Outdoor Water Fun for Kids: The Best Water Games, Toys & Activities

Outdoor Water Fun for Kids: The Best Water Games, Toys & Activities

If your kids are feeling grumpy – let them play with water. If they’re overheated and frustrated – water is the answer! There’s nothing better in the summer months for kids than cooling down in the backyard with some outdoor water fun. Kids of all ages love water play, and water activities can keep kids entertained for hours. Having a few easy water activities on hand is a great parental trick to have up your sleeve. Today, Jemma Goulds, London-based teacher and mom of four, is here sharing the best outdoor water activities for kids of all ages, toddler through teen! 

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Outdoor Water Fun for Kids - The best water toys, water games, and water activities for kids

Backyard water toys

Get ready to have some water fun and be inspired to let your kids get wet! Nothing says summer fun, like outdoor water games for kids. Water is one of most fun ways to stay cool, keep kids entertained, and have a blast! We’ve put together the ultimate list of outdoor water activities, so be sure to take note of your favorites and try them with your kids the next time they’re looking to cool off or find something fun to do outside. 

Image credit: @kristcx

Water sprinkler

Kids will delight in playing in the sprinkler! It’s one of the best backyard water toys! And as a bonus, the garden gets watered too! When it’s warm, a simple sprinkler set up in the yard can keep your little ones entertained, active, and laughing for HOURS. All you need to do is set up a basic yard sprinkler in an open area where the kids can run through it and play. At first, they’ll jump and squeal and run away from the water, but eventually, they’ll fully embrace it and go all in! It’s so much fun to watch kids play in the sprinkler. And it’s a great opportunity to get your camera out and practice taking some amazing sprinkler photos. If you have really little kids, maybe this sprinkler splash pad would be fun!

water games for kidsImage credit: @kristcx

Trampoline play

A trampoline might not sound like a water toy, but it can certainly be fun to add water to! A trampoline may be one of the best overall toys for a backyard you can invest in for year-round play. However, during the summer months, it can get a little toasty. To cool things down, try adding a trampoline sprinkler attachment so you can amp up your summer bouncing with some water fun. Or just add water balloons or water beads and see where things go! Here are 30+ trampoline games for kids

Slip and slide

A slip and slide is a super fun and easy way to get your kids outside, active, and having a blast! If you’ve got the room, we like the ones that have built-in sprinklers and end in a big fun splash pool! Don’t want to buy one? Create your own homemade slip and slide using a long piece of tarpaulin and a garden hose. It’s even better if you have a kid’s water slide to go down. If your kids like thrills, try using a squidge of liquid dish soap to make the slide extra slippery (and a little bubbly)!

children on slip n slide with sprinkler - best water toys, games and activities for kidsImage credit: @sara_mccarty

Swimming pool/inflatable pool

If you have access to a swimming pool, the summer water fun never ends! We’ve got all kinds of fun games to play in the swimming pool and fun pool toys, if you need some ideas. If you don’t have an in ground pool, a small inflatable kiddie pool is a great backyard activity for warm spring and hot summer days. We have this inflatable pool that the kids love to play in! It’s big enough that the whole family can get in and play, but shallow enough for the little ones. 

Inflatable water slide and playset

For absolute maximum outdoor summertime fun, this Little Tikes inflatable water slide is the ultimate portable water park. It’s massive, so make sure you have plenty of space. Kids can climb the center wall to the top of this enormous water slide bounce house and race down the 2 water slides into the kids’ splash pool. Durable, colorful, and well-designed, this is a toy the kids will enjoy summer after summer. It also has a crawl-through tunnel leading to the inside dry bouncing area.

children and dad on slip n slide - best water toys, games and activities for kids

Water game ideas for kids

Kids love playing games. And when you add water to any game, you take it to the next level of fun! These fun water games are perfect for siblings or groups of friends to play together. They can be played in a garden, the backyard, or a field at your local park. They work brilliantly if you need some outdoor party games for hot weather festivities. 

Pass the water 

All you need for this fun game is some water and a few cups! Have the kids stand in a line. The first person has a plastic cup filled with water. They have to move the cup over their head and pour the water out behind them for the next person to catch in their cup. Repeat all the way down the line until the water is gone! After each kid has poured the water, have them run to get in line at the back of the line to keep it going. 

