May 17, 2023

The benefits of encouraging water play at bath time

Sophie Allen
Sophie Allen
The benefits of encouraging water play at bath time

Water play

Water play, whether indoors or out, can foster cognitive development, teach mathematics and scientific concepts, enhance physical skills, promote social learning and cooperative effort, and enrich language experiences. 

Water play is an open-ended activity that will allow your little ones to express themselves by playing freely. Adding some cups, buckets, spoons or ladles, will develop visual motor skills like filling and pouring.  

Filling, scooping and pouring activities help develop fine motor skills as well as using math concepts such as less and more. This activity will help your baby coordinate their hand movements with what they are seeing and feeling.

Understanding the World 

Different objects sink or float in the water due to the amount of oxygen in the object. Being in the bath is a perfect way for your little one to begin to understand this and develop the cognitive thinking skill of cause and effect. This means that they begin to learn that they can manipulate the world around them and have an outcome. 

  • The introduction of numerous sinking or floating objects that you decide to use will aid in their language development e.g. block, spoon, box, cup, container, bottle, cork etc.

  • Your child will also exercise abilities like organisation, focus, spatial awareness, coordination, and independence. It will aid in the growth of their fine motor abilities, including hand-eye coordination. 

  • When splashing and dropping objects in the water, your child will be able to experiment with a variety of media while engaging in whole-body movement.

  • Your youngster will be able to investigate texture and weight, making it a fun and engaging multi-sensory experience for them!

Early Einstein!

Spare shampoo bottles? Don’t throw them away, keep them for your little one to play with! 

Pouring and transferring water is a great way for your little one to learn early mathematical concepts, such as weight, shape and size.


  • When the bottles become filled up with water, your little one will begin to realise that the bottles become heavier and that smaller bottles are lighter than the larger ones.

  • If you don’t have shampoo bottles, you could use plastic containers from the kitchen cupboard. 

  • Sponges are also great for their physical development, particularly the refinement of their fine motor skills. These skills are engaged when your little one practices opening and closing their fists to squeeze the water out.


During bath time, observe your youngster playing with their boat for a few minutes before asking if you can have a turn. 

Prompt them to take a turn or trade them for another toy. Start playing with a different toy later on, and when they become interested and begin to point or ask for it, say something like, "Your turn!" so they can see sharing modelled for them.


Join 1000's of families learning at home

Get 3 months of free access to our award-winning nursery education app.