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8 fun DIY water play ideas

In the dog days of summer, kids love to cool off by playing in water, but they get tired of the same old sprinkler or kiddie pool. Here are eight easy and inexpensive DIY outdoor activities to keep kids of all ages both occupied and cool!

  1. Soda bottle sprinkler. Turn a two-litre soda bottle into a sprinkler! Take a clean, two-litre plastic bottle and drill holes all over the sides of the bottle using a handheld drill. You can use a smaller bit and drill lots of tiny holes, or use a larger bit and drill fewer holes. Next, attach a hose connector to the end of a garden hose. Attach the bottle to the hose by screwing it into the connector. Turn on the hose and let the kids play! This sprinkler is fun on its side on the grass, or toss the hose with the attached sprinkler over the swingset or a tree branch to make a “shower.”
  2. Liquid chalk paint. For outdoor art that is a step above sidewalk chalk, try making your own liquid chalk paint. First, purchase jumbo-sized, washable chalk from your local dollar store. Now you will need to break up the chalk into a powder. This can be accomplished by either putting the chalk into a sealed plastic bag and pulverizing the chalk with a hammer, or grating the chalk using the smallest holes of a cheese grater. Add the powdered chalk to a food storage container and mix in water; about one-half cup of water per jumbo size piece of chalk makes a nice consistency. You will have a few chunks, but the mixture should be mostly liquified. Repeat the process with different colored chalk until you have several different colors of chalk paint, each in its own container. Give the kids paint brushes and let them paint the fence, concrete porch, or sidewalk, then turn the hose on their creation to wash it away and begin again.
  3. Squirt gun target practice. When the kids get tired of squirting each other, set up targets for them to aim at! One way is to simply draw targets with washable sidewalk chalk onto a fence. Draw several circles, starting with a small bullseye in the center and adding three or four more circles around the bullseye, each one bigger than the last. Assign each circle a point value and let the kids compete to see who can hit the most points! Plastic disposable drinking cups also make great targets. Line up plastic cups side-by-side onto a deck railing, or stack them upside down into a pyramid shape and shoot away!
  4. Water piñata. Let the kids release some pent-up energy and cool off with a piñata filled with water! Take a plastic grocery bag and fill it about halfway with water. Using the handles of the bag, tie the water-filled bag over a tree branch. The bag doesn’t need to be sealed. Let the kids hit the water bag with tennis rackets, plastic bats, or a cardboard wrapping paper tube. What a great way to recycle those plastic grocery bags! These water piñatas won’t last long, but getting wet is the point of this activity, so who cares?
  5. Ice excavation. Freeze plastic toys into a block of ice for kids to excavate! To prepare for this activity, fill plastic cups or small food storage containers about two-thirds full with water, and then drop one or two small toys into each container. Freeze each filled container until the water is a solid block of ice, then remove the ice block and place it outside in a large plastic bowl or metal baking dish. Now, let the kids figure out how to get the toys out of the ice. Offer options such as squirt guns filled with warm water, salt, or cups of warm water. Older kids can chip away at the ice with metal forks  or butter knives. For a fun twist, try tinting the water blue with food coloring and using ocean-themed toys, or pair green water with tiny dinosaur toys.
  6. Sponge balls. Make fun “sponge balls” from dollar store sponges. Cut two rectangular sponges lengthwise into four pieces each, then stack the strips into two layers of four pieces each. Wrap a rubber band tightly around the midpoint of the stacked sponges. Fluff up and pull at the sponge strips until you have a ball shape. To play, give kids a bowl or bucket of water to dip the sponge balls into. Wet sponge balls are great for tag, target practice, or just tossing back and forth between kids.
  7. Colored ice cubes. This is a great one for toddlers. Take an ice cube tray and add several drops of food coloring to the bottom of each section of the tray. Then, fill the entire ice cube tray with water. Once the cubes are frozen, dump the colored ice out into a baby pool or plastic bowl filled with water. Toddlers will enjoy playing with the colored ice and watching it melt and turn the water pretty colors. Since the water is tinted with food coloring, the ice cubes will be safe to nibble on. Of course, parents should always closely supervise children when near any water!
  8. Water race track or lazy river. Kids love to watch stuff float down a stream! Here are two ways to create a mini river or water race track. For a race track, purchase a short length of a gutter (the kind on roofs) from your local home improvement store. Set the gutter up against the seat of a lawn chair in the backyard so that the gutter slopes down to the ground. Place a garden hose at the top of the gutter and turn on the water. Kids can float leaves, dandelions, bathtub toys, and more down the waterway. You can even set up two tracks side-by-side and hold a race! Or, make a lazier river by shaping aluminum foil into a gutter shape and put it directly on the grass in a place where the ground slopes gently. You can use the hose to create the waterway, or let the kids pour water down your river with a cup or bucket. 


Tiffany is a freelance writer and the mother of three children. 


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