Water obstacle course 

You can get creative with making a water obstacle course for kids. Build an outdoor obstacle course with simple things that everyone has in the house, such as brooms, buckets, rope, pillows, pool noodles, etc. Try using pool noodles as archways to run through, doing a water limbo under the garden hose, or add running through a sprinkler or jumping in an inflatable pool! If you have backyard playground equipment (swings and slides), add them to the course. Then divide the kids into teams and have them make their way through the obstacle course one at a time. This is a fun outdoor game where the kids can challenge each other in teams!

Water battle games

Water guns/water blasters

Let your kids loose with water guns or water blasters for the ultimate water cool-down activity! No squirt guns; feel free to use a spray bottle or a squirt bottle instead. Let them have free reign to make up their own games or give them some rules. My kids like playing tag with water guns. Only the person who is “it” can shoot the others with their squirt gun, and everyone else runs around like crazy until it’s their turn! You could also set up targets (cans or empty water bottles) for them to shoot and challenge each other on who has the most accurate aim. Keep a bucket of water available for refilling. 

Water balloon fight

There’s nothing better on a warm summer’s day than getting competitive with a water balloon fight! Without a doubt, water balloon fights will cool off the kids from the summer heat and cause them to squeal in delight! You could also use water balloons for other games, including water balloon baseball! Pro tip: Don’t love the trash and mess of traditional water balloons? Check out these reusable and refillable water balloons

Water balloon toss

Not interested in a full-on water balloon fight? If you’re looking for something a bit tamer, try a water balloon toss. Line the kids up across from each other and let them toss the water balloon back and forth to each other. Each time they successfully toss the balloon and catch it, they have to get farther away from each other by taking a step backwards. Each step will make it a little harder. The last team with an unpopped balloon wins.

For other water balloon games, check out our post on outdoor party games for kids

water fun for kids - squirt gun gamesImage credit: @meghangarriott

Water play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers 

Water table 

Water tables are fun and one of the best open-ended toys for toddlers and preschoolers. We’ve had the same water table for years, and all my kids have loved playing with (and in/on) it. Little ones just pulling up can stand at a water table and splash away! And the simple joy of it grows with the kids. It’s easily adaptable for lots of ages with a little creativity and imagination. Add some measuring cups, balls, toy boats, or dolls/characters, and turn a simple water table into a water playhouse! When you’re not using it with water, fill it with sand, mud, or water beads for a different type of sensory play. There are so many great ways to play with a simple water table.

Image credit: @sara_mccarty

Frozen water sensory play 

The best water play activity for toddlers is to set up some easy water sensory play. On a hot day, they’ll appreciate a frozen water activity! Try freezing ice cubes with their favorite plastic toys inside and see if they can melt the ice cubes to free their toys!

Or, freeze water in various containers of different shapes and sizes to create an assortment of ice blocks. Supply kids with washable paint and paint brushes and let them paint the frozen ice shapes with their brushes, fingers, or even toes. The ice will melt as they paint (and as it sits out), creating cool paint designs and changing the color and texture of the paint. This sensory activity is a great option for younger kids, but older ones will still enjoy getting a messy and creative, too.

Try freezing orbeez (water beads) for a lovely cooling ice play activity. But only use this for children over 3 years old. Orbeez are not safe to eat, so can’t be played with by kids that still put things in their mouths! 

Car wash

Get out the hose, buckets, and soap, and get ready for some fun! Set up a car wash for your kids so that they can wash whatever needs washing! Use towels or sponges to clean all your family vehicles outside and get your cars nice and shiny! Or wash the kids’ bikes, wagons, muddly Matchbox cars, or Cozy Coupes! You could even have a dog wash if you run out of vehicles!

Image credit: @desireemacke

Water chalk paint 

If you have leftover bits of chalk from summertime chalk pavement drawing – mix them with water, leave them to soften, and then you have your own water chalk paint to paint on the pavement with! No leftover chalk, no problem! Here’s what you’ll need to make your own sidewalk chalk paint:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • Food dye colors of your choice
  • Muffin tin
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Paintbrushes

In your mixing bowl, add the warm water and corn starch. Whisk until cornstarch is dissolved. Pour your mixture in equal parts into the muffin tin. Add food dyes. Let the kids grab a paintbrush and go to work!

