10 Backyard Water Play Ideas

If the heat and humidity is making your kids cranky and you feel too exhausted to get out and go somewhere, your backyard has more possibilities than you might anticipate! Obviously, we want to be mindful of wasting water, but backyard water play is a great activity that allows kids to be outside, do a sensory activity, and stay cool. Toss on some sunscreen and enjoy these easy and fun backyard water play ideas.

1. Garden care

Need to water the plants anyway? Teach your kids to use the spray hose. Kid fun + knocking off a household chore = win!

2. Add a twist to bubbles

Want to shake up the usual bubbles game? Squirt bubbles with spray bottles to try to pop them. Your kids will probably end up spraying each other too and cooling off!

3. Classic sprinkler play

When I was a kid we spent a lot of time running through a traditional sprinkler that threw off a ton of water and resulted in a swamp. We have an inexpensive wiggly sprinkler (it's long with maybe a dozen wiggle water "arms") that the girls love. It throws off just the right amount of water—enough to water the plants and provide cool relief without resulting in a swamp or wasting a ton of water. And the wiggly sprays result in lots of happy squealing.

4. Wash the car

Hooray for another kid fun + household chore win! Fill a bucket with water and have your kid wash the car!

5. Wash toys

Violet loves washing toys (trains, baby dolls, small plastic toys) and it's a nice low water use activity. I just put water in a large plastic bowl with a few suds, give her a paintbrush, and she's good to go (see below). Another twist on this is giving your kids some little empty yogurt containers or other plastic cups. Have your kid collect acorns or small rocks to make "soup."


6. Water balloons

I always caveat this activity with this rule: you must clean up all the balloon shreds afterwards. If you want to win major fun parent points, opt for water balloons.

7. Freeze it up

You know those fossil kits where you chip away at plaster for a dinosaur or gem stone and it makes a massive dusty mess? Take a mess-free, cooler play from this playbook and toss some little items in a container with water and freeze it up. Then your kids can chip out the items! A bowl of chipped ice and ice cubes would also make a fun new landscape for little toys.

8. Make water prints

Use feet, sponges, stamps—experiment with making different prints on the patio or sidewalk.

9. Paint the sidewalk or driveway

Chalk paint is super easy to make and you will be the coolest parent ever for letting your kid paint on pavement!

10. Wash stuff that actually needs to be washed

Clothes need to be rinsed of sand and mud? Buckets or other household items need a gentle wash with water? One summer, my mother-in-law cheerfully suggested that Laurel join her in washing down our fences. Turned out to be a super fun project that made our backyard look a lot better too!

Fun backyard water play ideas that won’t waste a ton of water!

Fun backyard water play ideas that won’t waste a ton of water!