Let’s Get Messy…with Water!

Written by Agnes, staff member, Keshen Goodman Public Library

Sensory play—activities designed to stimulate your child's senses and develop fine motor skills—are tons of fun, but they can be messy! A great way to explore sensory play, reduce clean up, and take advantage of the warmer weather is to do some outdoor water play. It's time to go outside and make a mess!

Outdoor pond

laundry basket, roasting pan, bucket, and blue bag

Kids of all ages love water play! You can make a pond with laundry basket, or a roasting pan, or a dish pan…whatever you have on hand! Just line it with a blue recycle bag, and you've got yourself a pond. 

Fun pond additions

With a little preparation several hours in advance (the night before play, perhaps?), you can have colourful ice creations to put in the pond—a great chance to play with water as a liquid and as a solid.

Ice shapes 

Messy Play-BLOG-inline2

Use an assortment of containers to make lots of shapes, like the containers above. Add some food colouring to make it colourful!

Finger paint shapes

Did you know that finger paint can be frozen into cookie cutters to make 3D shapes? We placed a cookie cutter on top of a plastic lid, put enough finger paint inside the cookie cutter to make it about half full, and pop it in the freezer taking care to keep it flat. After a few hours, voila! You have a finger paint star fish.

star cookie cutter half full with paint

Hidden gems

You can freeze small toys in the ice shapes for discovery when melting. Hmm, what could be in this one? *Be careful that the toys aren’t a choking hazard if they will be handled by preschoolers.*

shapes frozen into ice


Add a jelly fish or an octopus by cutting a corner of a plastic produce bag and tying it with thread to trap a little air.

plastic bag jelly fish

You can colour the bag with permanent marker first if you like!

homemade jelly fish and star fish

Ice structures

You can make a tower of ice…how high can you build it?

colourful ice tower

Make an iceboat for an explorer to sail on!

ice boat

Oops! Lucky there was a lifeboat near by!

ice boat rescue photo

Your ice creations won’t stay around very long, so have fun before they melt.

Exploring sinking and floating

Playing in the “pond” is also great time to explore sinking and floating; try common household things to see what happens. This painted rock frog sinks on its own, but not if it sits on the lily pad. Check out this post explaining buoyancy, opens a new window for kids to find out why. 

frog toy in a play pond

We hope that our ideas have inspired you to explore sensory play in your own backyard. To find out more about the benefits of sensory play, check out this article, opens a new window on sensory play and brain development.