Image credit: @kristcx

Outdoor water fun activities for kids - diy slip n slideImage credit: @hiking.motherhood

Outdoor STEM water activities for kids

Make a DIY water wall 

Use your recycling and engineering skills to create a really easy DIY water wall for your kids! All you need to do is collect some empty plastic bottles and cut the bottoms off or poke holes in them. Then, tie them to a frame or a fence (zip ties work great for this) so that the water pours from one to another. Let your kids figure out where everything should go and how to get the water down the wall and into the next bottle. Add some water runs (old plastic train tracks, PVC pipe, or bottles cut in half length-wise work great for this) if you need more help moving the water along. And then you’ll have your own water wall! They’ll enjoy this in all seasons!

DIY Water Wall for Kids

Photo: @thimbleandtwig

Make your own stream 

Older kids will love this science water activity! Get your kids to create a stream with rocks, pebbles, tin foil, etc. Challenge them to make a stream that not only contains the water, but flows. You can make this more tricky for slighter older kids by removing the tin foil and only using nature items. You just may be super impressed by their creativity and ingenuity! 

Natural outdoor water fun for kids

You certainly don’t need to stay in the backyard to play with water. There are so many amazing ways to take water play further afield and out into nature! Adding natural elements and bodies of water will entertain kids of any age, throughout the year. 

Lake and stream play

If you’re lucky enough to live near a stream or lake, make sure to visit and check it out. There are so many fun things to do on the water. If you have a small pond, consider doing some pond dipping and study what you find. Or how about try your hand at skipping stones (there’s a science to it). You could try taking out a remote-controlled boat for a spin on the lake. Younger kids can try their hand at making boats out of nature items and sailing them down the stream or even having a race with them. 

Image credit: @kristcx

Play in a creek

Exploring a creek is by far my children’s all-time favorite outdoor activity. If you’re lucky enough to live anywhere close to a creek (and I bet you are!), take your kids to check it out. Creeks provide so many amazing opportunities for exploration, curiosity and imaginative play! We’ve got a great post all about the incredible benefits of exploring creeks with kids. Kids will have hours of fun playing in a creek. Try searching for waterfalls or bring a net and search for creek wildlife. Kids will love to catching minnows, crawdads, tadpoles, etc. For more info on fun things to do in a creek (and how to find a good one near you), check out our full guide to exploring creeks with kids

Image credit: @sara_mccarty

Splash parks & splash pads

For those of you who aren’t near nature-made splash areas, you can still have fun getting active in places like splash playgrounds or splash pads! A splash park is a brilliant way for small kids to cool down in hot weather. More and more cities are building wonderful splash pads to run around in!  These are especially great for families with babies and toddlers because you don’t have to worry about the water being too deep! 

Image credit: @sara_mccarty

Adventurous water activities for older kids and teens

Go fishing 

Fishing is a great water activity for kids because it teaches kids lots of life lessons. Fishing is fun for younger kids, too, but older kids will be able to fish by themselves and so have a higher level of independence. In our day and age, instant gratification is almost a way of life for kids and teens, but fishing teaches patience and perseverance. It’s a great way to teach kids about anticipation and how to slow down. Lots of fun family time can happen whilst fishing – great family conversations can happen whilst fishing! If you’d like to know more about fishing, check out our full post on raising kids that love to fish

Rockpooling/tidepooling

If you’re lucky enough to live close to the ocean, head to a beach and find a rock pool (tidepool) to explore. Tidepooling is an activity that will guarantee keeping kids occupied for ages! There’s so much to see and discover. Search for crabs, snails, starfish, jellyfish, urchins, and cool shells. Kids will love the surprise element of rock pooling because you never know what you will find! Check out our full post on tidepooling with kids for additional info on when to go, what to pack, and what you’ll find. 

Rockpooling with kids

Image credit: @thimbleandtwig

Stand-up paddle boarding

Paddle boarding is a great activity for families. If your kids are happy in the water, then they will love stand-up paddle boarding! If you are taking your kids out for stand-up paddle boarding, make sure the place you go has calm water (low surf, no waves) so that your kids can learn to paddle board more easily. And make sure they get comfortable falling in, because that’s part of the process! But it doesn’t just have to be about paddleboarding. If they enjoy swimming, then get off the board and swim with them together! Or fish from your paddleboard. Paddle boarding is a great way to enjoy the water together! Check out our beginner’s guide to stand up paddle boarding with kids

Kayaking with Kids - Best Kayak for Kids - Evrwild KayaksImage credit: @sara_mccarty

Kayaking 

Another favorite water activity of ours is kayaking. Depending on the age/size of your kids, they can join you on a ride or paddle along in their own kayaks! This is by far our favorite and most recommended kayak for kids. Starting out on slow, shallow, tranquil waters will make your first kayaking adventures safe and enjoyable for every member of your family. Small protected lakes are the best places to learn and teach your kids how to paddle and make sure that you have lessons first or head out with an experienced kayaker.

