Splish Splash!

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Happy Summer! I’ve been quiet on here and I plan on using the summer to start things up again since there is a bit more downtime with kids out of town for the summer or on vacation. I thought I would start with something that can be used all summer long: water toys and activities. I thought this might be especially helpful as we are in the middle of a pretty nasty heat wave here on the east coast and parents are always looking for ways to keep their kids entertained, cool and not just attached to a screen. There are so many summer and water products out there and I know as a parent myself, it can be hard to figure out what is the best and could be therapeutically beneficial at the same time. I am going to take the work out of this for you and share some of my favorite products that can be used to keep your kiddos cool during these hot days. As with any outdoor toys, none of these toys should be played with without adult supervision.

Water play is not only cooling during the warmer months, it provides a lot of developmental and therapeutic benefits to kids of all ages without them even knowing it! In my years of being a therapist, I have always found it is easier to get kids to work on things at home if it doesn’t actually seem like work and that it is fun. Water play can help with physical (both fine motor and gross motor), cognitive, social emotional and sensory development. Activities like scooping, pouring and squirting encourage grasping and manipulation skills, develop hand-eye coordination and encourage bilateral coordination skills. It can also work on improving gross motor skills like jumping, running and motor planning and coordination skills. When it comes to cognitive development, many of the activities can work on learning about colors, encourage matching and sorting and so much more. As for social emotional skill development, water play can encourage kids to work collaboratively or learn about taking turns or being flexible with ideas and can help them with using their language skills to effectively communicate with friends or siblings. Lastly, the importance of sensory exploration is critical to child development because it can encourage creativity and imagination skills, encourages problem solving skills and can help children cope with stress and anxiety.

Check out some of my favorite water toys below and activities below. These are sure to keep your kids entertained and cool during the hotter summer and also can be used throughout the year during bath time or if you have the luxury of outdoor space that can be used all year long.

Water/Sensory Table-my number one recommendation for anyone if they have the space is to have a sensory table set up for your children during the summer/warmer months. This will be an investment that will last a really long time and can be used throughout the year and switched up for each season. If I walk into a classroom without some kind of sensory table I become concerned. I believe that every early education classroom , especially preschool based program, should be equipped with at least one sensory table/exploration area. There are endless benefits of having a sensory table available to children as it encourages sensory exploration, creativity, imagination, improves language skills, helps with the development of fine motor, grasping, manipulation skills and so much more. What’s nice is that you can swap out the materials throughout the week to work on different skills. Here are some fun materials/toys to use when you fill the sensory table with water:



1. LakeShore Float and Find Alphabet Bubbles-a great tool to use to work on learning about letters and colors.



2. Windup Water Bath Toys-simple but cute toy that is great for water play and a wonderful way to work on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills and improves bilateral coordination.




3. Kids Water Droppers-there are so many things youcan do with water droppers with a water table. One of my favorite things is to get a bunch of little animals or characters and put them in oversized ice cube trays and give kids warm water and have them “rescue” the animals or characters hidden inside. This is great for improving bilateral and hand-eye coordination and works on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills. It also works on improving focus, attention and patience as it can take some time for the ice cube to shrink.


4. Sponge Play-find different kinds of animal, letter or number sponges and throw them in the water. Have the kids squeeze them out into little cups to work on improving grasp strength, hand-eye and bilateral coordination skills and work on pre-academic skills such as letter and number identification.



5. Water Beads-my kids love when I take water beads out for sensory play. Not only are they great for tactile and sensory exploration, they are versatile and can be used so many different ways. Put scoopers and cups in the water beads and have them work on improving bilateral coordination and hand eye coordination while scooping them up and putting in the cups. You can work on sorting and matching by having different colored cups at the table and have them pick the beads up and put in the same colored cup. You can also hide animals or characters in the water beads and have the kids dig through to rescue them.


6. Glo-Pals and Glo-Pal Sensory Tool Set-these little blocks light up once they hit water and make a great addition to any water table. They are mess free and add a little bit of color and fun to a water table. My kids at work love when I pull them out and put them in my sensory bin and I love how each kid plays with them differently. Some kids like to sort them by color and build towers while others just like to use tools to pull them out of the water. There is no right or wrong way to use them so it really encourages children to use their imagination and problem solving skills. I am loving the new tool set that I just discovered because it adds another level of play and exploration to your water table. The 3-piece set comes with an expandable strainer, a set of shell tongs and a 3-in-1 scooper squid that act as a scooper or a spoon when taken apart. These tools are great for working on fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills and to improve hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination skills.


