By Brittany Carlson
There are lots of ways to cool off with water in the summer. But let’s face it: when you have really little kids, a day trip to the beach or a water park requires lots of advance planning (and can be expensive too!) In my
experience, the fastest (and cheapest) ways to cool off with small children often require the simplest kinds of equipment. 

Here are some of my favorite low-maintenance summer water activities for young children. 

1. Backyard water fight.

My favorite family moment this summer involved an impromptu backyard water fight. My husband stepped outside to check on our boys playing and my youngest, 2-year-old James*, squirted him from behind with a water gun. Then my older son, 4-year-old Adam*, got in on the action. By the time I came outside from cooking dinner, my husband had grabbed the hose, still attached to the sprinkler, and was chasing the kids around with it. Soon we were all soaked, and the boys were having the time of their lives (ok, so were we). 

2. Accessorize at the splash pad

This past week I took my boys to a local splash pad, and was very impressed with another mom who had the forethought to bring a variety of plastic buckets and some small plastic balls. My boys joined her kids in filling up the buckets with water and throwing the (floating) balls inside. It stretched our visit from a typical hour to 2 hours before the boys were done playing. The filling and dumping activity was especially fun for my 2-year-old. And, to paraphrase this wise mama, a few bucks spent at the dollar store are well worth a better afternoon nap!

3. DIY slip-and-slide

My husband’s aunt recently sent us a fancy slip-and-slide for James’ birthday, complete with child-size inflatable rafts and a hose hook-up so the slide stays wet. My kids loved the slide action (even on a flat surface). But, you don’t have to spring for one of these to get the same results. You could easily 
make one yourself with a tarp and a hose. 

4. Make a water obstacle course 

My kids love obstacle courses involving water, and with a few items (and some creativity) you can make your own in the backyard. Some of our favorite options include a sprinkler to run through, a kiddie pool with a plastic slide, water balloons and buckets, and water guns to shoot at targets on the fence. I like a add few obstacles in between stations, like colored dots to step on or a tunnel to crawl through. 

5.  Amp up your water table 
 
My kids love setting the water table in the middle of the kiddie pool and taking turns filling it with the hose. I also give them plenty of buckets to aim for and balls of different sizes that can float. You could also put motorized boats or water toys in the table, or foam alphabet letters usually reserved for bath time. 
 
In her blog on water table fun for frugalfun4boys.com(https://frugalfun4boys.com/awesome-water-table-play-ideas), Sarah suggests letting kids test out LEGO boats to see if they float, or adding water beads and kitchen accessories to make a water table kitchen. 
These options help keep my boys cool in the summer without the need to drive far away and pack for the day. Of course, I’m always looking for more ways to have water fun in the backyard. Post your water activity hacks in the comments!

*names changed for privacy

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Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (4) and James (18 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY. 

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