Water Play for Toddlers Using Recycled Materials

Need to keep your kids busy? Check out this water play idea using recycled materials, which is sure to make your water play for toddlers WAY more fun.  Teach recycling to preschoolers (and have lots of clean, wet fun in the process!) with this new, eco-friendly idea.

One of our favorite ways to keep our kids entertained is water play for toddlers and preschoolers. We can set up a water table, sprinkler, or even throw the kiddos in the bathtub and they will splash, scoop, and pour the day away.

But every once in a while, our water play ideas get “boring.” According to our ungrateful kids, anyways. We have to find ways to keep it fresh and interesting (bonus points if it doesn’t take longer to prep than it does for our kids to play with). 

We love to play with recyclable materials over here (like our bubble wrap prints and our Bunch o Balloons paintbrushes). We have a rule, actually- before we throw anything out, we ask ourselves “is there a way for the kids to make art with this?” and “Is there a way for our kids to play with this in a new way?

Which is how we came up with this water play idea with recycled materials. After a quick clean up, our recyclable materials are ready to give new life to our water play (and are still fit for recycling preschool efforts afterwards).

Looking for new ways to engage your kids with preschool water play? A child pouring water from a recycled container into an empty milk jug

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Water Play Ideas for Toddlers

It’s amazing just how entertaining water play for toddlers really is. Heck, even my seven year old gets in on the fun regularly. There’s something special about scooping, pouring, splashing, and playing. 

One of the easiest ways to play with water is setting up a water table (here’s the water table we recommend). Fill it up as high or low as you’d like, and add simple toys (like bath toys) or kitchen tools (like this set of scoops and pourers).

If you’re ready to give this more time, consider getting an at-home sprinkler splash pad. This is 

A toddler and preschooler sitting at the water table using cups to pour water from.

what we use most often (and our favorite is SO CHEAP, you guys). It’s got the sprinkler aspect for more adventurous kids, or you can just let them play with the couple of inches of water that accumulate in the center.

little girl jumping in a sprinkler splash pad

If you have more time to give this, you can also set up a kiddy pool. (We like the Intex version that we have, but make sure you also grab a little pump to make filling it easier on your lungs!)

young toddler and preschooler in an inflatable kiddy pool

Related Post: 10 Outdoor Toys for Kids To Encourage Independent Play

Water Play Activity Using Recyclables

We rely pretty heavily on water to entertain our kids throughout the spring and summer. It fills their sensory needs, and gets them outside and keeping their bodies busy.

One of our favorite ways to engage our kids in water play is by introducing interesting tools. The cheapest way to do this? With recyclable materials.little girl using a ketchup bottle to squirt water into a milk jug

Start collecting plastic containers after they’re empty. Give them a good rinse. (You may need to give things like jelly containers or ranch bottles a longer soak.)

Little girl holding a recycled ketchup bottle

Look for containers with interesting tops. Ketchup bottles make a pretty good water gun, as do ranch bottles or squeezable jelly containers.

kids using milk jugs to play with water

You can also use anything with a handle to add extra interest. Think milk jugs or juice cartons. These also get heavy when they are filled, which is super good for kids’ proprioception. (Which is fascinating, by the way. The teacher in me totally geeks out on this. You can read more about heavy work and proprioception here).

Empty apple juice bottle being used to collect water.

Teaching Kids About Recycling When Your Water Play is Through

The best part about this water play idea using recyclable materials is that it teaching recycling to preschool kiddos in the process. The best way to teach kids about being ecofriendly is to start early.

First of all, tell your kids that we reduce our use as much as possible. You can show them any reusable materials you use (like these washable snack bags, for example, or tupperware instead of plastic bags). Talk about how using things like this keep up from having to throw things away.

Two young children playing in an inflatable kiddy pool using an old laundry detergent bottle to pour water into the pool.

After that, discuss that sometimes we can’t reduce our packaging, like with all of these neat bottles. But we CAN find a way to reuse them, like in art projects or with this water play idea.

And when we’re done? We can still put the recyclable containers into the recycling bin, to be made into new objects (thus preventing more plastic from being made).

Related Post: Got Bunch O Balloons? Try This Recycled Materials Art Project

More Water Play Ideas

Luckily, water is REALLY easy to come by for most people. It’s easy to come up with new and different ways to play with water. 

For example, a few small changes can turn your nightly bath time into a fun sensory experience. We use these bath time toys to turn it into a long bath time happy hour, especially when the daddies are late to get back or when we’re working from home.

Toddler in the bath tub playing with toys

Or, you can add ice into your water play to keep things exciting. We let our kids play with ice in all kinds of neat ways, from painting to color blending, and it really helps to keep them interested in water play.

Water table filled with ice with an open case of watercolors on top

Related Post: Make Bathtime More Fun with the Best Bath Toys for Toddlers


With a little creativity (and some recycling preschoolers!) you can add this fun water play idea for toddlers into your rotation of fun water activities. They’ll get a kick out of using objects they’re not usually allowed to handle, and you’ll get a little more peace in your day.

Any recyclable materials we left out? What do YOU think would be a fun addition to your kids’ water play? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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