Discover: 20 More Sustainable Water Games and Play Activities for Kids

With the calendar turning from May to June comes the anticipation of lazy, hazy afternoons filled with runs through the sprinkler and the smell of sunscreen wafting through the air. Popsicle weather is the surest signal that its time to get out the hose and prep for a day of backyard water fun!

Unfortunately, the last few summers have left many parts of the county high and DRY – literally. Even here in Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes!) we were under water restrictions for most of July and August last year.

With most of the West already experiencing extreme drought conditions this spring, we wanted to share some water play ideas that help to conserve water while letting kids enjoy one of summer break’s most iconic features. So we’ve put together this list of more sustainable water games and play ideas.

Each activity below either uses less water, or allows for reuse of the water after play. Above all, they’re just good, old-fashioned ways to beat the heat through a bit of summer water play fun!

For outdoor summer entertainment beyond water games, visit our collection of over 100 backyard play activities!

Tabletop Water Play Activities for Kids 

These tabletop water play activities work a great for use with younger kids or on days when you don’t want to be wet from head to toe. Save the tub or bucket of leftover water for watering gardens – better yet, invest in a rain barrel you can toss the leftover water into after play!

A collection of sustainable summer water play activities for kids
  • For fun toddler water play with the easiest clean up ever, try putting together a soap foam sensory bin
  • Make a summer lemon sensory bin – because nothing says summer like that fresh lemon smell, right?
  • An ocean sensory bin (complete with DIY moon sand) is a great way to spend a day at the beach right in your own backyard.
  • Grab a small bowl of water and handful of rocks for rock painting and washing.
  • Color mixing water play is always a hit with little ones and wonderful fine motor practice
  • Invite your little one to cool off while saving some of their favorite miniature friends from deep freeze with this fun ice escape.
  • This Ice painting activity creates cool, colorful works of art that utilize the melting power of warmth and ice.
  • Let your littles splash in the cool water while practicing some practical skills with this play animal washing station.
  • A little water goes a long way when making cute bobbing sponge boats – good for outdoor play and bath time too!
  • One of the coolest water games I’ve seen – you’ve GOT to check out this amazing pouring pearls water activity!

Backyard Water Games That Don’t Waste Water 

From a full body soaking to STEAM-powered activities that don’t require getting wet at all, these backyard kids water games are a cool way to cool off while conserving…

A collection of sustainable summer water games for kids

And don’t sleep on the very best summer water source of all…rain! Put those drops to good play use when you get them! Splash in the puddles, make a rain garden, or take advantage of the weather with a DIY mud kitchen.

For more kids’ outdoor activity ideas, go on a backyard safari, get out in the garden, grab a free printable bug scavenger hunt to take to a park, or make a DIY nature explorer kit for neighborhood adventures.

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Amanda E.

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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