We love water! Really, what kid doesn't? Prior to having other children in our home, we did a lot of our water play right in the bathtub or at the kitchen sink. You can too! Now we do most of it in our sensory pool. We place a towel below our water container to catch the majority of the drips. Still, "in diaper" children often just have clothes removed because they are young enough to really get it all over them. Potty trained children usually have a bit more control. With my younger preschool students I often use a plastic paint smock as our "water smock" and that protects a bit of their clothing. But...if it gets on them...it's water and we don't worry all that much. :-)
What can you do with water? So much! You can simply provide water with two cups and they'll explore for quite awhile. Typically, less it better...when it comes to beginning sensory play. Especially if you have a certain skill you want to work on. For example, below you will see a picture from awhile back and you can probably guess what my main goal for them to do was.
Yes, I wanted them to use those muscles in their hands to squeeze those bottles. Obviously this was not the first day using these bottles because there are other tools there. Typically when I introduce a new "tool" I use pretty much that tool only, so for example, I would have provided a couple of squeeze bottles and maybe two different sized containers. I add decorative rocks for two reasons. One being that when they get wet, they get shiny. Also, adding rocks to water usually turns into an exploration of displacement since they will eventually put the rocks in the containers, thus various sized containers being available. I have had older students create rivers and waterfalls using the rocks.
Other ideas for water play:
* add color to a squirt or soap pump bottle. I've done two pumps or two squirt bottles with two primary colors of water.
* add dish detergent and manual beaters to create suds. We've also used an old grater and grated soap and then used the beater.
* small pitcher and cups (check your dollar store for lots of tools to be used for sensory!)
* fill an icecube tray up with water and drape a piece a yarn so it dips into each section. When it freezes, pop it out and you have an icecube train.
* add water to other sensory such as sand or dirt.
* spray bottles. A Mailbox idea is to cut out flames from orange and red foam (they float) and encourage the child to "put out the fire".
* foam shapes that you can get at Meijer and craft stores all float and then stick to the side of the container.
* objects inside of the container such as foam shapes, confetti, rocks, aquarium gravel, pennies and etc and a sieve. You can make your own sieve by using a plastic container and poking holes in the bottom.
* eye droppers or basters
* sand/water wheels
* add a ramp and let them roll items down it and see the results.
* wide and narrow necked containers and funnels
* a regular cup and a cup with holes at the bottom
* we've used our play "kitchen aid". They loved it. Added a little soap to the water and when they turned on the beater it foamed all up.
* we add magnetic and non magnetic objects to the water and "go fishing". Purchased or home made fishing poles.
* we add toy boats or make our own boats to float.
* we use our water tub to do sink and float experiments.
* we've used a baby bath as our "water table" and added just a wee bit of water, plastic dolls, washcloths, a bit of baby soap, a towel etc.
* hollow plastic tubing is really neat with colored water. They'll need help to begin with or use it as a multiple child exploration. You'll need a funnel and cup also.
* During our farm week one year, we filled plastic/latex gloves with water and poked a hole in the tips. They "milked the cow". So funny! They laughed and laughed.
* Sponges are great for fine motor. A montessori activity would have a tray with a container of water, and empty container, and a sponge. Children would dip sponge in full container and squeeze into empty container and their task was done when they transferred the water. I sometimes start out like that and then move to the pool so there can more more exploring taking place with various size and types of sponges.
* tongs and ping pong balls. Good eye-hand coordination Slotted spoons work well for this type of activity as well.
That should get you started! The sky is your limit! :-P