Painting with Water: Toddler Sensory Activity

by | Mar 7, 2020

Keeping your toddler busy is something we all strive to do throughout each day. When they’re entertained, there are less tantrums and more quiet time for you!

However, since a 1 or 2 year old’s focus is only sustained for 1-2 minutes, it’s not easy to find activities that your child will be interested in for that long.

You need to really zone in on their interests and what makes them happy and that should hopefully keep them occupied for several minutes (fingers crossed!).

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A simple set-up, fun, water play, sensory activity for indoors or outdoors. Keep your toddler busy and entertained by painting with water! This activity is easy and quick to set up and the only mess that's made is some splashes of water.

Why water play is fun

Water play is a fun, sensory activity that your toddler will enjoy for awhile! The best part about it is that it leaves no mess!

You don’t have to go outside to have water play! Even if it’s inside, you may just have to clean up a little water, but at least it doesn’t stain!

My 1 year old loves playing with water and there are so many different activities we came up with.

What you will need:

What to do:

This activity is so simple!

1.Fill a cup or bowl with water. I don’t fill it all the way because the more water they have, the higher the chances that it will be dumped all over the floor.

2. Line up 2-3 pieces of colored construction paper out in front of them.

3. Demonstrate how to dip the brush into the water and brush it onto the paper. When the colored paper gets wet, it will look like they are actually coloring!

A simple set-up, fun, water play, sensory activity for indoors or outdoors. Keep your toddler busy and entertained by painting with water! This activity is easy and quick to set up and the only mess that's made is some splashes of water.

4. They will be amazed by making the darker colors appear on the paper with their very own brush strokes!

5. If you’re sitting with your child, use plenty of language during this activity (see below). However, this activity can be done with your child left alone.

Tip: Put a towel down on the floor underneath to minimize cleanup and soak up the water ahead of time.

Skills that this activity addresses

Our children are constantly learning every day about the world around them through play.

They can learn language, problem-solving, cause and effect, shapes, sizes, colors, animals, and so many more skills through everyday play.

You can pretty much find skills that will be worked on through any playtime activity. For this Water Play activity, the following skills are being strengthened for our toddlers:

A simple set-up, fun, water play, sensory activity for indoors or outdoors. Keep your toddler busy and entertained by painting with water! This activity is easy and quick to set up and the only mess that's made is some splashes of water.
  • Language/Vocabulary: Hearing and talking about different objects (paper, brush, water, cup, paint) 
  • Cognition: Learning and understanding new objects and concepts (dip the brush in the cup, make strokes on the paper, paint the paper)
  • Fine motor skills: Strengthening and coordinating the muscles of their hands by using them to hold the brush and make strokes. Also, working on bilateral coordination (using two hands together in different ways) by holding the paper still with one hand and using the brush to paint with the other hand.
  • Sensory play: Feeling and seeing different textures can be calming or stimulating for a child. Even though children are in contact with water often, it can still be an exciting experience for them. They will get to explore different textures from the bristles on the brush, the wetness of the water, and smoothness of construction paper.
A simple set-up, fun, water play, sensory activity for indoors or outdoors. Keep your toddler busy and entertained by painting with water! This activity is easy and quick to set up and the only mess that's made is some splashes of water.

Ways to incorporate cognition and language

You really can and SHOULD incorporate cognition (knowledge) and language into any activity you are doing with your little one. Just merely talking through the steps that they’re performing will help build their vocabulary and understanding about new words and concepts.

Remember your baby or toddler is constantly listening and absorbing everything around them, including language.

Here are a few ways to build cognition and language during this activity:

  • Point to a piece of paper and ask, What color is this?
  • Ask them to point to the green paper, pink paper, paint brush, cup, etc.
  • Work on opposite concepts like in, out, on top, under, above, below, wet, dry, dark, light
  • Vocabulary words such as water, cup, bowl, towel, brush, paper
A simple set-up, fun, water play, sensory activity for indoors or outdoors. Keep your toddler busy and entertained by painting with water! This activity is easy and quick to set up and the only mess that's made is some splashes of water.

Ways to work on fine motor skills

Fine motor skills allow us to use the small muscles of our hands and fingers. They enable us to grab, manipulate, turn, twist, and hold objects.

Bilateral coordination also allows us to use both hands together in a coordinated manner usually to transfer objects and stabilize with one hand to manipulate with the other.

This activity can help develop these skills in a variety of ways.

  • Have your child hold the paintbrush properly with a tripod grasp (brush end coming out by thumb) thumb instead of a fisted grasp (brush end coming out by pinky).
  • Hold the paper down with one hand while brushing with the other hand
  • Flip over the sheets of paper to paint on the back
  • Transfer brush from one hand to another 

How did your toddler like this activity? Write in the comments below!

A simple set-up, fun, water play, sensory activity for indoors or outdoors. Keep your toddler busy and entertained by painting with water! This activity is easy and quick to set up and the only mess that's made is some splashes of water.

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