Baby Play: Water Play

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Babies love getting messy as they explore their world. Water play is an easy way to dip your toe into messy play without risking anything too problematic for your space or for your little ones. When using water, I warn parents at the beginning of storytime and provide plenty of other activities during Discovery Time in case parents would prefer to keep their little ones away from the potential mess.

Water play can be as simple or advanced as you’d like. We don’t have a water table, so I use clear plastic tubs filled with about 1-2 inches of water, placed on top of tarps. When selecting a tub, make sure to think about how easy it is to move when filled with water and how far you need to move it, if you are using it after a storytime.

You can include any number of activities with water play, including just putting out a bin with water and no additional items. Some of my favorites more elaborate activities include:

  • Foam Shapes on Windows: When wet, foam sticks to windows (or mirrors). If you have windows low enough for little ones, consider placing water play nearby.
  • Hand Colanders: I have a collection of hand colanders from the Dollar Tree and Walmart that I put out with a collection of Duplos, pool noodle pieces, and other items that float. Small hand colanders (with a handle like a serving spoon) are great for scooping.
  • Will it float? Give little ones a variety of water-safe items–some that float and some that don’t. I like to use baby bath toys, ball pit balls, pool noodle pieces, foam shapes, Duplos, rubber ducks, shaker eggs, and more.

How to Make Water Play Activities

Materials: tub, water, tarps, play toys as desired (foam shapes, hand colanders, and other items like those listed above), paper towels


  • Fill tub with 1-2 inches of water before program.
  • Either before program starts or during playtime, lay tarp on ground.
  • Place bin on top.
  • Put other items nearby, including paper towels for parents.

Cost: $10

Time to Make: < 5 minutes

Pro-Tip: Pick a warm day! Water play is fun every day, but no one is excited to take a potentially soaked baby outside in frigid temperatures.

Pro-Tip 2: If you are putting out items like foam shapes or hand colanders, don’t also put them in a bucket or bowl. Babies will figure out that the items in the container can be dumped iout and the container can be used to carry–and spill–water.

Pro-Tip 3: Use one tub exclusively for water play for safety (no risk of paint particles coming off a container and floating in water a baby may swallow).

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Which items float? Which items sink?
  • What does the water feel like?
  • What does the pool noodle feel like?
  • Can you pick something up with the colander?
  • Can you make a foam shape stick to the board?
  • What color is your foam shape?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:




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  1. Pingback: At-Home Baby Play | Book Cart Queens

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