You’ll be surprised how quickly children will learn how to use their paddles to navigate a kayak. And if they’re able to go a distance on their own (even in very shallow water where you’ll easily be able to walk to them if they need help), the pride on their faces from that sense of independence is absolutely priceless. It’s like learning to ride a bike for the first time!

outdoor water fun in kayaks - best kayak for kidsImage credit: @hiking.motherhood

Canoeing 

Once you’ve mastered kayaking, perhaps try canoeing? It’s a bit trickier than a kayak, but you can fit a lot more into a canoe. Seeing the world from the water is a different perspective for kids and is such a fun adventure. For beginning tips for canoeing with kids – this post on canoeing with kids has everything you need to know about canoeing with kids. And, if you want to see how we did on our first canoeing adventure with kids (spoiler: it wasn’t 100% successful!) then check out our post on Family Canoeing trip with kids. But even though our first trip wasn’t the best – we made lots of memories and ALWAYS talk about the fun we had on this first trip, and we’ve had many more successful canoe trips since!

Canoeing with kids

Image credit: @thimbleandtwig

Wild swimming / lake swimming 

Whilst wave swimming in a pool is a fun activity for kids of any age, wild swimming or swimming in open water can make swimming more of an adventure. Whether it’s the sea, a river, or a lake, conquering the fear of open water unlocks a world of fun and adventure. Although, parents must still be extremely cautious with water as the risk of drowning is extremely serious (life jackets are a must). However, with the right preparation and knowledge, open swimming can become one of the most exhilarating ways to spend time in the wild with your kid.

To make it safe, make sure you know the tide and currents of the water that you’re planning to swim in. Know the depth of any water you’re jumping into. Provide constant supervision at all times while kids are swimming in open water, even in your kids are good swimmers.

Image credit: @kristcx

Bodyboarding (boogie boarding)

Bodyboarding (or boogie boarding) is one of the best ways to spend time in the water and one of our favorite summer activities! Bodyboarding blends beach fun with a more exciting experience for older kids! We absolutely love catching waves with the kids, you don’t need to have the technique of surfing, you don’t have to go deep into the water, and you can bodyboard in waves of any height too! Here’s everything you need to know about how to get started boogie boarding with kids

Skimboarding

Skimboarding is a fun, active, and affordable way to keep your kids entertained on the beach. Skimboarding is gaining in popularity, and for a good reason. It’s a safe way to introduce your kids to the ocean, challenge their abilities, boost their confidence, and let them have fun! Here’s a great post with everything you need to know to get started skimboarding with kids. We walk you through the benefits of skimboarding for kids, how to skimboard, tips for choosing the right skimboard for kids, and so much more! 

Image credit: @meghavelaarphoto

Surfing

Once you’ve mastered body boarding – try surfing! Surfing is an excellent way to build water confidence in kids and also builds balance and coordination. Remember to check whether you can surf on the beach you’re at and ensure that you only surf where there is a lifeguard presence. Surfing can be tricky when you first start, but it can be an exciting and fun way to spend time in the water as a family! Here’s a great post with everything you need to know to start surfing with kids

Outdoor water fun for kids of all ages

Don’t these all sound fun? Whether you’re splashing in the backyard or surfing in the sea, kids love water! And we love how many awesome ways there are to incorporate water into your kids’ outdoor activities, no matter what their age! If you want some additional outdoor activity ideas (albeit without water), then try these kids’ outdoor activity ideas and summer garden activity ideas.  

What are your kids’ favorite ways to have fun with water?

About the author

Jemma lives in London, England, with her husband and kids. Her all-time favorite thing to do is take photos and capture memories of her family. She’s on a mission to ensure parenthood doesn’t rush by so quickly by creating mini family outdoor adventures and hopefully some big adventures too, one day! She’s a mum to four and an English teacher to many. She loves sharing her passion for storytelling, adventures, and nature crafts on her blog and here. 

Find more from Jemma in the following locations:
Instagram: @thimbleandtwig
Blog: www.thimbleandtwig.com
Facebook: @thimbleandtwig
Etsy shop: ThimbleandTwig
RWMC posts: Jemma
Wildhood Challenge

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