Fill ‘Er Up

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How many ways can your toddler fill a bucket? Here’s one fun way to find out! Grab two summer beach pails and do some experimenting on a day that’s too rainy to make it to the real beach.

To start, I set out a basin of water for Veronika, along with two small beach pails and a few kitchen sponges. Her first instinct was simply to dip the pails in the basin to fill them. And of course this worked just fine!

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She also spent some time transferring water from one pail to another, a second method that worked quite well.

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But next I showed her how to saturate a sponge and squeeze it out over a pail. Each big squeeze would fill one of her buckets about 1/4 of the way.

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Note: Older kids might enjoy the challenge of filling a big pail with the sponges (how many squeezes will it take!), but I liked using small pails for Veronika so she was rewarded quickly for her efforts.

From here she took over with dipping the sponges, squeezing, filling buckets, dumping them and starting all over. Of course soon she discovered that it was equally delightful to squeeze the water out on the floor and scrub.

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So as a bonus, my kitchen got clean, too!

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Spritz Away

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We’ve used water to make art before, but today we used water to wash away art, the perfect activity for a summer morning!

To start, I drew a garden of flowers for Veronika with chalk, including brown dirt below and blue sky above. Her task was to “water” the garden with her toy watering can!

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She loved the way the chalk washed away with each pour. Note: You could also use a spritz bottle for more controlled, slow dissolving of the chalk, but Veronika loves her watering can.

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Of course then there was lots of fun stomping in the resulting puddles!

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It all looked like so much fun that big brother Travis hurried out to join us! Pretty soon we were making big abstract shapes with the chalk and then pouring the water over them. You can then use a thick paintbrush to swipe at the resulting swirls of color on the pavement to make abstract pictures.

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Near the end, Travis filled a cup with water and was splattering “paint” against the patio door with a big flourish. So we did make art with water after all!

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Water Rhythms

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It was 95 degrees today, which meant time to break out the baby pool and the hose! Since toddlers love to help with “chores”, I first enlisted Veronika to help hold the hose as we filled the pool with a shallow layer of water (about ankle deep).

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Once she climbed in, she didn’t want to stop holding the hose! So we came up with this quick solution: I laid down a few old metal pots and pans (including cake pans and loaf pans) on the sidewalk, and let her take aim.

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Each pan made a slightly different sound, and in turn the sounds would vary depending whether we had the pan upright or upside down.

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She liked to listen to the trickle of water if we had them upright and filled each with a little pool.

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One pan in particular made a great “plink plink” sound, which she returned to again and again with satisfaction.

A little musical play while simultaneously cooling off made this activity a big winner!

Water Play: Structured and Unstructured

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Water play is always fun for kids, and often when I set out cups, bowls and utensils for water, I have some goal in mind (think: flotation or density experiments, absorption, color changing, and more).

Today, I simply wanted to see what Veronika would do with water! I set out two bowls filled with water, an empty container in the middle, and various utensils that she could use, including a ladle and measuring spoons. I then tinted one container red and the other blue, meaning if she mixed them in the middle she’d see purple.

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Let the scooping begin! Giving no instructions, she quickly had a game going. Mostly, she wanted to use the measuring spoons to move water from one container to the other. She briefly remarked on the colors, but was more interested in testing out the various sizes of measuring spoon.

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Whoops, don’t drink the water, cat!

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When she tired of this free play about 15 minutes later, I then rearranged the set-up for an experiment with a little more direction.

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If we had one container filled with water, how many times would we have to fill various measuring instruments to transfer the water to an empty container? In this way, she learned that she could move “a little” (a teaspoon) or a lot (a baby bottle). Preschoolers can be much more precise and even take note of the liquid measurement lines, making for a great early lesson on volume.

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But then we were quickly back to unstructured play. Now, Veronika wanted to give Duplo figures a little bath in the bowls, alternating between drying them off and then pouring water on them again.

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Funnels & Tubes

A few simple items were all I needed today to engage Veronika in great water play, no fancy water table required. To set up, I simply set out a bin filled with water and asked Veronika what color we should make it. She requested blue!

I then set out a funnel, as well as two lengths of tubing. The latter were about 1 and 1/2 feet long and 1/2-inch in diameter. (Note: you can get these for mere pennies at a hardware store, cut to size).

Although my original intention was for the tubing to fit over the end of the funnel, Veronika was completely untroubled by the fact that they stayed unattached. She could fill the funnel and then watch the blue water trickle down.

She used it to fill the tubes, or to let it rain right down on her hand.

She also enjoyed filling the tubing directly from the basin, then lifting it up to watch the water slosh back and forth before dumping it out.

Pretty soon she decided that a few toys needed to take a bath. “They’re in the tub!” Veronika said with delight.

It was her idea to go trotting over to our marble run set and bring pieces over. I didn’t even realize she’d done so until I heard her call out, “It turns green!”

