Family Games

5 Water Play Ideas and Games for Babies

By: Highlights Editorial
Laughing baby girl playing with soap bubbles outdoors.
Ages 0-2
Critical Thinking
Fine Motor Skills
Social Emotional

Water play offers multiple learning opportunities for babies. When your toddler splish-splashes in the tub, or tosses toys into a bucket of water, it’s an opportunity to discover what floats and what doesn’t. 

Water play gets a baby’s whole body moving and all five senses are engaged. Your child can observe cause-and-effect in action as well as witness the change in the force and sound of running water. 

Water play isn’t just reserved for bath night, either so grab some inexpensive water-worthy toys plastic cups, spoons, bowls, sieves, colorful balls and pots and pans and use the ideas below to make splash time part of daily play time. 

Remember: never leave baby unattended in or near water.

Demonstrate opposites

Because showing is better than telling, start teaching your tot the difference between big/small and empty/full, using measuring cups in different sizes. You can buy colorful cups made for tub time or use your own plastic kitchen accessories. Fill a large bowl or small bucket with water and start the fun! Encourage your child to experiment.

“Paint” with water

Babies love brushes and art but cleaning up a finger-painting session isn’t so fun. “Painting” with water will keep you both happy (even if you must wipe up a puddle). Fill a plastic cup with water, give your toddler some colored construction paper and a brush, and let her go to town, fine-tuning her motor coordination and refining her artistic eye. If it’s a warm day, give your toddler a bucket and a brush and encourage them to “paint” the sidewalk or deck. 

Host a bubble bash for two

It’s impossible not to smile at bubbles floating gracefully into the air, and babies find this thrilling. Blow bubbles using different-sized wands. Talk about sizes and help boost vocabulary with words like high/low, up/down, wet/dry, and again and sticky. Older toddlers will love chasing bubbles and trying to pop them. 

Squish deflated water balloons

For a sensory delight, fill balloons with a small amount of water, just enough to allow some expansion. Tie the ends in a knot. Place the balloons in a bowl. Let your little one experience a sensory extravaganza, squishing and squashing them this way and that. Kids love the feeling of gently squeezing water balloons between their fingers. (Remove any popped balloons immediately, as they pose a choking hazard.)

Talk about global warming 

OK, not really. But it’s never too soon to introduce a low-key lesson in basic science. When your baby is seated in a highchair, place a few pieces of crushed ice in a plastic cup. Allow your baby to try and pick up the cubes, chase the cubes around the tray and watch them “disappear” as they melt. (Be sure to use crushed ice and not ice cubes for this activity to avoid a choking hazard.)

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By: Highlights Editorial