Simple As That: Simple Outdoor Water Play


One of the easiest, most sure-fire ways to engage kids in simple outdoor play is to add a little water to the mix.  The aisles of the local big box store will offer you a variety of pools, sprinklers, and slippery-slides that certainly can be lots of fun if you have the money to spend and the space to enjoy them.  But what if you only have a stretch of sidewalk, a balcony, or a porch for close-to-home outdoor time?  Or perhaps you would rather save your pennies for a big trip or a little staycation time?

One classic idea my mother-in-law shared with me is to let the kids “wash dishes” outside. This is a great go-to activity whether you have acres of space or just little spot all to yourself.  All you need is a couple of buckets, pails, or big bowls, some dishes for washing (you’ll probably want to choose the unbreakable variety), and some water.  Add a dot of dish soap to one container of water and reserve the other container for rinsing.  What a simple way to enjoy a little time in the shade – washing, rinsing, splashing, talking, laughing, and playing.

What does water play look like in your outdoor space?

photo courtesy of peasap

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  1. Awesome post! Our kids love water gun fights, especially when my husband gets in the mix! 🙂

    Chele’s last blog post..Feeding Time – Love the Lord With Everything You Have and Are!

  2. Shoot. Wish I would’ve read this 20 minutes ago. I just washed all the dishes myself. 😉

    Marla Taviano’s last blog post..give-away monday!

  3. We have a small plastic wading pool ($6.00), the garden hose (came with the house) and three spray bottles ($1.00) each. Our boys are four and two, so they find the spray bottles easier to use and fill than water guns.

    jill’s last blog post..When your friend’s child has food allergies . . .

  4. I pass out paint brushes and they paint with water on the porch, wash rocks, and make footprints. So fun.

    Rachel’s last blog post..Before You Leave the House Today…

  5. we let our kids at preschool wash a car today! they had so much fun scrubbing and rinsing.

    harmony’s last blog post..Country Roads (and Rivers)

  6. yes, my boys are endlessly entertained with water play. We usually get the small baby pool out and let them take turns with control of the hose “filling up” the pool. However, the water rarely makes it in the pool. They spend most of their time putting it down the slide and watering the garden. When it’s hot enough I let them spray me.

    Erin’s last blog post..You Know All About the World

  7. We just broke out the paddling pool for the first time this Summer – it is warming up and preparing for much splashing this afternoon!


    steadymom’s last blog post..A Summer Rhythm

  8. We too have little kiddie pools that I put out for the boys. Also one of our local parks has a water-park type section with fountains and gushers. We went this morning and all that time in the water and the sun = a great nap for both boys.

    LaToya’s last blog post..Potty Time!!

  9. My son enjoys making fountains by stacking up bowls and other containers. You can see what I mean here:

    Catherine’s last blog post..ten pin bowling

  10. My 1-year old son loves to play in the water outside and I always feel like I’m getting a break because he’s so busy and happy–very relaxing. A few months ago, I posted an idea on my blog for making your own kid’s water tale that I found on another mom’s site called “Tales of an Ordinary Housewife.” We picked up the inexpensive materials at a hardware store and, now that my husband is home form a long trip, we’re finally ready to make one. I don’t know if you can copy/paste this link, but I hope so, it’s such a great idea!

    Kelly Feinberg’s last blog post..Simple Baby Hat

  11. This is definitely a favorite around here too. One of our favorites is to freeze “ice treasures” – you freeze tiny buttons, cookie cutters, etc. in layers in a container in your freezer (so they’re dispersed throughout the block) and then you pop it out of the container, head outside with some toothbrushes, snot suckers (sorry, I don’t know what they’re really called!), warm water and salt to dig the treasures out. So much fun!

    Mandi @ Simple Nest’s last blog post..Showcase: Framing Children’s Art

  12. We have had the same water table for 5 years and every summer the girls love when we set it up. We fill it with water and put measuring cups, funnels, plastic tubing, strainers and this year we added turkey basters – in a basket nearby. Thanks for the great post!

  13. The twins usually get the hose and squirt each other and fill up the watering cans and try to water my flowers then it ends up with water on the dirt pile and mud pies and muddy kids. I just hose everyone down when they are tired of playing. Lots of fun!

    Rana’s last blog post..Seperated but still together.

  14. I did a post last summer to this exact effect:

    my little fella just LOVES playing with all things water! makes me remember we need to do it some more this summer too!

    jodi @ bpr’s last blog post..check us out!

  15. Christina says:

    We have a patio that is pretty tiny, but my kids still love to play out there. Water play for them consist of a small blow up wading pool, filled with water, squirt guns and spray bottles.

  16. ‘watering the garden’ with a hose goes a long, long way. but filling buckets from the rain barrel is pretty fun too – fill it up, toss it on the plants. my boys sometimes fill dump trucks (big push kind) with the water and ‘dump’ to water plants too! they get as wet as the garden, but it is a fun way to cool off! 🙂

    denise’s last blog post..get a little wild.

  17. My little one’s splash in an empty turtle sandbox their daddy filled up with warm water instead of sand. (The little girls next door have a sandbox, so our wee girl goes over there to play in the sand and they come here to splash in the turtle-pool.) Our 10 month old son LOVES it, splash Mommy and Daddy, splash big sister, splash big brothers if they come near, splash girls from next door. Splash, splash, splash. With older kids and limited space, the best idea I’ve ever seen was when my former Mother-in-law let my older boys play water-balloon catch on her 4 X 8 foot balcony when they were about 4 and 5 years old.
    Thanks so much for reminding me about painting with water! I did that all the time when I was little and tommorrow we’re getting out the paint brushes!

  18. hi Megan – just found your site…I love it since I am passionate about intentionality with our families.
    Water fun…we have a turtle tub filled up all day, but the cutest thing is that our puppies now have claimed it as their own. Six puppies don’t make room for the little ones. 🙂
    They’ll be gone soon, so we’re enjoying it as long as we can.

    Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam’s last blog post..Deals and Steals

  19. The other day I set up a bucket of water on our deck and gave my daughter some cups. She could have spent hours pouring and “throwing” water everywhere. She loved it!! It was a perfect time to whip out the camera…. The power of water to calm, excite, or energize always amazes me.

  20. My daughter recently made her own fountain in her pool. I am sure there was a science lesson there but I kind of missed it. The water gets higher and displaces the container. The picture is in this post. One other thing with water is we sometimes reuse the pool water for clotheswashing. I have an old fashioned tool of sorts and you can put in biodegradeable soap or not depending on where the pool is. Wash a few clothing items and hang them up on the line to dry outside. I use clothes that aren’t too dirty for this (ones that don’t need stain removal). 🙂

  21. I really like the idea of washing dishes out doors. I would have never thought of that on my own.

    I will give it a try today.

    My wife and I still take the little ones out and wash the cars in the drive way. They love playing in the soapy water and squirting and being squirted with the water hose.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Keith Martin
    Keith Martin´s latest post: Little Giant Pumps Whiskey Barrel Planter Fountain – Add a Classic “Folksy” Feel to Your Garden


  1. […] With the addition of a few cups and measuring spoons to scoop and pour with, she was content. Letting kids pretend to wash dishes outside is a fun idea. Pouring, splashing, and floating can be a part of the bath-time routine, […]