Sure enough, the yellow plastic in the blue water made the water appear greenish. She tried other segments, including a wheel that could spin when she poured the funnel over it.

Thanks to a towel underneath to catch any drips, this was fantastic water play with easy clean-up to boot.

Winter Water Table

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When it’s obviously too cold outside for water table play, here’s a fantastic hack to create a water table right in the warmth of your kitchen. Simply tilt open the door of an (empty) dishwasher, and you have a shelf at the perfect height for a toddler. All that’s left to do is to arrange a few items on the shelf like a bucket of warm water, cups for pouring, scoops, and other water toys.

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To heighten the summer feel of the activity, I dressed Veronika in her favorite bathing suit and laid a fluffy beach towel underneath the open dishwasher. This towel was perfect not just for catching any spills, but also keeping her bare feet warm! She immediately began playing, needing no instruction for this activity. There was lots of happy scooping, pouring, and dumping.

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She loves cups with holes that make water “rain” down a little at a time. Then she was busy for a while pouring water from one small cup to another.

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Such concentration!

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And of course sometimes she got impish, lifting the cups up high for a big waterfall that splashed down!

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After about 20 minutes she was ready for warm dry clothes, but this was a great way to fit in water play in the middle of winter.

Seek and Find Shapes Water Activity

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Toddlers always love the chance for a little splashy water play, and here’s a way to combine that with shape review!

To start, I used marker to draw a few shapes on a regular piece of white paper. I also labeled them for early sight words, although Veronika is a ways off from understanding that.

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Place this piece of paper under any clear baking dish. Ideally use a large casserole dish, but even my smaller cake pan worked in a pinch. Fill the clear dish with a shallow layer of water. If your child wants colored water, go ahead and add a few drops of food coloring! But Veronika wanted to leave it clear.

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Now, simply call out the name of a shape and your child can pinpoint it under the water! If you’re using a large dish, you could have a clear cup on top that your child moves from shape to shape. That wouldn’t fit in the cake pan, so Veronika used a shiny pipe cleaner as a pointer instead.

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She aced this test in moments.

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Even once we quickly ran through the shapes, she had so much fun looking at the shapes and swirling around the pipe cleaner for a while. Because as mentioned, toddlers always love water play!

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Painting the Driveway with Water

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The season for outdoor water play is nearly at an end, so we’re taking advantage while we still can! Veronika has painted with water on a small scale this summer, but today we went big. Driveway-sized big, that is!

I have a paint roller which I thought would be novel for spreading water around, so we headed out to the driveway with the roller, a tray, and a few smaller paint brushes and sponges.

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I filled the tray with water from our watering can and Veronika instantly wanted to dip the sponges in.

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She liked pressing down and watching triangles and rectangles appear.

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I then showed her how to dip the paint roller in the tray and transfer to the pavement for big streaks of water “paint”. She gave it a few experimental sweeps, but it wasn’t her favorite. 

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She much preferred a wide bristle paint brush. “I’m sweeping!” she told me, as she dipped it in the tray of water and then brushed over the driveway.

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Kids love the instant gratification of watching pavement turn from light to dark with this activity.

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What a big bold canvas for making art!

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Sponge Play

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We’re taking advantage of the last few warm mornings for patio play. This game is similar to one we played earlier in the summer, transferring water using only pom poms. Now, Veronika was just enough older to have more success with this version!

I set out two clear bowls, one filled with water and the other empty, along with 3 cheap sponges from the dollar store.

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I asked Veronika what color she wanted for the water, giving her the choice of red, green, or blue. She chose blue!

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I showed her how to dip the sponge in the water, then squeeze it out over the empty bowl to watch the water come out.

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She got the hang of it quite quickly!

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That said, we never transferred all the water because inevitably she wanted to pour it back from the small bowl to the big bowl.

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After she tired of squeezing the sponges, she dumped all the water…

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And loved stomping in it!

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Does your toddler manage to transfer all the water from one bowl to the other? Please share in the comments!

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Patio Fun with Water

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Veronika has played with various kitchen utensils to keep busy in the past, but today we added a few twists to this classic toddler activity.

The first change was that we moved the whole game outside. I laid a towel on the patio and filled a large kitchen bowl with water, then added measuring cups, a whisk, a pastry brush, measuring spoons, and a few sieves.

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The sieves were great for pouring water into and instantly watching the water trickle back out!

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The other big novelty here was adding a funnel. I showed Veronika how we could place a funnel over an empty sparkling water bottle and fill it, then watch the water trickle down. She concentrated so hard on reaching way up with a measuring cup to fill the funnel.

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Then she loved dumping the water bottle out!

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She also enjoyed brushing water onto a strainer with a pastry brush.

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Whisks were fun to swish in the bowl.

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And of course there was the obvious appeal of pouring water right onto her skin, since the morning was already hot. Knowing this would be tempting, I’d dressed her in a bathing suit, so you might want to do the same!

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At the end when we had a big puddle of water on the patio, it was time for a splashy puddle dance.

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