Summer is approaching fast for many parts of North America, which means longer days, higher temperatures, and lots of outdoor fun in the sun. One of the easiest ways to keep the kiddos cool when enjoying summer fun is to incorporate water play into your outdoor time. Whether exploring a creek, splashing in a water table, or running through a sprinkler, water play has numerous benefits for our growing kiddos. Read on to discover these benefits along with ways you can incorporate water play into your summer fun and tips for doing so safely.

**Please note: With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions are still in place for many parts of the country. Please take note of your local regulations before traveling, and practice safe distancing whenever recreating near others outside your family.

young girl playing on the sie of a lake

Benefits of Water Play

Motor Development

Jumping in puddles, running through sprinklers, and swimming in a pool are wonderful for gross motor development as children work on strengthening their large muscle groups. Pouring, squirting, and stirring water are all examples of fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills that water play provides.

Energy Release

Letting kids run around in the sprinklers, climb and explore near a creek, or swim around in a pool are great ways to release some of their boundless energy. Water can also have a therapeutic effect and help children calm down through the repetitive motions of scooping, pouring, or running their hands or feet through the water. We’re all imaging the calm of crashing ocean waves now, right?

Creativity and Imagination

Add water and a bucket becomes a witch’s cauldron, the creek water becomes lava they must avoid by jumping on rocks, or their water table becomes a car wash for all their toy cars. There is truly no limit to the creativity that can be sparked by a little water.

Cognitive Development

Water play provides numerous opportunities for children to problem solve and learn math and science concepts simply by playing. Children can learn what materials sink or float, how many small cups of water will fill a bucket, or how different types of rocks make different types of splashes in a lake.

Language Skills

Talk to your kiddos about what they are creating or what they see in the water. They’ll build their vocabulary and communication and collaboration skills by working with you and other children to create stories and pretend play with water.

children playing in sprinker in the yard

Ways You Can Incorporate Water Play Into Your Summer Fun

Pool Time

Whether it be a community pool, a backyard pool, or even a small baby pool, swimming and splashing are a wonderful way to cool down and have fun.

Water Table or Sensory Bin

A water table or a plastic bin or bucket will do and can provide hours of fun right in your back yard or balcony.  Add measuring tools, empty yogurt containers, water beads, bath toys, kitchen utensils, etc. for extra creativity.

Creek and River Play

Summer hikes that lead to a creek or river for the kiddos to splash in are a favorite among our Hike it Baby community! Whether you look for water critters, investigate the sound a rock makes when dropped in the water, or simply wade in to cool off, a creek/river is a great option on a hot summer day. Just be sure you have comfortable, fast-drying footwear with good traction, such as the Choprock Collection from Merrell, to stay safe on slippery terrain. This collection has options for both kids and adults that work well both on land and in water.

Break Out the Sprinklers and Water Toys

Some of the best childhood memories involve running around the yard, jumping through sprinklers, sliding on the slip and slide,  and avoiding water shooters and water balloons. Did you know there are now blow up splash pads you can set up in your yard?!

Beach Fun

Head out for a day of building sandcastles or exploring tide pools at the beach or relax and wade near a lake beach.

father and sons playing in shallow water

Tips to Keep in Mind When Water Play is Part of Your Day

Wear Quality Shoes

While going barefoot may be okay if you are hanging out by the water table, a sturdy pair of comfortable, water-friendly shoes with excellent traction is a must for exploring creeks, playing at the splash pad, or tide-pooling on a rocky beach. We like the Hydro Creek Sandal, which provides both comfort and safety for our kiddos during water play.

Bring a Set of Spare Clothes

Or maybe two. And, a wet bag is always handy to have around anytime there’s a chance of wet clothes.

Reapply Sunscreen Often

Normally, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. When water is involved, sunscreen should be reapplied directly after swimming or water play.

As the weather warms up we hope you find ways to incorporate water play into your family summer fun. Be sure to share your experience and tag @hikeitbaby on your favorite social media platform.

Join a community of like-minded parents and caregivers with a shared mission of connecting families with babies and young children to the outdoors and each other. Learn about Hike it Baby donation-based membership options and join the fun today!

About Hike it Baby

Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Editors Note:
We hope you enjoyed reading this article from Hike it Baby. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you.
But content is not free. It’s built on the hard work and dedication of writers, editors, and volunteers. We do not make this ask lightly, but if you are able to afford it, make a donation, and become a Hike it Baby member.  A membership also makes a great gift for that new parent in your life. We make an investment in developing premium content to make it easier for families with young children to connect with nature and each other. If you can, please make a contribution and help us extend our reach.

Photos courtesy of: Krystal Weir, Jessica Campbell, and Amy Diebold.


This post is sponsored by Merrell. However, we would not recommend something that our children do not love. 

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