Summer Water Play Activities for All Ages

I don’t know about you, but at our house, water play is always a favorite summer activity. The activities below vary in difficulty and level of parental involvement, so you can customize your water play experience to fit your needs. You should be able to find something here for kiddos from toddlers to teens!

The Simple

Buckets, Bowls, & Bins

Water play doesn’t have to be complicated! We love using buckets, bowls, and bins along with measuring cups and spoons, sponges, scrubbers, Solo cups, etc. (And as a medical family, you can always find a few plastic syringes of various sizes mixed into our water toys, too!)


Car Wash

Having a “car wash” is not only a fun water activity, but it gets those imaginations going, too! We have several variations on this one. Sometimes we use dish soap, sometimes just water. We wash my son’s play car, matchbox cars, or even our real vehicles! My son also likes to “drive” his car through water spraying from the hose. Fun times!


Squirt Guns / Spray Bottles

Summer just wouldn’t be summer without a little squirt gun fun! We have a collection of various sizes and power capabilities. I try to pick up multi-packs at the end of the summer when they’re on sale so we have fresh squirt guns at the beginning of the next summer. An inexpensive alternative is to use spray bottles! I like to pick them up at the dollar store and decorate them with fun duct tape. I also really like not having to help “fill up” so often! We have fun just spraying each other, spraying pictures on the cement, or trying to hit various targets.

The Slightly More Involved

Sponge Balls

What are sponge balls? Think snowball fight but in the summer! All you need are some sponges (again, thanks, dollar store!), rubber bands, and scissors. Cut each sponge into 3-4 strips, depending on the size of the sponge. Stack them 3 by 3, squeeze them together in the middle, and then put a couple of rubber bands around the middle. You can then arrange or “fluff” them out. We use a couple of bins (dollar store for the win again!) filled with water, and then we can play catch, have a sponge ball fight, or throw them at a target!



While not truly a water activity, bubbles are one of our summer favorites, too. I found a recipe on Pinterest to make your own bubble solution: 6 cups distilled water, ½ cup blue Dawn dish soap, and 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of glycerin (can be found at most pharmacies). Mix this solution gently (I used a pitcher), and you can make some awesome, super-strong bubbles! I found recipes that used corn syrup instead of glycerin, but you run the risk of attracting bugs if you don’t use it all in one sitting.

The Step-It-Up-To-A-Whole-New-Level


Stepping up the potential level of parent involvement, we have the slip-and-slide! For this, I just got a roll of 3.5 mil thick plastic sheeting from Wal-Mart. I decided how long we wanted it to be and unfolded it to a width that was 2 layers of plastic thick. Then I turned on the hose to wet it down. We found that it was helpful to leave the hose at one end to run water down the length of the plastic. Another option would be to use a sprinkler and have the plastic within range. I wanted to secure the corners so the edges would stay put a little better, but I didn’t come up with a safe option. Let me know if you have any secret tricks that would work!


Water Blobs

The ultimate water play idea we’ve tried: water blobs! Thanks again, Pinterest! The same plastic sheeting I used for the slip and slide came in handy again by cutting it into rectangles about 5 feet by 4 feet. I left one side of the plastic folded and used duct tape to seal around all the edges, including the folded side for additional reinforcement. On one side of each blob, I left an opening about 2 inches in length in order to fill it with water. Prior to filling the blobs, I swept our driveway and laid down a tarp to help minimize any puncturing. Once I had filled each one to my estimate of the appropriate “blobbiness,” I taped up the hole with several layers of duct tape. It seemed like the corners were potential spots for leaking, so I reinforced them with additional layers of tape, too.

The blobs stayed cool, the kids loved playing on them, and they lasted all afternoon! One lasted until the next morning, but for the most part, they served as short-term fun. If you want to take it up a level, you can add blue food coloring to the water and plastic fish for some interest! I have since found out that there are similar things that you can buy, but this was a fun, cost-effective station to have when we threw a water party last summer!

Just a few other water fun tips to pass along:

  • As I mentioned, dollar stores are great places to pick up things to use for water play: sponges, measuring cups, bins/bowls, spray bottles, etc.
  • Watch the clearance sales at the end of the summer for things to get cheap for next summer! I picked up the octopus spray toy below for just a few dollars last August. Stores start discounting these types of things after the 4th of July. During my most recent trip to Target, it looks like most water play stuff is currently 20% off. It will go lower!


  • Magic Balloons / Bunch-O-Balloons / Fast Fill No Tie Water Balloons are another brilliant invention (I rank them up there with Mr. Clean Magic erasers and Tide Pens!). These gems let you fill up ~100 balloons in just minutes! I feel they are well worth it, and you can find them many places online and in stores this summer.

What are your favorite summer water play activities? If you try any of these, we’d love to see your pictures!



Sara is a NW Iowa native who moved across the state to become a Hawkeye! After her time at the U of I, she left for optometry school and residency before coming home to Iowa to start her “adult” life in Coralville. She was in clinical practice for 5 years before trying her hand at the research side of eye care, working on clinical trials in the pharma/biotech industry. Sara is a wife, mom to a 5-year-old boy, and step-mom to four teenagers! Because her son was born at 25 weeks and had a lengthy NICU stay, Sara is passionate about all things related to prematurity, especially parent support in the NICU. She loves connecting with fellow NICU moms, both online and in person. Sara also enjoys spending time with friends and extended family, reading, scrapbooking, organizing, knitting, travel, keeping up with tech trends, finding new wines to enjoy, honing her photography skills, and serving on the Family Advisory Council for UI Children’s Hospital. She’s a consultant for Jamberry Nails, too, which lets her dabble in her creative side.


  1. A friend of mine has a slip-n-slide party every year. They use pool noodles on the sides of the plastic to help create a “lane” to slide down. I am pretty sure they wrap the plastic around the pool noodle and stake it down underneath of the noodle. This way you don’t have to worry about running into the stakes. Hope you can get some ideas from that.


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