Have you tried this viral activity yet? Meet the pouring station: the best toddler activity. Grab some containers, add some water, and sit back to a morning coffee that’s warmer than it’s been in months – all thanks to this easy outdoor activity.
What is a pouring station?
A pouring station is a collection of cups and containers for a child to practice, explore, and experiment pouring water.
The brilliance of a pouring station is it’s simplicity. This is one of the easiest toddler activities to set up.
Toddler activities don’t need to be fancy.
They don’t need expensive supplies or crazy long set ups.
They just need simple and engaging play – and this activity gives them exactly that.
The pouring station is all that: It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s basically free and it’s can keep a toddler entertained for so long.
This water pouring station was the first viral activity for my website Busy Toddler and my Instagram account. My now 10-year-old is 25 months old in these photos.
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- Under the bed storage tub
- Containers like glasses, pictures, measuring cups, even berry containers from the grocery store
- Food coloring
I started with my storage container to keep all the materials in one space. I love a defined learning zone and this does just that.
I grabbed various containers from around my house for my son (25 months old) to pour and dump from. You may notice some of the containers are glass. This was A-OK for this gentle first born toddler. I definitely used plastic with my second and third borns.
I chose to make some of the water colored – this is optional. I chose colors that “go together:” red and blue so eventually we had a bin of just purple water.
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Why set up a pouring station?
There are two main reasons I love setting up a pouring station for kids, my 25-month-old being no exception:
- He loves dumping water (shocker: he’s a toddler).
- He’s going to need to learn to pour for himself someday so why not start this skill now?
Activities like this are called “life skills” activities – they teach real world skills that kids will need to use throughout their whole life.
Pouring is a life skill children must learn to do. Teaching them through a sensory bin is such a great low stakes way to learn… much safer than with a full carton of orange juice.
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Tip – the pouring station can be done indoors too
This activity isn’t just for outdoors.
You can definitely make an indoor pouring station and it works perfectly.
Either put down a large towel under the storage container to protect your floors or put this together in the bathtub or shower.
Kids love pouring water. We can’t limit the learning to only outside time. Kids can learn this skill… but they need time to practice. Indoor pouring station for the win, too.
I always put a towel under the bin to catch any errant pours.
What are kids learning in a pouring station?
This was an absolute hoot to watch.
My son did pretty good with aiming but had absolutely no concept of capacity – which is great because that’s one of the skills he’s learning here.
What else is he learning?
- Life skills: pouring is a life long skill
- Capacity: understanding how much an object can hold
- Cause and effect: what actions cause what results?
- Hand eye coordination: aiming, grabbing, turning, pouring
- Science (properties of liquids): learning how water behaves
This activity is SO MUCH MORE than just pouring water.
But a reminder: we don’t need to justify play and fun with learning. Play is learning. It’s cool to see how much a child is learning during their play, but it doesn’t need to be a justification for taking the time to let a child play.
Frequently Asked Questions
This activity is awesome for toddlers to twelve year olds and don’t laugh. I have seem many a 12-year-olds sitting at a bin of water pouring and mixing. It’s relaxing. It’s calming. Don’t assume your child is too old for an activity. Let them be the one to say they’re too old or not interested.
This lasts longer than you might think. Kids get really specific and careful with these stations – much more than you may be expecting. Every now and then (maybe every 8-10 mins), I remove all the items from the bin and tip the water back into a few of the larger pitchers.
Food coloring is water soluble so it’s meant to “dissolve” when saturated with enough water. That’s in it’s concentrated form. In an activity like this, the coloring is very diluted from the amount of water. Even if concentrated food coloring gets on clothing, just set it in cold water for a few hours and watch as the dye seeps out.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
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