If you’re a parent looking for budget-friendly water activities for your baby or toddler, you’re in luck. There are plenty of easy and fun water play options that you can do at home with items you likely already have. With the current stay-at-home policies and high demand for water play gear, finding ways to keep your little ones cool and entertained during hot summer days can be a challenge.
We’ve rounded up a dozen water play activities that are perfect for babies and toddlers. These activities are free or cheap, use food-grade or mouth-safe add-ons, and have no major choking hazard red flags. Plus, they don’t create any added waste. From bowl of ice water play to water pouring station activity, your little one will have a blast while improving their concentration and creativity, and satisfying their curiosity.
- There are plenty of budget-friendly water activities for babies and toddlers that you can do at home with items you already have.
- Look for water play gear for babies or toddlers in the off-season for better secondhand deals.
- Choose water activities that are free or cheap, use food-grade or mouth-safe add-ons, and have no major choking hazard red flags.
1. Easy Baby Pool Alternative
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly and space-saving alternative to a kiddie pool for your baby, consider using a plastic storage container. It’s easy to set up and can be used for a variety of water activities.
Using a plastic storage container has several advantages over a traditional baby pool. First, it’s multipurpose. When not being used for water play, it can be used for storage. Second, it uses less water to fill, which saves water and money. Third, it’s easy to store when not in use. Fourth, it can double as a bath since the water is not chlorinated like a real pool. Finally, it’s easier to clean up than a full kiddie pool if your baby has an accident.
To set up the plastic storage container, simply fill it up with water and put your baby in the water. You can add some toys or other items to make the water play more fun for your baby. Just make sure to supervise your baby at all times and never leave them unattended near water.
Using a plastic storage container is a great way to introduce your baby to water play without breaking the bank or taking up too much space. It’s a simple and easy way to enjoy some outdoor water play with your baby or toddler. If you’re looking for other water play ideas, consider checking out water tables which are also great for babies and toddlers.
2. Water Tub Sensory Play
Water tub sensory play is a fun and engaging activity for toddlers that can help them develop their motor skills and sensory awareness. To get started, all you need is a plastic storage container and a variety of items to float in the water. You can use pretty much anything you have handy, such as fruits, vegetables, plants, nature items, toys, and household items.
Adding different items to the water can also help toddlers learn about density. For example, you can add lemons and limes to the water and explain to your child that lemons float while limes sink because limes are denser. Additionally, you can encourage your child to collect nature items like flowers or rocks before adding them to the water, which can be a fun bonus activity.
One of the great things about water tub sensory play is that anything goes. You can add as much or as little as you like to the water to make it colorful and interesting for your child. This activity is also mouth-safe, which means that you can use edible items like fruits and herbs without worrying about your child putting them in their mouth.
Another benefit of water tub sensory play is that it is free. You don’t have to buy anything for this activity, and if you don’t have a plastic storage container, you can use a bowl instead. This makes it a great option for parents who want to provide their child with a fun and engaging activity without spending any money.
Overall, water tub sensory play is a simple and easy activity that can provide hours of entertainment for toddlers. It is a great way to encourage sensory play, fine motor skills, and pretend play, while also providing a fun and messy activity that toddlers will love.
3. Bowl of Ice Water Play
This activity is perfect for babies and toddlers who are developing their hand-eye coordination. All you need is a few ice cubes and a bowl. Simply pop the ice in the bowl and let your little one go nuts. As the ice melts, they will be fascinated by the different shapes and textures. This activity is not only free, but it’s also easy to clean up. Just throw a towel down first if you are inside, and you’re good to go. It’s a total no-brainer and a great way to develop your child’s eye-hand coordination.
4. Colorful Ice Water Play Activities
If you’re looking for a fun and easy water activity for your toddler, consider making colorful ice cubes. All you need is food coloring, ice, and a container. Simply freeze colored ice at least a night before you want to play with it. If you don’t have ice trays, you can freeze bigger cubes in cups.
You can use the colored ice in a baby pool like Learn Play Imagine did. However, if you have a ton of ice, it’ll cool the water down quickly. It also will release color pretty quickly, so you may want to wait until your toddler is in the mix to put in the ice.
