Best Water And Sand Play Activities For Under 5s

Two under-fives playing in the sand at the beach.

The weather is getting warmer and we can definitely feel that summer is on the horizon, making lockdown just that little bit easier to get through.

With the hotter days, it has certainly been more and more tempting to dig out the water toys to let our little ones run loose and play in the garden. There are so many games and activities that can be enjoyed by your toddlers using sand and water, and hours of endless fun to be had.

Water and sand are also great for child development. It can enhance social and motor skills and even cognitive ability, not forgetting the number of creative skills that are engaged by just using the powers of the imagination. Using sand and water as an exciting lockdown pastime for your little ones is a great way to keep them engaged whilst enjoying the sunny weather; it's a perfect time to play with both these materials! Playing with sand and water can be a highly sensory experience, and will introduce your toddlers to new textures, colours and feelings that they can then take with them into the big wide world. There are so many possibilities to be had with sand and water play, and sand is something you can easily get your hands on at the moment with store delivery too.

Go To The Beach

Beach fun

Bring the seaside to your back garden using sand and water, and let your toddlers explore a beach world of their own creation. Sand and water play can have an incredibly calming and soothing effect, and this activity really achieves that. Just use a deep tray, or if you have a water table, even better! Create your beach by arranging sand, separate the water and add shells, rocks, pebbles and tree branches and even some little fishes that you can make out of recycled plastic.

Go Fishing

You can really be creative at making fun, free and exciting games for your toddlers to play using sand and water. You and your little ones can try your hand at fishing from the comfort of your garden with this fun game. Just grab a large container or water table, fill it with water and put some fishy friends in. To really enhance the sensory experience, baking soda and vinegar or a bath bomb can be added to the water to make it fizz and pop. See who can fish for the most fish!

Create A Water Den

Water den

If you own a paddling pool then this is the perfect activity for your toddlers. You can turn your paddling pool into a water den by simply adding plastic sheeting over the top to create a canopy for your little ones to play and hide away in. Make it more sensory by adding glow sticks into the water for a more exhilarating time. It's the best kind of water play!

Have A Treasure Hunt

Treasure map

If your little ones love adventuring and exploring, then having a go at making your own treasure hunt in the garden can be amazing fun. Find some treasures from around the house to hide in your sandpit and let your little ones have endless fun digging and burying into the sand to see what they can find. You can even add obstacles to the hunt to make it more exciting, and create your own little pools and puddles for the kids to splash in as they go along. Transform the game into a scavenger hunt for an extra challenge, making a list of what your children need to find and see if they can discover all the hidden items.

Have A Sand Castle Competition

Sand castle competition

No day at the beach is ever complete without a sandcastle building competition. But now you can have one of your own from your garden, a perfect lockdown pastime that the whole family can enjoy and get involved in. Get your buckets and spades at the ready and see who can build the best looking sandcastle. Create water moats and mini rivers around the edge of the castles for an extra touch, and let your little ones draw patterns in the sand around the edges using pencils and sticks to see who has the best design.

Make Your Very Own Jungle Lagoon

Let your kids get in touch with their wild side and explore the jungle by making your very own jungle lagoon. Create a large pit in the sand, line it with plastic sheeting or bin bags, and fill it with water. Decorate the lagoon with plastic animals and toys who may have stopped for a drink at the water's edge, and for more fun, why not add some blue or green food colouring to the water to make it really pop. This is a really low price way to really create something special at home as a family.

Get Digging

Children love creating, exploring and making, just using their hands. Put on your hard hats and create your very own building site. Using sand or water tables you can have a great time transporting and emptying sand into different zones, and demolishing the sand buildings you make.

Drawing With Sand

Let your little ones' creativity flow free and get them to use their artist hands. Sand is a great surface to draw on, and all you need are a few utensils to make your interesting shapes. It's completely free too, but can really engage your kids' senses and imaginations. It's such a therapeutic activity too.

Make Some Sand Shakers

Collect some containers so you can make your very own sand shakers. This is a brilliant activity to add music into the mix too. Try out lots of different size and shaped containers made of a variety of materials to see the range of sounds you can make by shaking the sand filled inside.

Make Your Own Coloured Sand

Coloured sand is so easy to make but something the little ones always love to do. Using old jars you may have around the home, put some sand inside and add food colouring to the sand to make some lovely and vibrant colourful concoctions. Make each layer of sand in the jar a different colour to create your very own rainbow sand, which could then be placed in the window sill on display in support of the NHS.

Make Your Own Rock Pool

Rock pooling is such a fun part of any beach day trip, and your little ones will have just as good a time searching for seaside treasures in the rock pool you create. Just dig out a hole in a sandpit, layer with rocks and plastic, and fill with water. Decorate the edges with pebbles and stones, and place some fish-themed toys in the pool that your kids will love spending time to search for.

Go To The Car Wash


This is a fantastic water activity that may even get your mucky pups after a day of outdoor play a bit cleaner at the same time. Create your own car wash by filling your water tables with water and soap to make lots of bubbles and foam, then get some sponges to let your kids drive through and clean their favourite car toys.

Without a doubt, there are so many choices when it comes to sand water play for you and your toddlers to dive into at home.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

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