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Water Sensory Play Benefits & Activities for Kids

Child plays with water sensory play in the bathtub.

Water sensory play is a great way to engage children in contained indoor or fun outdoor spaces. Messy Play Kits actually started with bath time! After graduating with a degree in child development, I worked as a nanny. I would plan sensory water activities in the bathtub to ensure the kids received lots of play-based learning opportunities. 

Water sensory play became especially helpful when the kids acted a little crabby. Have you heard the phrase, “Put a crab in water?” The calming effects of water can relax children when they’re upset. Water sensory play can also give you a bit of break while your little ones play independently. Of course you have to supervise, but it may give you time to sit down and rest for a second. So, the next time your toddler is about to tantrum, take a look at this list of sensory water play activities to help them to feel better and have some fun! 

  Get a box full of bath activities shipped right to your doorstep with the Bath Tub Fun Messy Play Kit! From mini bath bombs to playdough soap, spray bottles to Foam Tic Tac Toe, just add your kid to the water and you’ll have everything else you need (even oobleck is included!).

What is Water Play?

Water play is just like it sounds — it includes any activities that involve water for children and adults. This means kiddos playing in the water, at the water, and with the water! From swimming to surfing, floating to diving, bathing to splash pads, water play can be a way to engage the entire family. If you don’t have time to go adventure seeking in oceans, lakes, pools, or parks, you can also create water play activities right at home. 

Whether indoors or outdoors, find a contained space, pour some water into it, then place tools like cups, buckets, containers, and toys into the water. Now your children have a water sensory play space to splash and submerge, scoop and pour, and invent stories that develop their creative imaginations! 

What are the Benefits of Water Play?

Water play offers a number of benefits for child development. Scooping, pouring, pinching, and grasping all help to strengthen the hands and improve fine motor skills. Hand and eye coordination continue to advance as children move toys and water from one place to another. Due to the immersive nature of water play, this sensory activity can engage children for long periods of time helping to improve their concentration and focus. 

Water play can also be a great way to introduce kiddos to basic math concepts as they practice counting the toys in the tub and preschool science lessons like conservation of volume. Their imaginations and curiosity will be stimulated as they begin asking questions about the nature of the slippery substance that turns from liquid to ice to steam. These are all benefits of water play for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, but let's not also forget that long periods of focused play also give you as a caregiver a break to put your feet up and relax as your littles fall in love with the water.

Water Sensory Play Bathtub Activities

Child in bathtub spraying colors in the bubbles.

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There are so many fun things to do in the bathtub. This contained space includes a number of developmental benefits as it invites your child to play independently and safely while seated. It also allows for easy clean up as you can just wash everything down (kids included!) after the play period. Here are a number of water sensory activities to try for some bathtub fun! 

Oobleck in the Bathtub

Try some oobleck in the bathtub! It’s safe to go right down the drain for a sticky, mushy mess that can easily be sprayed clean.

Bath Crayons

Bath crayons will let your littles draw on the walls of the shower or bath in fun colors! You can easily wipe, wash, or rinse the designs off when your little is finished.

Bath Spray Bottle Painting

Fill some mini trigger spray bottles with water and a little liquid watercolors. Then let your kiddos spray the inside of the shower or bath tub! They can even decorate their bodies with the colorful paint.

A Bath Bomb

A bath bomb will explode and fizz when it hits the water, releasing glitter, colors, and smells galore for a great sensory experience!

Water Toys

Water safe toys can all be thrown in the tub together so your little can create stories with their vivid imaginations. You can also purchase educational themed bath toys like letters and numbers so you kids can practice creating words and formulas during bath time. Below are my favorite bathtub toys. Here’s a great whale bucket to store them in.

Other Indoor Water Sensory Play Activities

Robin and kids play with water and soap sensory play.

If you don’t have a bathtub or don’t want your child to be fully submerged in water, try these other indoor water play activities. 

Water Painting

Pull out an old cardboard moving box and a few paint brushes. Then pour some water in the cup, let your little dip your paintbrush in the water, and paint away!

Ice Painting

Mix some non-toxic paint with water then pour the combination into ice cube trays. Allow the ice to set, then pull it out and let your children ice paint on thick paper.

Water Sensory Bin

Lay a towel down, then grab a clear plastic bin, pour water into it, and add your little one’s favorite water-safe toys. Now your kiddo has a mini bath to play in without submerging.

Water Sensory Bottle

Make an ocean in a bottle by adding water, glitter, and your kiddo’s favorite sea creatures.

Toy Car Wash

Soap up some water and pour it into a plastic tub. Let your littles ones make a mess of their toy cars by putting them in oobleck or the mud. Then they can rinse and dry them clean like a real car wash.

Outdoor Water Sensory Play Activities

Child plays in outdoor blow up pool.

Outdoor water sensory activities can keep your kiddo cool on a hot day. Here are some fun ideas so your little one can stay focused, while you bask in the sun keeping an eye out nearby.

Water Table

Buy or get a pre-loved water table from a family nearby! Fill it with water and let your kiddos practice independent and creative play through a variety of water table activities. You can also add other toys like wind up swimming turtles, sinking fish dive toys, or a boat and train set, so your little ones have lots to do!

Water Balloons

So many games can be played with water balloons that also develop math skills. Let your littles count as they pass the balloons back and forth. See how many passes they can make until the game ends in a splash! 

Sheet Spray Bottle Painting

Bring those spray bottles you made for the bath outside. Then hang a white sheet outside and let your kiddos create a masterpiece of abstract art!

Mini Pool

Small, inflatable pools bring the bathtub outside! Fill it with water or oobleck and toys and let your little go wild with creative play time.

Sprinkler Run

Turn on your sprinklers or purchase a hose extension sprinkler so your little one can cool themselves down in the spraying water!

Garden Care

Water activities for preschoolers and kindergarteners can also help teach kids responsibility. Garden and lawn care through daily watering can help your little ones learn about cultivating plants, as well as empower them as they watch their plants grow! 

Clothes Wash

Another great water activity for preschoolers and kindergarteners is outdoor clothes washing the old fashioned away! Just place dirty clothes and some safe soap into a plastic tub and let your kids scrub away then hang the clothes to dry.

Buy the Bath Tub Fun Messy Play Kit!

Bath tub fun messy play kit materials

The Bath Tub Fun Messy Play Kit includes a number of water play bathtub activities that I can ship directly to your doorstep! Skip the errands and let me do the work for you by packing and sending you a kit with instructions and all the materials needed for these five activities:

  • Bath Fizzies
  • Moldable Playdough Soap
  • Colorful Spray Bottles
  • Floatable and Stickable Foam Tic Tac Toe
  • Oobleck

As always, enjoy the mess!