Here are some reasons why we love this water activity:
Little to no cost: A little food coloring goes a long way.
Easy clean: If done outside (and with a preferably unclothed toddler).
Lots of possible ways to play with water: In a pool, in a bowl, just the ice, “painting” paper, etc.
Your toddler will love scooping up the colorful ice cubes and stirring them around in the water. They can also practice color mixing and sorting by separating the ice cubes by color. You can even make a water xylophone by freezing ice cubes of different colors and using them as musical instruments.
Overall, colorful ice water play activities are a great way to keep your toddler entertained and engaged while also promoting their creativity and imagination.
5. Hidden Object Frozen in Ice Water Activities
Another fun water activity for toddlers is to freeze small objects in ice and let them explore the ice cube as it melts. You can use pretty much anything small like rocks, flowers, or fruit pieces. If you don’t have an ice tray, you can freeze in cups. The clean-up level is adjustable depending on what you freeze, so if you don’t want to deal with clean-up, freeze something like rocks instead of sticky fruit.
One example of this activity is to freeze rocks in ice for water play. This is great because it could be a double-header activity for toddlers. First, you go foraging for rocks, and then you use those rocks for this water activity. You can also use flowers instead of rocks, like the pretty example of frozen flower ice cubes at Crafts on Sea.
Freezing fruit pieces is another option, which is great because it’s also edible. This way, you don’t have to worry about what your baby is shoving in their mouth. You can also experiment with water density and buoyancy by freezing different objects and seeing how they float or sink in the water.
What’s great about these water activities is that they are versatile and involve toddlers in the set-up, making it a fun scavenger hunt for them.
6. Ice Boat Racing
Ice boat racing is a fun twist on ice play that adds an activity to the mix. This activity is easy to set up and all it takes is freezing ice before and propping up a lid to be off to the races. To get started, you will need cups for freezing larger ice cubes, something to act as a slide, and optional items such as a stick or straw for a sail mast or food coloring to identify different boats.
In the Toddler Approved version, they put straws in the cups to make little sails. You can also dye the ice cube boats different colors so toddlers can identify which boat is theirs. To race the boats, you can use a pool noodle cut long ways or a plastic storage bin lid propped up on a chair. Alternatively, you could lay down a plastic shower curtain liner and do a flat race where your baby or toddler has to push the ice boat to the other end of the sheet. Plastic shower liners can be easily washed in the washing machine after.
This activity is not only a fun summer STEM idea but also a great way to cool off and play on a warm summer day. With older kids, you could also drop in a little physics in there too. The activity is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, and it is a great way to keep them outdoors for an hour or more.
Overall, ice boat racing is a simple and fun activity that provides a unique twist on water play. It is easy to set up, and you can customize the activity to suit your preferences. You can use different materials for the slide, and you can also decorate the sails to make them more visually appealing. This activity is perfect for a summer day, and it is sure to provide hours of entertainment for your little ones.
7. Water Drop Race Activities
Water drop race activities are a fun and exciting way to engage toddlers in water play. To set up this activity, you will need straws and a waterproof surface. You can use wax paper, a shower curtain liner, or a baking pad as the surface. Simply drop a little water on the surface and use the straw to blow the water around. You can add a race element to make it even more fun for kids.
This activity is great for developing gross motor skills and dexterity. Kids will need to wield the straw and regulate their blowing force to move the water. It is also a simple set-up activity that requires minimal preparation.
If you want to make it more exciting, you can use water guns instead of straws. This will add an element of surprise and make the activity even more engaging for kids. However, be sure to use waterproof surfaces if using water guns to avoid any mess.
Overall, water drop race activities are a great way to get kids excited about water play while also developing their motor skills.
8. Letters & Numbers Water Race Activities
If you’re looking for a fun and educational water activity for older toddlers, then the Letters & Numbers Water Race Activity is perfect for you. To set it up, you’ll need something waterproof to write letters and numbers on, a marker, and three buckets. In one bucket, place all the letters and numbers, and label the other buckets as either a bucket for numbers or letters.
