Open-Ended Water Table Activities for Preschoolers

In warm weather, set the water table next to the sprinkler.
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Based on the pond in your bathroom after bath time, it's not surprising that preschool-aged kids are naturally drawn to water activities. The sensory experience stimulates your preschooler's imagination, and perhaps most helpful for caregivers, open-ended water table activities can literally keep small hands occupied for hours.

1 Dam

One of the few times when it's okay for the water to overflow is when you're dam-building in a water table. Provide your child with several plastic plates and bowls and let her experiment with blocking different areas of the water table, if you have one with slides from one level to another. She'll be able to experiment with the effect of containing and releasing the water through openings of varying size. Use straws to make a beaver-style dam of sticks. The possibilities are endless for her to construct a barrier and enjoy the rapid release of water when she removes the dam.

2 Funnel Towers

Funnels are a great way to start building those pouring skills needed to prevent daily spills at the kitchen table. Offer your preschooler several clear funnels of different sizes and show her how to connect them in different ways. For example, press the open ends of two funnels together and insert a third, smaller funnel on top. Tape them together with masking tape and let your child practice pouring water into the top funnel using a small cup or child-sized pitcher. Help her reconstruct the funnels in different formations so she can see how the water conforms to smaller spaces or creates a whirl pool in tapered openings.

3 Sponges

Finally, an instance when seeing your preschooler holding a soaking, dripping sponge doesn't make you lunge. For your preschooler, the simple act of saturating, squeezing and re-soaking the sponge is wondrously fascinating. Provide several different types of sponges, such as natural sponges, animal-shaped sponges and inch-wide cubed sponges. Show her how to stack and squeeze the sponges together or release the water by squeezing the sponge over a floating plastic plate or bowl.

4 Big Drops and Little Drops

Suctioning water into a tube and squeezing it back out gives your preschooler a sense of control over the material, and it lets her practice keeping the water inside the table instead of squeezing it on the floor. Provide your preschooler with a few droppers, the kind used in science class, and a turkey baster. Let her experiment with transferring water between floating plastic bowls using the droppers. Also show her how squeezing the baster or dropper quickly expels the water faster than squeezing it slowly.

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.