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10 of the best water sensory play activities for kids these school holidays

We know it's always hot in Australia's summer. With the kids home, many parents are asking - "how to entertain my kids at home these school holidays? Water play is a free and easy activity you can do at home these summer school holidays to keep your kids active, healthy and happy.

What are the benefits of water play for kids?

  • Water play keeps your children cool and prevents their little bodies from over heating on hot days
  • Water play helps develop your child's gross motor skills - splashing, swimming, paddling, filling buckets of water and carrying them all require physical activity, strength and movement - helping your kids stay active, fit and healthy.
  • Water play helps develop fine motor skills. Actions such as pouring water into different jugs or pots, turning taps on and using equipment such as scoops and spades all help them develop their fine motor skills.
  • Water has a calming, therapeutic effect on children. Gentle water play activities such as pouring water into different containers and running your hands through water has been scientifically proven as a calming activity. Quietly playing with water can be a mindful, relaxing experience for your child and is a great way for your kids to have some sensory 'chill out' time.

Here are 10 of our best tried and tested sensory water play activities you can DIY at home:

1. Water pouring activity station

Place a variety of different shaped tubs, containers and cups into a large container, water table or tray. Fill some of the containers with water and let your child practice pouring water from one container into another. This is great for their fine motor skills and also lots of fun. To up the anti of the sensory play - add a few drops of food colouring to create coloured water, or use two primary colours such as yellow and blue to show how they can work together to make an entirely new colour (did someone say science experiment?!)

2. DIY sensory bubble foam

Bubble foam is always a crowd favourite with my kids. In a large bowl or container, add a few drops of food colouring, a large squirt of dishwashing liquid and 1/4 cup of water. Using an electric mixer, beat the water until it forms foamy peaks - similar to that if you were beating eggs for meringues.

Add the foam to your kids sensory water play experience. To level up the sensory experience - add a few drops of essential oils such as mandarin or lavender to create a sensory scented smell to your kids water play fun.

sensory bubble foam diy activity

3.Sand and water play. 

If you don't have access to the beach, mixing sand and water play is an excellent sensory experience for kids you can do it home. Not only is it fun and messy, but also provides an opportunity for imaginative play such as building sand castles and roads. Provide your child with a variety of tools from your kitchen and beach set (such as scoops, rakes and buckets) to allow for lots of sensory exploratory play. You don't require a sand and water table (if you have one, great!) - any large container or tub will do.

sand and water sensory play activity for kids

4. Frozen sensory ice cube play

Use your ice tray or silicone muffin molds for this fun activity. We froze our ooshies and then took them in the bath and watched them melt. You could also try pouring water over them to melt the ice and free the toy.

Another favourite of ours is adding a drop of food colouring in each ice cube section before adding the water - to create coloured ice. You can then add the coloured ice cubes to your kids water pouring station.

frozen sensory ice water play activity


5. Coloured bath time water play 

Add a splash of food colouring to your kids bath or paddle pool to create a fun coloured water play activity. Food colouring is sensitive on skin and doesn't stain (but always wipe down the grouting afterwards). We love pouring the coloured water down our Waterslide Bath Marble Run.

waterslide bath time marble run sensory toy


6. Let them wash the dishes

Kids love watching us and mimicking our behaviour - it is the best way that they learn new skills. Give your kids some soapy water and let them have fun "washing the dishes." We did this inside on a rainy day, but you could also set it up outside in a container or a mud kitchen to keep the mess outside! Not only does it teach them an important life skill, but it is also great sensory play and works on their fine motor skills. (To ensure safety- I would suggest giving them plastic or non-breakable items such as kids plates and containers and avoid sharp utensils).

kids washing the dishes sensory water play activity


7. DIY finger painting recipe

Does anyone else's kids love getting messy like mine do? For some fun and messy sensory water play - kids can paint the the bath or even each other with this gentle, homemade finger paint recipe.

Mix together: cornflour, a dash of warm water, bubble bath and some food colouring. The finger paint washes off with water- just make sure you don't leave it on the grout too long!

diy finger paint activity

8. 'Let's go fishing' water play activity

Fill up your paddle pool, inflatable pool or large container with water and add a variety of floating objects - in this case we used ping pong balls. Let your children "go fishing" by using a fishing net to scoop out the different items. You could even do this as a competition - record the time of who can complete it the quickest, or have a game of who can catch the most "fish."


fishing water play activity for kids


9. Toys in a tub - water play activity

This is a super quick and easy DIY water play activity. If you have bath toys or sea creatures, throw them into a large container, tub or paddle pool with some water. Let your child take the lead with their imagination and role play games while experiencing some wet water play. But be prepared for them to get wet!


water play toys in a tub sensory activity


10. Glow stick disco bath

Nothing says disco like a glow stick! Did you know that glow sticks can safely go in water? The Sensory Specialist's kids love a glow in the dark bath. Dim the lights and throw in some glow sticks for a fun, sensory, water play experience. Or get the party tunes happening for a glow in the dark bath disco!


glow stick disco bath water play activity for kids


This article was written by Sarah James, owner of The Sensory Specialist. Sarah is a qualified Psychology teacher and mother of boys-  aged 2 and 5. Through her experiences in Psychology and motherhood, Sarah has learnt lots of tips and tricks to help engage your kids with active sensory play at home.