It’s hard to believe that something as unassuming as water play can have such a big impact on our children’s development. It’s good to start young with sensory play and STEM activities that help advance their fine motor skills. Splashing and kicking water, or even filling up a tub and adding a few of their favourite toys, a bar of soap, a sponge and a cup gives preschool-aged kids the opportunity to practise their fine motor skills by scooping, pouring and squeezing. This type of sensory play is also great for cognitive development.

So, what exactly are fine motor skills and why do they play such an important role in children’s development? “Fine motor skills involve small muscles working with the brain and nervous system to control movements in areas such as the hands, fingers, lips, tongue and eyes,” says Lauren Cleary, Occupational Therapist at Kids Focus. 

Developing fine motor skills helps children complete everyday tasks including eating, writing, manipulating objects and getting dressed, says Lauren. “These skills are necessary for many aspects of self-care. For example, putting on shoes, feeding themselves and cleaning their own teeth are skills that are critical for the development of emergent pre-writing and writing skills for when a child goes to school.” 

Once you understand the benefits of sensory play, suddenly there is a new level of appreciation for water play. What’s more, it’s inexpensive and simple to set up.

Take your water activity setup to the next level by creating a big tub of dinosaur soup. With minimal fuss and prep work needed, your child will savour their time spent experimenting with water play while discovering new textures in and among their dinosaur figurines. It’s time to dive right in!

SEE ALSO: Easy DIY Sensory Play: Sand Alphabet Hunt

What You’ll Need


Suitable for age 3+

Parental supervision recommended

A GIF series showing dinosaur counters being frozen in ice. This example uses a white ice tray, and green, red, yellow, orange and blue dinosaur shapes.

Step 1: The night before you plan to start your sensory water play, prep some dinosaur ice using an ice tray or silicone mould. Place a dinosaur counter in the centre of each cavity of the tray or mould and fill with water to the top. Carefully place in the freezer to set overnight.

A GIF series showing how to prepare the colourful dinosaur soup mixture. This example uses a blue tub, and red and blue food colouring to create a purple mixture.

Step 2: When you’re ready to begin assembling your dinosaur soup, place a messy mat on the ground and put a large tub on top. Dust a generous amount of cornflour in the bottom of the tub, fill with water and add a few drops of a food colouring of your choice, mixing the three components together. Adding cornflour and food colouring to your mixture creates a murky-like water consistency, which will make the activity more challenging rather than leaving the water clear and your figurines easily visible.

A GIF series showing the dinosaur counters and dinosaur ice being placed into the purple soup mixture.

Step 3: Drop in the dinosaur counters, as well as the dinosaur ice. Place the tweezer, sorting bowls and droppers to the side of the tub.

SEE ALSO: 3 Creative Kids’ Activities to Try at Home

 A GIF series showing dinosaur soup water play using a green sorting bowl, orange tweezers and a blue-tipped water dropper.

Step 4: Encourage your child to find the dinosaurs in the dinosaur soup. Explain the process of the game as you go; that by using the tweezers to grab the dinosaur ice, placing it in a bowl and squeezing water on it with the plastic droppers, the ice will melt and free their dinosaur friend.

Tips to Help Learning

You may find that your child needs a little more nurturing and encouragement when getting into the world of sensory play.

“Practise activities at a non-busy time, when you’re not rushing out of the house,” says Lauren, adding that it’s always important to encourage, praise and correct your child gently. However, if she had to narrow it down to one suggestion for parents, Lauren says that the most important thing is to engage and get on the floor and play with your child. “It is the greatest gift you can give them.”

SEE ALSO: Easy DIY Sensory Play: Slime Time!