need several balloons, a needle or pin and string if you want to hang them. Bigger balloons are best – so children can swing, throw and drop them.
Prick the balloons several times before inflating (about 10 holes will be enough). Space the holes out. You may have to experiment here, too many holes together and the balloon will pop. Also you don’t want the water running out too quickly. The balloon is usually thicker towards the bottom so try more holes here. Fill the balloons at the tap, tie them off and voila an instant water sprinkler (the water should be shooting out from all directions). They can be swung around – squeezed to spray against a fence for water painting, hung from a tree branch to run underneath. Squeezy wet blobs of colour that should last 10-15 minutes each.
Science of funnels
Get your scientists measuring and pouring – use two big roller tubs half full of water and get children transferring water using measuring cups, bowls, spoons and funnels. If you want to extend this activity tape various lengths of hose to the funnels for children to work together pouring and holding the hose over containers.
If you have an edible garden this activity needs little preparation – if not ask parents/staff to bring in some herbs to enhance the sensory experience of making potions. Mint/parsley/nasturtium flowers and leaves work well (plus roses if anyone has some in their gardens that they’re willing to sacrifice) – also check through this list of Edible Flowers
TOOLS – Bowls, mashers, Stirrers (mixing spoons/dessert spoons/teaspoons/sticks), sieves. An assortment of bottles/containers for pouring the completed potions into.
Want some music to go with those potions? Here's an updated version of Witches' Brew – alakazamakazoo – for sing-a-long potion making
EXTEND THE ACTIVITY: Read a book about magic or witches or wizards to introduce language for children to use as they make their potions… Mix, stir, bubble, brew, magic
Paint by water
Equipment includes (but is not limited to):
- A collection of brushes – from large house painting size down to watercolour size (as an alternative add some toothbrushes)
- Spray bottles (better if clear)
- Squeeze bottles
- Food colouring or water colour paints (plain water works too!)
- Bowls or containers for holding water
Paint on concrete-on walls-on grass-on wood-on pavers. Wherever children want to paint their masterpiece it will be gone by the end of the day. Encourage experimentation with different equipment.
Float your boats
This activity is featured on quite a few blogs with minor adaptations. You will have to make the boats beforehand - but they will last for many play times.
Find detailed instructions for making boats at
Use some large plastic tubs, add water, maybe a few drops
of blue or green food colouring – and let the littlest pirates set sail!