Toddler Inside Water Play Activity

Sep 8, 2013

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My toddler, like many, has a real fascination with water and will happily play with anything involving water for quite some time. Water play is fabulous when the weather is hot and especially when you can get outside, but living in Melbourne, Australia, this is certainly not the case all the time so I have to come up with ways that we can still play and investigate with water, whilst inside, without making a huge mess!

Here is a fun sensory Invitation to Play with water inside that encourages skills such as pouring, transferring and scooping whilst investigating size, depth, width, absorbency, capacity and more.

Ages: 12 months +
(N is currently 22 months old here. See the handy tips at the bottom to Simplify and Extend to suit your child's needs) 

As I didn't want water from one side of the house to the other, we only used about 2 cups of water in total. I lightly coloured the water with a couple of drops of food colouring so that it was slightly more visible but wouldn't stain or leave marks wherever little droplets landed. 

Gather your supplies from around the house and lay out on a small child-sized table. On the floor you should use some old towels to catch the water that will inevitably spill off the table. I do not recommend using plastic sheeting on the floor as it won't absorb the water spills and will in turn make the floor around the table slippery.

The Invitation to Play

Above you can see how I presented the Invitation to Play for my son and the materials I set out for him to explore.

The problem solving begins. The neck of this bottle is too narrow to fit the measuring spoon!

Trying to figure out how to use the pipette to transfer water and using fine-motor skills.

Pouring and transferring. The water is nearing the top!

Watching children of this age play like this is really fascinating. They play (work!) with such purpose and intensity. 

Moving water from one container to another was repeated again and again and again and I was impressed with his concentration and coordination.

There were spills but that was part of the learning process.

Using a little table like this meant that he could move freely around and easily access all the materials.

At one point the frogs found a new home.

And we discovered that if you have a spill, there are ways to reclaim your water! 
(But you have to be quick!)

Discovering the absorbency of the sponge was helpful with the spills

And squeezing the sponge gave new access to water again!

Really testing the absorbency now! Not quite absorbent enough for a whole cup of water.

But it sure does make a squidgy, squishy water pad just perfect for the frogs to live on. Pressing down on them squeezes water back out!

The aftermath. For inside water play with a toddler under 2 years old, this is pretty good! 

He was busy for probably around 40 mins which is a long time for an under-2-year-old to be focused for.
The pack-up was as quick and easy as the set-up, with the towels underneath making quick work to dry any remaining water spills.

Handy Tips

Simplify this activity by providing a few less cups and containers and leaving out items such as the pipette and little syringe as they need well practiced fine motor skills. At 22 months, my son is just starting to grasp the concept of these objects and whilst he can't use them efficiently, I like to still provide them for learning opportunities.

Extend this activity by:
  • Using a couple of different colours of water to practice colour mixing as well
  • Using a variety of measuring tools to encourge more formal capacity and volume learning
  • Challenging children to transfer the water from one cup to another without lifting up the cups at all
  • Recording (writing down) the amount of water you start with and then measuring the amount of water you have left at the end of play
  • Investigating how the same amount of water looks like different amounts depending on the size and shape of the container it's tipped into.

Mix it up with a variety of different types of containers and measuring cups or by substituting water with other transferable materials like rice or barley or flour.

- Use descriptive language that goes with this experience to help develop your child's vocabulary. Eg "pour, absorbent, soak, wet, dry, squeeze, drip, splash" etc.

-  Invitations to Play are a favourite way of mine to set up an activity. Here are a few more we've shared: 

Happy playing,
Debs :)

We like to play here as well. Come play with us :)
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