Warmer weather is here, at last, meaning you're already planning how to keep your kids cool during the sweltering summer months. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways for your kids to have fun, stay cool, and learn all at the same time!
Outdoor water sensory activities can help boost your child’s cognitive development and teach them key concepts including water displacement, hand-eye coordination, and more, all while keeping the mess out of your living room - big win!
We’ve rounded up the best outdoor water sensory activities for a range of ages, so you can keep your kids cool and entertained while the thermometer continues to climb.
A Quick Word of Advice
Remember, small children need to be always supervised near water, as a very small amount of water is still enough for an accident to happen. Areas, where water may splash over, can become slick, leading to potential falling hazards for small children. Be sure to supervise all outdoor water sensory activities to keep the learning safe and fun for everyone involved!
At a Glance
Studies show sensory play helps cognitive development in children
Water sensory play can help your kids cool off while they learn
Outdoor sensory activities are fun, easy, and offer learning opportunities on a budget
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is any play activity that includes the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and feel). These activities help stimulate your child’s cognitive development and can help them develop their hand-eye coordination, as well as special awareness, pattern recognition, and more.
“Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is the first step in classification, or sorting—an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery,” says High Scope early childhood specialist Suzanne Gainsley.
By experiencing the world first-hand, children are able to build a wide base of knowledge to draw from later in life, which can help them with science and math skills, as noted in this fascinating Michigan State University article.
Outdoor Water Sensory Activities You Can Do at Home
While there are plenty of excellent water play tables available for purchase, you can set up your own water play area with a plastic bucket (preferably with low sides) and a small amount of water.
Washing toys or dishes is a great sensory activity for small children. Be sure to include sponges, cloths, and child-safe soap. Washing your kids' favorite sippy cups or plastic dishes can be a great way for them to work on coordination, and you'll have a head start on teaching them how to help clean up, too.
If you have some measuring cups, bowls, and spoons, you can make a scooping and pouring activity in a jiffy. This helps kids learn about volumes and measurements, and you can even help older kids learn basic addition and subtraction by using marked measuring cups and asking them to pour a specific amount of water into a bowl or cup.
With a deeper water bucket that is clear on the sides, kids can learn about floating and sinking by placing different toys or water-safe objects into the water and seeing if they sink or float. This activity can even be made into a science experiment if you ask your kids their hypothesis about what will happen before they place things into the water.
For added outdoor cooling this summer, freeze different fun objects like flowers or small toys into ice cubes. Then, add them to your water sensory area to help kids learn about the different forms of water. You can even add drops of food coloring to the ice for more fun!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can create an ocean exploration adventure with some water-safe sea creature toys and different buckets. Adding small rocks or shells to the sensory buckets can also provide hours of entertaining fun for kids of all ages. You can even teach children where different animals live by setting up an “ocean” bucket and a “lake” bucket and asking them to sort their favorite animals.
One last example of fun outdoor water sensory play is using child-safe food coloring and cups of water to help your kids mix different colorful potions. Not only can color mixing provide hours of entertainment, but kids can also learn all about primary, secondary, and even tertiary colors while staying cool.
Have fun this summer by keeping cool, having fun, and strengthening important developmental skills - parenting win!