Encouraging your child to play with water is one of the easiest and cheapest sensory play ideas out there. From splashing in the bath to making mud pies, water is a great tool to help your toddler explore the world around them.
Most babies and toddlers love water and why wouldn’t they — it’s got familiar womb memories tied to it and it’s both calming and super exciting and fun. It can be held, sprayed, dripped, splashed, coloured, frozen and scented, making it one of the most versatile toys in the world. Best of all for a busy mum — it’s super easy to clean up!
Whether you are new to sensory play or an experienced hand, here are five water-based sensory play ideas that your toddler is sure to love. Have a towel or two at the ready and get set for some serious fun.
Water and shaving cream on their own are fun, but combined they take sensory play to a whole new level. For this activity all you need to do is fill a bucket or bowl with some water and spray a few shaving cream “icebergs” on top of the water. Talk to your toddler about what is happening — the shaving cream is floating — and encourage them to gently move the iceberg around with their fingers. Then let them discover what happens when the cream mixes with the water and how it feels on their hands. You can even add food dye to the icebergs — watch the water change colour as the icebergs melt.
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Ice age discovery box
An ice age discovery box is a perfect toddler activity for a hot summer day. Simply fill an ice cream tub with water and a bunch of small toys and freeze overnight. Take the ice out of the box the following day and place in the garden. Give your toddler a few “tools” to play archaeologist with or simply watch the ice melt throughout the day to reveal all sorts of surprises.
Painting is fun but if you’re not in the mood to clean up the mess, ice painting is for you. Simply mix 5-6 drops of red, blue and yellow food colouring into three small bowls, each filled with about a 1/4 cup of water. Pour each bowl of coloured water into an icecube tray so you have a few cubes of each colour. Freeze until set. Once frozen, pop the icecubes from the tray and let your child paint with them on a sheet of paper.
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Here’s a fun game to stimulate your child’s sense of hearing. Gather a few glass jars and pour a different amount of water into each jar. Then let your toddler gently hit the side of each of the jars with a wooden spoon to hear the different noises it makes. Show them how the level of water affects the sound by filling up the jars while they are watching.
Beach at home
If a trip to the beach isn’t on your agenda then why not bring the seaside to your own backyard? You don’t need sand — you can easily create a crunchy sounding beach in a shallow tray with dry rice instead. Tuck shells, toys and other objects into the rice and encourage your toddler to discover them. Talk about the sound of the rice and how it feels when water is added. You can put a shallow tray of water beside the tray of rice or mix them both together, creating a “shore” by piling the rice at one end of the tray. When you’re done, simply rinse the rice and it will be ready to cook.