What is it about water play? All little kids adore it. It can be a great way to keep little ones cool and occupied during the heat of summer. If you are have more than one baby or toddler it can be a little intimidating to think of doing water play with just one adult to supervise. The key, as with all things, is to keep it simple and plan ahead.
First of all, you can get away with keeping the set up pretty simple. Big pools look like a lot of fun in the store, but for my kids the small ones work perfectly. In fact we have gotten by without a pool in the past. A big bucket (cleaned out of course) and a big plastic toy bin have been just as effective. No, it doesn't look as pretty. But my son had just as much fun.
Kids really just want to play in the water, they don't care what that water is in. I've seen water tables in the store that look awesome, and I bet they are. You don't have to have one. A big bin of water and some toys, and most kids are thrilled. Speaking of toys, most dollar stores have a great selection of cheap buckets and pool toys for kids to play with. But you don't even have to go that far. Have any Tupperware lying around? It will work perfectly. Really any plastic toy can be a pool toy. Just keep in mind that if there are holes or small crevices that water can get trapped in they need to be dried fully so mold doesn't grow. We also have a couple of paint brushes so the kids can 'paint' on the porch or driveway with the water. It's a big hit!
We have two small pools that we are currently using. One is this little (affiliate link) blow up kiddie pool. It blows up quickly and is easy to store. My son has loved it for years. He is three and a half now, but it is still plenty big enough. We have a larger pool from Target, and it is the one the girls use. Since there are two of them they need a little more room to spread out. I put in about an inch of water and they are as happy as can be!
The biggest issue with water play and little ones is safety. Of course remember to sunscreen up and reapply every ninety minutes to two hours. Keep an eye out for dehydration. Sitting in water isn't the same as drinking it ;).
Being prepared is the key to having fun and being able to enjoy the water time. You will want to get everything ready and set out before you and the kids go outside. This means all the toys are out. Water bottles and sippies are in place, and extra sunscreen is by the pools. I lay out the clothes I will change the kids into after they swim inside the door so I don't have wet kiddos running around my house. I also lay down a couple of extra towels to try to keep things dry. Don't forget to grab any extra diapers and wipes you might need. Finally, I grab the travel potty and take it outside with us.
We have a walled in back yard, so no one can see us. It is much easier to have my son use that potty than have to take two wet babies in the house with us to use the potty. I know, it isn't the classiest move, but it works. It is just another consideration to make.
As I said the most important thing when dealing with water play, especially in pools, is of course safety. The safety talks are ongoing in our house. I am constantly reminding my son of the rules. He must listen and obey the first time I tell him to do something. He must respond when I talk to him. We practice some of them as well.
Ben loves to play a Marco Polo game of calling back and forth, "Oh, Ben!" "Oh, Mommy!" This verbal contact lets me keep track of him if I do have to look away for a moment to take care of the girls.
Yes, I do my best to keep my eyes on the kids at all times. Sometimes one year olds need extra attention. Ben is a very cautious kid, and I have trust in his ability to follow rules. That doesn't mean I want to leave him alone with the water. Maintaining conversation lets me keep track of him if my eyes and hands are elsewhere. I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to following safety rules. There is no gray area here. If my kids don't listen, we are done with the water play. Safety is the most important thing.
Even with all the preparations in place, I am prepared for a mess. Oh, the water play is outside not inside. I just haven't found a way to not get puddles of water around, even with the extra towels. For some reason 15 month olds don't stay sitting on the towels I put down, and instead decide to wander off and play. Crazy, right? I have learned to accept that. There really isn't an alternative, other than leaving a child outside until they are dry and changed. I'd much rather err on the side of caution and get everyone to a safe place before I am unable to get to them quickly.
Remember to only do what you can handle. If you aren't comfortable with pool play on your own then don't do it. Kids can have fun with small bins of water, squirt guns, or sprinklers. You need to feel like you can handle the situation and that everyone is safe. You never have to apologize for wanting to keep things safe and manageable.
To wrap it up, water play is awesome. It is a great way to entertain your kids and keep cool in the summer. It doesn't have to be Pinterest pretty, the basics are plenty. Plan ahead and have everything ready to go before the kids get into kiddie pools. Focus on safety. And have fun! Summer is way cooler when we can all get out and splash around!
Kim is the mother of three- a 3.5 year old son and 1 year old twin daughters. She loves helping people find ways to make their home team thrive. She blogs at team-cartwright.com.