Early Childhood water play

We know kids love to play with water so we have got a few ideas to keep the fun happening but lowering the amount of water you use. Try them out, let us know what you think and share with friends and family!

Watch the Smart water song featuring Chris Lam Sam - this fun and interactive music video is specially designed for young children to enjoy and will have them dancing and singing and learning about saving water.

Dinosaur dig

You can use all the toys you already have and natural items for this activity.  All you need is a freezer to freeze a block of water.

This does take some preparation, but is great for birthdays or family gatherings when there’s lots of children to entertain.

What you need to make the ice block:
•    Toys and objects to go in the ice block (see below for ideas)  
•    Large tub to freeze – use a cake ring for a smaller end result.

What the children need to get into the ice block:
•    Salt shaker coloured with a few drops of blue food colouring (salt makes ice melt faster! See it in action above).
•    Small pate spreaders
•    Syringes
•    Plastic test tubes
•    Turkey baster
•    Tweezers
•    Bowl of hot water
•    Anything that they will be able to use to chip away at the ice! 

Ideas of what you can add to the ice
•    Dinosaurs / cars / farm animals
•    Stones / shells / drift wood
•    Decorative glass pebbles / plastic crystals
•    Buttons /  treasure / plastic pearls
•    Glitter
•    Anything! 

How to do it:
For best results, freeze your ice in layers over the course of a couple of days.  Add a few items to the water, place the container in the freezer and repeat with another layer when the previous one is frozen.    

If you are using smaller items (gems, gold coins and pearls) you can freeze them in an ice tray then add all the cubes to a bigger container and freeze together.

To get the ice block out, run the container under hot water for a short time, it should pop right out.  Place the ice block in a larger container to make sure you collect the melting water.

Children enjoy using tools to get into the dig. Anything will be fun, especially squirting things like syringes or turkey basters.  

Up-cycled watering can

Have you got a keen mini gardener at home?  Get them involved in this low water, upcycled project.

What you need:
• Thumb tack
• Clean milk bottle (or any plastic bottle with a lid and a handle)
• String
• Optional:  Paint, markers, varnish

How to do it:
Use the thumb tack to press holes into the lid.  Wiggle it around to make the holes a bit wider.  Cover the whole surface with holes.

Tie a bit of string through one of the holes and tie to the handle.  This will make sure the lid doesn’t get lost.

Optional:  You child can decorate the bottle.  Once the paint is dry add a varnish or transparent spray paint to give it a protective layer so the paint doesn’t come right off.

Smart Water Tip:
Watering by hand saves heaps of water.  Getting children involved is a great time to teach about what plants to water and when to water.

Window Art

Toddlers love this activity.  It’s quick and easy and different every time!  Really good for under 4's.

What you need:
•    A window or ranch slider
•    Bowl
•    Paint bush
•    Foam shapes, letters, number (non-adhesive)

How to do it:
Children simply wet their brush in the bowl of water and either ‘paint’ the glass or directly onto the shape. Then press to stick the foam shapes on the glass.  They stay up for about an hour.

Smart Water Tip:
Water is limited to one bowl for this play activity, which is great!
Any left over water can be used on your garden.

Car wash

Set up a muddy car wash for a morning full of fun!  Dirt, cars and soapy water!  It will keep little car-lovers entertained for ages!  Drive those cars through the mud, down the ramp, and “splash” into a bucket of soapy water!

What you need:
•    2 rectangle containers (one for mud one for the car wash)
•    Soil/potting mix/sand
•    A ramp.  Car tracks or a plank of wood work.
•    Squirt of dishwashing liquid.

How to do it:
Make a mud pit in the container (or use a natural one in your garden).  This is where the cars and trucks get muddied up!
Link this mud area with the ramp into the “car wash”.  Add a squirt of dishwashing liquid and some water.  

Smart Water Tip:
Even water with dishwashing liquid left over water can be used on your garden, just avoid your edible garden plants.

Running water station

Here’s an easy way to add running water to any outdoor play space, without letting your kids loose on the hose.

Children can use the water for any play activities like tea parties, mud kitchen, sensory soups and for washing up too!  But the amount of water used is up to you.

Kids love having complete control over that simple, little tap. Cranking that handle can be a bit tricky.  It requires strength and co-ordination to turn the tap off and on, but they work together and help each other to make it happen. 

What you need:
•    Your camping water container or similar 10-20 litre water container.
•    A “catch it” container to catch any spilled water.

Sensory soup or Fairy tea

Making a special soup is a great way for kids to enjoy some water and play with flowers and other treasures from the garden and strengthening their cutting skills.

What you need:
•    Food colouring 
•    Herbs 
•    Edible petals, or greens from the garden
•    Slices of colourful fruit
•    Pebbles and buttons
Optional:  edible glitter, in case they get carried away and drink it!
•    Large mixing bowl / container
•    Soup ladle, whisk, small bowls and cups
•    Scissors

How to do it:
Fill the large bowl, add the food colouring, set out the rest of the equipment. Encourage children to explore the garden to add the special flavours to the soup.

Chalk water colour pavement painting

This activity uses very little water and is great for younger children or more advanced artists!  

What you need :
•    Chalk (find the larger sticks at the discount store)
•    Wide paint brushes.
•    Small water container for wetting the brushes.

How to do it:
Let the children draw with the chalk.  Encourage them to use lots of colours and different designs.  It works best if the chalk covers the whole area.  

Paint water over the chalk drawings. This is a great way to use those old paintbrushes that are too scruffy to use for home-decorating projects anymore.

Sponge water bombs

Sick of trying to pick up all the plastic water balloons after the last party?  Spend a few minutes to make these sponge water bombs, they can be reused and save you from water balloon litter! They’re great fun for all ages, even teenagers.

What you need:
•    Sponges, look for thicker ones
•    Good scissors
•    Strong string, or cable ties
•    Two buckets

How to do it:
Cut your sponges into long fingers.  Then use string/cable ties to secure in the middle.  If using cable ties, make sure you trim the remainder off, to remove the risk of scratching.

Place two buckets (half full) in different areas of your garden and let the children go wild!  They can make rules, set home bases – the possibilities are endless!

Recycled water wall

With a few DIY skills and some materials from your recycling bin you can provide hours of learning and entertainment for your toddler with one bucket of water used!  If you are lacking in DIY cable ties or a staple gun might work for you to secure the bottles and pipes.

What you need:
•    A fence (or an old door, outdoor table, BBQ trolley, left over garden lattice – anything that works!)
•    Empty plastic bottles, containers, pipes, plant pots
•    Screws, staple gun, or cable ties (depending on your DIY ability or durability required)
•    Large bin to be the water collector.

How to do it:
Attach your bottles, tubes and containers in a way that allows water to flow from one to another.  Your older children can help holding things in place as you secure them.

Cutting an opening length ways on soft drink bottles is a good tip.  Also a milk bottle with the bottom cut off makes a great scoop.

Place a large bin or a bucket at the bottom to collect all the water so they can reuse the same water many times down the water wall.

Smart Water play guidelines

1. Choose Smart Water play
Ideas in this booklet limit water use but not fun!  They often use a very small amount of water that can be used for hours of fun.

2. Set a timer
If you’re using the hose or sprinkler for play set a timer for 10 minutes max.  Let your children know they can play until the timer goes off.

3. Move play around your lawn
Use the drips, drops and water used for play to water your lawn when you can.

4. Reuse the water
When children are done playing with water tip it onto your lawn or plants!

5. Start the conversation
Let your children know that water is special, it’s a natural resource that we need to look after.  We need a new generation of Smart Water kids!