Outdoor Colored Water Station – Busy Toddler

Four bins of colored water sit on a patio, red, orange, yellow, and white. Cups and bowls are in the water and kid hands.


Looking for a super simple, but major wow-factor activity? Try setting up an outdoor colored water station. Using just water, paint, and some kitchen utensils, this activity comes together in seconds… but holds little attention spans much longer.

Four bins of colored water sit on a patio, red, orange, yellow, and white. Cups and bowls are in the water and kid hands.

Why create an outdoor colored water station?

Kids love water.

My mom raised me with some sage wisdom about kids: when in doubt, just add water.

Mom knew the magic of water, whether it’s a mid-day bath, a sink filled with water, or something like this outdoor colored water station.

Water calms most children – we just have to remember to use this tool and not only relegate water to drink cups and before bed baths. Water hooks kids like no other substance does. Water is magic.

This colored water station harnesses the power of water – and adds even more magic: the magic of mixing colors.

RELATED: Looking for fun summer activities for all kid ages? Check out this awesome list of ideas.

A child reaches into a bucket of yellow water to collect it in a container. There are red, white, and orange containers of water around.


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Don’t get hung up on having the same supplies as me (in fact, that’s good advice for most activities you see online). This isn’t baking. You don’t need to be exact and follow the recipe perfectly.

Use what you have. Use what makes sense.

This activity needs ANY bin, any type of washable kid paint, and any scoops/bowls/jars that you may have.

A hose fills 4 clear plastic bins with water.

The set-up

I learned about dyeing water with paint from my friend and colleague Friends Art Lab. You’ll want to visit her website for gorgeous, simple, and engaging ideas for kids.

  1. Start with your bins and fill them with water.
  2. Add in a few squirts of washable paint.
  3. Whisk it together (yes, whisk – it works better to combine the water and paint).
  4. Toss in some kitchen utensils. Don’t over think this part: just go with what makes sense.

Yes, it’s that simple.

That’s when when my Mom taught me “just add water,” this is a perfect example. When things aren’t going well or right or life needs a reset: look how fast you can create this activity and suddenly you have the most amazing activity to lift everyone’s spirits.

RELATED: Activities that are incredibly easy but somehow fix the mood in a house – I call those “Hero Activities.” I have a whole post dedicated to them.

White paint dyed water is scooped and poured.

How to play with an outdoor colored water station

After setting in the kitchen utensils, I basically backed away.

My kids were instantly drawn to this – and no shock. Kids are drawn to colorful water, like a moth to a flame. And this water (so opaque, so bright) is fabulous.

They began scooping, pouring, and color mixing.

Imaginary play abounded.

Potions and soups and “drinks” were crafted.

Four containers of red, yellow, white, and orange water sit on a patio. A child is reaching into the white container.

Tip – Avoiding “muddy” water color mixing

If you don’t love when kids make muddy colors, try using analogous colors in your water station.

For this activity, my kids kept the colors bright by only using red, yellow, and orange which as you know sit next to each other on the color wheel (aka analogous colors).

When those colors mix (along with white) the colors stay bright and don’t turn to mud.

RELATED: This is one of my favorite tips for painting with kids. You can find 4 more tips in this blog post.

Two children play with red, white, orange and yellow water. Red water pours from a funnel. Cups of orange water sit in the foreground.

How long did the outdoor water station occupy the kids?

Welp, about 2 weeks and counting


This activity was an absolutely smash, and continues to be a smash hit for my kids and the neighbor kids from age 2-12.

I set this activity up as you see in the photos. More bins were added, more colors made. Every day for 2 weeks, the kids refilled bins and added more paint.

This activity brought down the house. And continues to be a huge hit since it is still sitting on my patio.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the paint stain?

This is washable paint that is diluted with about 50 times more water than paint. It does not stain little hands or the storage containers. It also hasn’t stained our pavers. You’ll have to make the right choice for your family based on this information.

How do you clean the storage containers?

After sitting in the sun for weeks with paint and water, my storage containers (both white dish pans and the clear squares) had what looked like paint stains in them. It wasn’t actually a stain. I used water, dish soap, and a magic eraser to clean them for the next activity (which ended up being the kids using them for more outdoor colored water).

What age is a colored water station best for?

ANY AGE. Kids from just over a year to 7th grade will love this activity. There is something mesmerizing about the opaque color of the water.

Susie Allison, M. Ed

Owner, Creator

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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