by Olynda Smith, AMS Certified Montessori Teacher and Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach
At Tiny Earth Toys we are always thinking about cutting down on plastic in our homes and in the landfill. We’re thinking about it even more since it is Plastic Free July. So, today we are exploring one more Big Plastic Thing you don’t need to buy: a water table.
You won’t believe how incredibly easy it is to make your own outdoor water table. Your child will develop fine motor skills while learning about volume, properties of water and so much more… but most of all it’s cool and delightful. The best part is that you can DIY some fantastic water play with things you already own- saving money and decreasing plastic pollution. If you do have to buy anything to make your water table area really dreamy - you can re-use these items again and again even after your child has grown out of water table play.
What you need:
A small outdoor table, or a spot on the floor outside: Find the surface that is right for your child’s current gross motor skills and height. Babies and young toddlers might prefer to be on the floor, while older toddlers and preschoolers will likely prefer standing at a low table.
A big container for water: Find your biggest tupperware or watertight bin. Get creative, but make sure the sides of the container are not too high. Your little one should easily be able to touch the bottom of the container. Second hand stores are a great place to look if you don’t happen to own anything that fits the bill. My personal favorite reuse item for this is an old baby bathtub.
A variety of things from your kitchen: I’d pick 5-8 items to play with at a time. Pitchers, Funnels, ladles, scrub brushes, turkey basters, whisks, spoons, sponges etc. For extra delight and interest, rotate the items on the “water table” every week. Using actual items rather than plastic “play” times means your child will also be developing their fine motor skills and confidence pouring, scooping etc.
Water. Cold water if you can manage it.
A hot day and a little one that is ready to play.
Start with the simple water table above. Eventually, you can add more interest by adding some of these “extra” fun things to add to the table.
Soap: Just a few squirts of hand soap bring on a totally different experience. For 3-5 year olds consider having the soap available for them to add in themselves as they wish.
Flowers: Add in some natural beauty from the garden and watch them go to town. If you have aromatic herbs like mint or lemon balm, that could be fun as well!
Ice Cubes: For really hot days and engaging curiosity about the water cycle.
Food coloring: Color can always bring a bit of extra fun. Just be careful - this might stain clothing.
A drop of essential oil: How about a drop of peppermint or lavender oil? These scents bring extra cooling and bring another dimension of sensory input into play.
Of course, never leave your little one unattended while they are playing with water. They will likely be so busy, however, that you can take a moment to sit nearby, sip on something cooling and take an uninterrupted breath or two!