Water Play Ideas and Activities – Tray Play and More – Dream Gardens for Kids

Blog Post Summer Fun Water Play - Ice and animals in a tray with child's feet in

Garden Update

Thanks to @play_adventures for permission to use this wonderful image.

The weather in the UK is so unpredictable. One minute gloriuos sunshine and then back to rain! Not that Floss cares – kids often don’t. She loves to be out whatever the weather. One of my favourite quotes is:


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Thanks to @heads.shoulders.knees for permission to use this wonderful image.

If you visit my house, can breathe outdoors without having an asthma attack (unlike me right now – pollen nightmares), you’ll be dragged outside by a very eager toddler to her mud kitchen! I seriously can’t recommend a mud kitchen highly enough.

Both my little one and nephew absolutely love it. You can find my blog post on mud kitchens here. Often the first place for water play in our garden is the mud kitchen. Making soups, potions and planning big events such as birthday parties and pizza parties!

Top priorities for our garden is to add a more permanent water play area – although the mud kitchen always has some element of water play in it! If you’d rather have something that can be removed then tuff trays and small trays can be a great idea to bring water play into the garden.

New Resource Spotted

The latest trend for 2024 that I keep spotting everywhere is adding a little solar powered water fountain as a sensory feature. There’s simple designs like this one and this one gives off different light colours too. Do risk assess for your own homes/ settings as appropriate. I love that it’s powered by solar power – a great little introduction to little ones on renewable energy sources.

We also want to encourage more wildlife into our garden, so are looking to make our own bug hotel and bird friendly spots. If you’re looking to encourage more wildlife into your garden then you might like to check out my post here.

Here’s the rest of the original post on water play. I’ve updated a few more bits and added some fabulous new photographs from some lovely Instagram accounts to give you some inspiration whether you have a garden or not!

The Garden work has started

Garden Part II

The purple and green meadow of weeds have been lost in a mud bath, while work starts to take place to fit in some of the larger features for the garden.

Two very important raised planting areas are starting to take shape. One will be two tiered, a planting space for me and a lower planting space for Floss, where she can have responsibility for her own plants.


It was really important to us that Floss have a planting space of her own to tend to. Learning first-hand how to take care of plants, where our vegetables and fruit come from and what they need to grow is an important skill and one that young children love. The other raised planter will have a seating area to the front of it and a pergola over the top; I’m thinking muslin and rainbow hanging lanterns, but you’ll have to wait and see.

This seating will allow Floss access to the herb garden, which will be planted in the recess. The pergola a shady spot to play. I can’t wait to sit there taking in the infusion of herbs, while watching Floss adventure in the garden.

Thanks to @play_adventures for permission to use this wonderful image.

Simple and Messy

One of the wonderful advantages of outdoors is messy/ wet play happens somewhere you don’t have to worry about getting soaked or dirty. When the weather is really warm it can be great to have a couple of water play activities that take little set up to help everyone cool off. I love @play_adventures baby washing station ideas; great Montessori inspired activity.

You don’t need to do any big changes or work to get learning through play opportunities into your garden. A few pots, some soil and seeds – a bucket with some kitchen equipment.

Thanks to @play_adventures for permission to use this wonderful image.

In one of the schools I worked in we had an intake from over 20 different settings into our reception classes. This meant many children didn’t know anyone or only a handful of other children. We found that familiar spaces where children could play alongside each other very important to begin to build relationships and help children feel safe.

This concept would work equally well for new play dates where children are beginning to establish connections with each other back can do it in the safety and familiarity of nature.

Thanks to @mrs_fowkes87 for permission to use this wonderful image.

Developing Communication with Water Play

Areas we found particularly helpful for this were the home roleplay area and sand and water play areas. The nature of how these activities are often set up make them a non-invasive social opportunity. You can be engrossed in your own play, but in close proximity to others. But, it gives you the opportunity to communicate with others and for others to communicate with you when ready.

Yes, I did mention home roleplay area – this can absolutely be an outdoor area not just an indoor area. You could have a ‘garden’ attached to the house.

I love watching bonds form over such simple play concepts; children seeking to share experiences, negotiate the use of resources and collaborate to meet a shared goal.

Thanks to @artful_play for permission to use this wonderful image.

Nurturing Friendships

So, for me, as Floss is beginning to play alongside others and show an interest in their play, it’s important for me that she has spaces in the garden that can nurture her relationships as they develop into friendships. Not only can these relationships form, but a huge range of other skills can be developed, honed and mastered when playing with water; big concepts discovered and explored.

Fine and gross motor skills, language and scientific discovery, co-operation and negotiation all through water play. What shall we have in our garden? What would you have?

Thanks to @messyplaywithmia for permission to use this wonderful image.

Water Play Ideas

I’ve seen butler sinks and buckets used as small water play areas underneath outdoor taps, waterways rigged up to walls and tuff trays on their own or used at different heights. I’ve got some decisions to make!

Check out these fab pictures below. I love the social gathering in @kindiekorner’s photo. You can often find marble runs in charity shops very cheap, which could be used to make water passageways.

Water Play 6
Water Play 4

Both @learn_from_kids and @mrscollins_teacher (took an hour to make with cable ties) have made their own water walls.

Water Play 3

The great thing about water play is that you don’t have to buy anything. Most items can be found around the home or garden. Below is a quick list I’ve put together of things I’ve used in the past.


Check out some of our favourite resources for waterplay here.

  • Bowls
  • Sieves
  • Cups
  • Spoons
  • Funnels
  • Pots
  • Pans
  • Ladles
  • Droppers
Water Play 2

With thanks to @play.hooray for the kind permission to use their image.

Water Play 7
  • Pipettes
  • Water wheels
  • Drain pipes
  • Tubes
  • Bottles
  • Buckets
  • Plant pots – with and without holes
  • Bath toys
  • Jugs

With thanks to @bexie19 for the kind permission to use their image.

‘Real’ Gardening

‘Real’ jobs to do in the garden are very important and children of all ages will enjoy helping out in the garden – more about this in a future post.

Both water play and ‘real’ gardening opportunities open up a plethora of rich language opportunities. I’ve used Wordclouds.com to show just some of the language that you might introduce through water play with your little ones – there are lots more.

Water Words

No Garden?

Water Play 5
With thanks to @beckys_treasure_baskets for the kind permission to use their image.

Look no further than water play in a sink. Look at this fabulous invitation to play that @beckys_treasure_baskets has set up for her little ones. No extra space needed – just your imagination! Or search for #sinkplay and #sinkplayfriday and you’ll get lots of lovely ideas on Instagram. @mrs_fowkes87 has some fabulous bath time water play ideas too – check out a few of them below!

Garden Series Posts You’ll Love

Are you looking for a little garden inspiration? Would you like your children to be able to explore the outdoors and enjoy learning through play? This is the series for you. Click on the titles below to head to that blog post:

toddler playing in tuff tray with water and construction toys

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