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15 Outdoor Water Play Activities for EYFS

15 Outdoor Water Play Activities for EYFS

Water play offers endless learning and sensory opportunities. How many other EYFS resources can be calming and stimulating simultaneously? Not only is water play a great way for children to emotionally regulate, but it also helps brain development. Magic!

In this article, we’ll unpick why water play should be top of the list for EYFS learning activities and share some EYFS water play activities to make a splash.


lego in water table


Why is water play so important in EYFS?

We all know the importance of water play for child development. Activities using water play tables can help boost imagination and encourage the free-flow play encouraged in the EYFS framework.

Water play is one of the best pieces of EYFS outdoor play equipment. It can also introduce the gross and fine motor skills needed for pincer grips. Great writers are built through water play… who knew?

Water play is a total sensory experience for children, so it can be stimulating and calming. Water play tables can be used for emotional regulation with young children, building strategies to help with regulation from an early age. Adding water play tables into a sensory circuit in your outdoor space can help children to get the sensory feedback they need to regulate.

How does water play fit into the EYFS framework?

Water play activities are so versatile. The EYFS framework shouts about how play should be the vehicle for learning in the early years.

Although water play doesn’t have its own official Early Learning Goal (ELG), it flows across several ELGs and areas of learning and development. Supporting communication and language, turn-taking and sharing, social development, emotional regulation and, of course, multisensory learning.

How can you learn about pirates without seeing a tempest in a tuff tray?

15 Outdoor water play activity ideas

You can never have too many water play activity ideas! We share 15 of our favourite activities to try using water play tables and other EYFS equipment.

Sing it out

Children learn best when a multisensory approach is used. Pair singing well-known water-related nursery rhymes with water play. The mixture of repetitive actions and words helps children make connections that will stick.

Here are our favourite water-related nursery rhymes:

  • Row Row Your Boat
  • Rain, Rain, Go Away
  • I’m a Little Teapot

Story time

Water and books usually don’t mix, except for this activity. Pairing water play with story time can help children remember parts of the story and keep their attention by making it interactive.

Children can make their own Rainbow Fish to pull through the water at points in the story. Or join in with the characters in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and splish and splash through the water play table in their adventure.


Sponge fun

The muscles needed to squeeze a sponge should not be overlooked. Encourage the children to move a small amount of water from one container to another using only sponges. Dunk the sponges and squeeze them into the new container to build gross motor skills, wrist and hand strength, and coordination.

Careful measures

Have a Sharpie to hand? Great! Then, you’re all set for the next water play activity. Using some plastic measuring jugs you already have, draw measure lines on some of the larger containers. Encourage the children to fill to the line using smaller containers—careful not to overfill!

Although to us adults, this may sound as fun as filling up your petrol tank, giving children the challenge to make adjustments independently to reach the line is a real pat on the back and a goal achieved.

Balance the scales

Using a weights and scales station, children can try to balance the water weight by adding small amounts each time. The beginnings of estimation and understanding the concept of equals to are learned through hands-on water play activities.


Level up the water

Why not make sponges and containers more fun? Add some colour and bubbles, and watch what happens. Mix primary colours together and create potions for magical spells. If you’re feeling brave, you can even add a sprinkling of glitter.

Chilly and warm!

Stick ice cubes and water on one section of the Water Channel Table, and place luke-warm water on the opposite side. Children can use the movable slide to combine the two temperatures, noticing the difference.

These simple water play activities will build children’s scientific thinking.

To add some contrast and comparison, have two containers of warm and cool water (avoid extremes for health and safety). Boost children’s vocabulary by describing how one feels and then the other.

A giant ice cube

Make a giant ice cube (it can be as big as you like, depending on your freezer space!) Challenge the children to notice what happens if warm water is poured onto the ice cube.


Using warm water on a plate, add three Skittles spaced out in a triangle shape. Watch the children’s eyes light up as the warm water dissolves the sugars and mixes the colours together. Can they guess what colours will be made?

Sand and water

Sand and water tables are great for moulding shapes and seeing the impact adding water can have. If dry sand is available, ask the children to make a simple shape. Now, do the same when you add a little water to the sand.

Of course, you can’t play in a sandpit without hunting for buried treasure. Hide numbers or letters in the sandpit, and using tools, the children can uncover the numbers. The next task: ordering them!


Freeze some of your classroom’s most popular toys into containers the night before. Then, use toy hammers, diggers, or other age-appropriate items to free the toys. You could tie this into other themes, such as unicorns or dinosaurs!

Make your mark

Using a simple paintbrush and water, ask the children to paint outside on the floor or walls with water.  You could draw some letters or numbers in chalk and ask the children to trace over them or copy them next to them. Even the most reluctant of writers won’t be able to resist!

Let’s race!

Using a Water Wall and moving the funnels and tubes to different positions and angles can allow for racing boats and other toys down. Who will get there the quickest? What happens if you change the volume of water or use a heavier/lighter toy?


Get clean

Allowing children to spend time washing their feet, to feel different temperatures, and to experience colder or warmer water. Not only is this a great tool for a sensory circuit, it also helps children to begin to become more independent.

Let it grow

Using easy-to-grow flowers or fruit (strawberries are best and tastiest!) in planters can be an easy and practical way to use water. Children can learn how nature changes from seeds to flowers or edible food and take on responsibility for watering the plants daily and ensuring they grow.  Try a rota for each child to have a turn each morning, or measure how tall the plants are growing.


How Fawns can help with improving your playground

Our experts take the hassle away from designing your dream playground. Our process is simple and easy to get started. If you’re ready for your free design consultation, just book a slot that suits you online.

Not at that stage yet? We have a free playground equipment brochure to give you ideas on products and check out our recent projects page to get some inspiration!

Or, if you’d like to chat to one of our friendly playground experts about fundraising, budget questions or installations, you can contact us here.


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Written by Louise Jackson, Content Writer for Fawns.

After being in the classroom and in the leadership team in mainstream and SEND settings for over 9 years, I write educational content for wonderful companies, like Playtime by Fawns whose core mission is to increase active play enjoyment for all!