Splishin’ SplashAnimal Squirts-this adorable two piece squirt set is a great way to work on improving bilateral coordination, increase upper body strength and can be used to facilitate visual motor and visual attentional skills. You don’t need a big pool for these to be fun for your little ones. Fill up buckets with water and set up empty ones for them to fill up with the water from the squirt toys. If you have multiple children or have kids over for a playdate, you can set up relay races for the kids to fill up their squirter toys on one end and run to the other to fill up the bucket and the team that hits the target first is the winner.






Reusable Water Balloons-kids love water balloons but the amount of scraps and garbage that builds up (and can cause potential harm to animals) makes it not so much fun. These reusable water balloons are easy to fill for even the youngest of kids which is also an added bonus because it can be a real pain to fill up water balloons in a hurry. Simply open the magnetic water balloon and submerge it in water for a quick fill. Magnetic reusable water balloons use patent Seal-Sealing Technology to create a tight seal, so no water will leak out. They can be used for fun yard balloon fights or in a pool and are great for working on improving eye-hand coordination






Twister Splash-this is a mashup of a sprinkler and the classic big body board game of Twister and will keep your bigger kids cool during the hot days. It is fast and simple to set up; put the game board on the grass, hook up to a hose and off you go. Just like the traditional game, you spin the spinner and then have to put your hand and foot on the colored dots; the twist for this version is that every time you make contact with the colored spot, you get splashed with water. Twister is a great game because it works on improving gross motor skills such as motor planning, balance, coordination, increases core strength while also working on improving motor organizational skills.






Water Marble Run-marble runs are always a hit with the kids that I work with and I love how there are so many therapeutic and developmental benefits from playing with them. This 125-piece set from Mindware is great for open-ended creativity and exploration while encouraging problem solving, works on improving hand-eye coordination, encourages bilateral coordination and works on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills. What I love about this set is that it comes with a float-like mat for kids to build their marble run on and gives the marbles a place to bounce off of which will be exciting for your kids. It also comes with a cup for you to fill with water to get the marble started in the marble run. Another thing I love about marble run is that it can be created on their own or it can be a collaborative effort kind of game. The last great thing about playing with marble run toys is that it can be different every single time so it can be new and exciting every time it is played with.




Nerf Super Soaker Skyblast Target Sprinkler-if you have a Nerf lover in your family and have some Super Soakers on hand, this is a great thing to have on hand for the summer months. The point of the game is to fill your Super Soaker up with water, aim at the target and launch the soft foam rocket up in the air. Players collect points based on which targets they knock down. The closer you get to the targets the easier it is to knock them down but be warned, you will be sprayed more! This is a great toy to work on improving hand-eye coordination, improves focus and attentional skills and can be a fun collaborative effort game to try and get the rocket up in the air.






Operation Splash Game-I am loving this water-filled twist to the classic game of Operation! Connect the operation mat to a hose and twist Sam’s nose to start the sprinkler and timer; you have 25 seconds to save Sam by removing all 5 ailments and placing them in the lifesaver ring while racing in and out of the spray zone before time runs out. This game is great for working on improving hand-eye coordination, improves visual motor skills, works on increasing grasp strength, grasping and manipulation skills and can work on building running endurance and coordination skills all while keeping your kiddos cool in the hot weather.






Water Balloon Pump-I want to say that as much as I love this water balloon pump gadget, you should only use this if you are willing to pick up all the popped balloon trash that will accumulate after the water balloon fight is done in order to keep Mother Nature happy and animals safe. With that said, I love this balloon water pump because it allows older kids to be more independent when playing (they may need a grownup to help with tying the knot). It’s also great because kids don’t realize that they are working on a bunch of developmental goals when they are using the balloon pump. Using this pump works on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, encourages hand-eye and bilateral coordination skills and works on executive functioning skills like focus, attention, organizational skills and working on frustration tolerance.





I hope that everyone is managing to stay as cool as can be! If you have any favorite water toys, games or activities that are a big hit with your kids or family, please be sure to let me know! I always love learning from you all and passing along any information I can to my clients and readers. Stay cool!

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