The toddler then fishes out a piece and races to match it to the right bucket depending on what they pulled. To make the letters and numbers, you can cut up old bubble wrap shipping packaging or use bath tub letter toys if you have them already. This activity is adaptable based on age, so you can increase the difficulty of the game to match your kid’s level.
What’s great about this activity is that it’s both educational and exciting. Kids get to practice their numbers and letters, while the race element adds to the excitement of the game. Overall, the Letters & Numbers Water Race Activity is a great way to make learning fun and enjoyable for your toddler.
9. Water Pouring Station Activity
If you are looking for a simple and easy water activity for your child, consider setting up a water pouring station. All you need are some bowls, cups, or pitchers to pour water from and into. You can use any containers you have around the house, making this activity free and easy to set up.
One version of this activity involves using a big plastic storage container with different colored water to mix. However, you can also set up this activity outside on a grassy yard or on a shower curtain to play on.
This activity is great for helping your child develop pouring skills and hand-eye coordination. It also teaches them how to handle cups and bowls of liquid without spilling them everywhere. Plus, clean up is minimal, especially if you use plain water.
To make this activity more engaging, you can add funnels, measuring cups, or even plastic bottles to transfer water between containers. Overall, a water pouring station activity is a simple and effective way to keep your child entertained and learning.
10. Ocean Foam
If you’re looking for a fun and easy summer activity for your little ones, you might want to try making “ocean foam” with them. This activity, inspired by Views from the Step Stool, is a great way to keep your kids entertained while also keeping them cool.
To make the foam, you’ll need a plastic container, corn starch, dish soap, a blender, and some blue food coloring (optional). Blend the corn starch, dish soap, water, and food coloring together to create the foam. Once you’ve blended it up, pour it into the container and let your kids play with it. You can even add some water-themed toys to make it more fun.
One of the best things about this activity is how easy it is to make. It only takes about 10 seconds to blend everything together in a blender. Plus, it’s a great way to save a bath since your kids will already be covered in soap after playing with the foam.
Overall, this is a fun and easy activity that your kids are sure to love. Just make sure to do it outside for easier clean up. If you’re looking for more water-themed activities, you might also want to try making a water wall, an ocean sensory bin, or even a DIY water wall. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even make some garden soup with your little ones.
11. Window Washing Activity
If you’re looking for a fun and productive water activity for your toddler, try this window washing activity. Not only will your child have fun, but they’ll also learn a lifelong skill of cleaning. Plus, you likely already have all the materials needed for this activity, making it easy and convenient.
To get started, set your child up with a cleaning kit that includes a rag and a spray bottle filled with plain water or a cleaning solution that’s appropriate for your child. You can use diluted distilled white vinegar (about 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water) as a cleaning solution.
Your child can then set to work cleaning the windows in your house. If your outside windows are low enough, this could also be an outdoor activity. Even if your child isn’t that helpful, it’s still a sweet and short-lived time where they want to clean.
This activity is also a great opportunity to teach your child about the importance of cleaning and taking care of their environment. It’s a simple and easy activity that can be done with materials you already have at home.
In addition to this activity, other fun water activities for toddlers include water painting, sidewalk chalk, and painting with water.
12. Toy Washing Water Activity
One of the best water activities for kids is toy washing. Not only is it a fun activity, but it also teaches kids about cleaning and taking care of their belongings. To set up this activity, you will need “dirty” toys, a plastic container or bowls, soap, and cleaning tools like sponges, rags, or brushes. You can use bubble bath for maximum bubble play, but regular soap works just as well.
Toy washing is a great way to actually clean your kid’s toys, which can often be neglected. This activity is also free and easy to set up, requiring only a bowl and some soap. It gives ownership of taking care of their toys over to the kid, and they’re more likely to actually get the job done with cleaning toys than cleaning windows.
To make this activity even more fun, you can turn it into a game. For example, you can time your kid to see how fast they can wash all the toys or give them a score based on how clean they get each toy. This will make the activity more interactive and engaging for your child.
Overall, toy washing is a simple and effective water activity that your kids will love. It’s a great way to teach them about cleaning and responsibility while also having fun.