Water play activity ideas don’t have to be saved for summertime, they can be enjoyed all year round. Water play is a great sensory activity for babies and toddlers as it encourages them to use 3 out of their senses. Playing in water will also help babies become more confident and will help them to get used to the sensation of water on their face – something that may help when taking them swimming. Water play indoors doesn’t take a huge amount of clearing up – if you are prepared and have the right supplies.
Using a container and doing the water play in the bathroom makes clearing up easy and quick. You can tip the water away in the bath or shower and wipe the floor with a towel. There are a few reasons why I don’t use the bath for water play. Firstly, K wants to be standing up all the time and would slip over. Secondly, I would have to undress and dress him again, which is more hassle than it’s worth in my opinion. Especially when you have a little boy that would rather be crawling than getting dressed!
Before You Start the Water Play Activity Ideas
As mentioned, you will need a container for the water play. Make sure this isn’t too deep, you don’t want it to hold too much water. On the other hand, try to make sure it’s not too shallow either. Ideally, you want the water level to come halfway up your baby’s forearm when they put their hand in.
Next, make sure you have a couple of towels handy. You may need one to dry your baby afterwards and one to wipe the floor. You may even want to put a towel under or in front of the container to absorb any water spillage. Other things you should have prepared include a changing mat, a change of clothes for your baby and a nappy. I found I only had to change K out of his wet clothes twice and having a stash of nappies in the bathroom cupboard made this easier. Once you have these things, the only other things you need are toys/things to put in the water.
Try not to spend too much time gathering lots of fancy items for the water, babies won’t usually engage with an activity for a long period of time. So the last thing you want is to be spending 15 minutes finding all these lovely things, only for them to be disinterested after 5 minutes.
We don’t have a massive amount of space in our bathroom. But sitting K close to the doorway and turning the container landscape gave him more room to play. After the activity, I emptied the container, turned it upside down and left it in the bath to dry, meaning it was ready for the next day.
Before you do the activities, think about what time in the day is best. For me, the timing of these activities was key. I always tried to do it in the morning just before K’s first nap. That way, it meant that I would only need to change him once for the day (as he was still in his sleep suit). It also meant I wouldn’t need to do an extra nappy change if he got wet.
When first planning these activities, I had expectations of K splashing about in the water happily, getting soaking wet. After all, he enjoys bath time and we used to go swimming every week up until recently (we can’t at the moment due to Corona Virus). However, the reality was a lot different. At first, he barely put his hands in the water and spent less than 5 minutes engaged in the activity. But as the days went on, K became more confident and was interested for longer. By day 5, he was splashing the water, getting himself wet and getting it on his face. He didn’t even bat an eyelid when he crawled into the container full of water!
So, if you try this activity and your baby seems uninterested, try it again a few more times. It may be that they are just a bit wary of a new experience. When doing water play make sure your sole focus is on your baby. Water poses such a danger to babies and anything can happen in a split second.
Here are the water play ideas we did this week and the ones that you can try with your baby too.
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Day 1 – Spring-themed
For this spring-themed water play activity, you will need to collect flowers beforehand. If you aren’t using them straight away, it’s a good idea to put them in water so they stay fresh. Create an additional sensory activity by letting your baby explore them before adding them to the water. When adding the flowers, try to add one at a time. Talk to your baby about what you’re doing and gauge their reaction. After this, try adding in the stems. K wasn’t too keen on the flowers. Each time he touched them he made the funniest face and pushed them away! Overall, K was focused on this activity for less than 5 minutes, so I’m glad it didn’t take me a long time to prepare. The flowers kept for a day or two after the activity.
Day 2 – Kitchen Utensils, Water Play Activity Idea
Grab some clean kitchen utensils and add them to the water. Wooden spoons are always great to use, as are any plastic utensils like whisks or potato mashers. Let your baby freely play in the water with utensils and try to notice their interests and encourage them. For example, if you notice they are banging a spoon against the container, encourage them to do it more. Try to use a phrase associated with the action. I thought this one would be a hit with K because wooden spoons are one of his favourite things to play with. But it turns out, that although he loves them, he doesn’t love them in water. He spent longer at the water, compared to the previous day. But just took the utensils out of the water and played with them in his lap!
Day 3 – Sponges
For this water play activity idea, find some sponges and add them to the water. I used brand new cleaning sponges for this, which I cut up. Again, start off by letting your baby explore. Once your baby has done this, try putting them on the top of the container and see what they do. You could also grab one of the sponges and squeeze the water out over your baby’s hand. K enjoyed this water play activity idea more than the previous days. He used the container to pull himself to standing and he was content in getting his hands right into the water to get the sponges. He happily played with them in and out of the water and also enjoyed chewing on them.
Day 4 – Foam Numbers and Bubbles
For day 4’s water play activity idea, you will need foam numbers or letters and bubble bath. Try adding some of the foam numbers or letters to the water and stick others to the tiles. Encouraging your baby to take them off the tiles will help to develop their fine motor skills. Foam numbers or letters work well in water because they float and are easy for babies to grab. K enjoyed retrieving the sponges and chewing on them for this activity. They definitely helped with his teething. If you don’t have any foam numbers to hand, try using bubble bath instead.
Day 5 – Cups For Pouring, Water Play Activity Idea
Collect different pouring cups and buckets and add them to the water for day 5’s water play activity idea. Before adding them to the water, let your baby handle them so that they are familiar with them. Then add them and let them explore. The cups we used had different holes at the bottom. This meant most of the water poured out into the container when K took them out. They also helped K to build on his understanding of cause and effect.
K was so much more engaged in this water play activity idea. He spent at least 15 minutes taking the cups out of the water and splashed the water so much that it got his face wet- it was so lovely to watch! Adding different pouring cups to water is great for the developing baby’s fine motor skills. This muscles in their hands will strengthen when lifting the cups out of the water. If you don’t have any pouring cups, you could try piercing some holes in plastic cups and use them instead.
Day 6 – Playballs
Day 6’s water activity involved using play balls. These are great to use because adding them to water will give your baby more of a challenge. When they are wet and floating in the water, they become harder to grab. Start off by adding only a few balls first to gauge your baby’s reaction. Then slowly add more. You could try taking all of the balls out of the water and encourage your baby to add them back in.
Day 7 – Wooden Blocks, Water Play Activity Idea
For the final water play activity idea, try using wooden building blocks and a colander. Add all of the blocks to the colander first and teach your baby to drop the blocks into the water. Alternatively, put all the blocks in the water and have your baby take them out and put them into the colander. The blocks we used kept their colour well. They were a hit with K because he could bang them on the colander and the side of the container. They also made a great splash when dropped in the water – but not so much for water to go everywhere.
So there are my 7 days of water play activity ideas that I did with my 9-month-old this week. I hope I’ve inspired you to try them too. For other water play activity ideas, try adding citrus fruits such as lemons, limes and oranges to the water. This then encourages your baby to use all 5 of their senses! Collecting pebbles from the beach (use your judgement on size) and adding them to water play is another fantastic idea you could try.
Have you tried any other water play activity ideas with your baby? Let me know in the comments section below, I’d love to know.