We are finally in full swing of summer and I couldn’t be happier. By now, most of us have whipped out all of the water activities and are spending most of our time outside enjoying the beautiful rays of sunshine (as long as there is water and shade because it is HOT). We are avid users of our water table and mud kitchen during the summer. I find that changing things up every now and then helps extend my kids’ outdoor play time while making it more fun!
If you are looking for new and different ways to change up your water table and mud kitchen activities (besides using just water), here is a list of things to try:
- Water Beads: Water beads can be fun but also scary for young children because they are small and can be a choking hazard, so I was always nervous to use them. But did you know that they have jumbo water beads that grow in water? We used these last summer and they worked really well. Depending on your child’s age, you might still need to be very cautious around water beads. The jumbo water beads take hours to grow, so grow them bigger (overnight) BEFORE you let your child play with them. The great thing about them is that you can dry them out and reuse them (unless there are black dots on them — that’s mold). I must warn you that they break pretty easily the bigger they get. Another way to use them and to help prevent the breaking is to freeze them after you let them grow and then put them in the water. Still not ready to try water beads? Try using colorful tapioca pearls instead (they have a very similar effect but are taste-safe).
- Bath Soap: We use bath soap a lot because it makes fun bubbles for my kids to play in. Just a squirt of soap and some water, and you have your own outside bubble bath. Throw in some toys which they can wash and your kids will play for hours. Play dishes, toy animals or dolls that need a bath, cars for a car wash — you name it and they will wash it! You can also make colored bubble foam with 1 cup water, 1/2 cup soap, and a couple of drops of food coloring. Mix all of the ingredients into a bowl and just whip with a hand mixer for a minute and it turns into foam! We have used dish soap when I have been in a pinch, but that has the potential to burn their eyes, so make sure you are using tear free bubble bath or kid’s soap to avoid any mishaps.
- Shaving Cream: If you have different compartments in your water table (you can also just add a small bowl or tray), adding shaving cream is another fun way to play. Big plus if you have a big window or door nearby. Last year, my kids rubbed shaving cream on the back door and drew pictures in it. Before you veto the idea because of the potential mess, give your kids rags along with their water table and let them wash the windows and the shaving cream off. Playing and cleaning done all in one swoop!
- Gelli Baff: I came across Gelli Baff thanks to another crafty mom and wanted to give it a try. This is actually supposed to go in your kid’s bathtub, but I took a hard pass on that even though it comes with a dissolver that turns it back into water. It’s non-toxic, drain safe, skin safe, and stain free. The texture and feel is like that of the jelly that forms inside a super saturated diaper. If you have ever had a kid in a diaper while doing water play and the diaper has come open, you know what I’m talking about. Throw in some ocean animals, scoops, or cups for some Gelli Baff scenery play.
- Pipe Cleaner/Magnets: If you have a preschool magnet set, these are great to incorporate into water table play. The little magnetic wands are perfect for kids to move the magnets throughout the water and to grab items. If you don’t have a set of magnets, take a bunch of pipe cleaners and cut them into pieces. These work well with the magnetic wands too. Be aware that magnets should not be left in the water for long periods of time and you will need to dry them off when you are done playing so they do not rust.
Don’t have a water table or mud kitchen? No worries! These activities can easily be done in a long plastic storage bin or whatever you have on hand. These kid activities don’t have to be fancy as they will have fun no matter what as long as you make it engaging. Please use your own judgment when setting up these activities as you decide what is best for your child based on their age and development, and make sure they are supervised. There are so many other things that you can use instead of water or in addition to water like jello, ice cubes (or freeze small toys), make oobleck or even just use mud — take your pick!