21 answers

Obsessed with Water!

For the last id say 6 months or so, my 3 year old has been OBSESSED with playing with the water in the house, the sink, taking the water out of her cup all over her table, the kitchen table the counters anything, ive put her in time out because its not a little bit ITS ALOT! and said water play is only for outside not inside, but she doesnt seem to get it, she understands and tells me why i put her in time out because she played with the water inside and its for out side only but she continues to do it still, how can i get her not too?

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Thanks for everyones answers! I do understand it is very fundamental for her to explore water I understand that 120% but when my land lord trys to blame my child water splashing on a leak in the wall from the bathroom to the dining room its a little bit uneasy to go about ANY water play with in a house. She loves Cooking with me and she does help me with dishes and loves bathtime and/or shower time, unfortunatly I run a Resort out here in yosemite so Im gone from 7-5 during the week, so we only have the butt crack of dawn together and the later part of the evenings together (which of course include bath time), but on the weekends we spend plenty of time outside playing with water and chalk or we'll make paper boats all kinds of play, apprently it is a stage and most of the kids grow out of it, im in an adventure as well being a new mommy no younger siblings on my end so definatly an adventure, thanks again for your answers appreciate em.

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Some schools have water play time. Do llike they do.. get some storage bins create some activities for a designated area and time. have her pick out all the toys or activities, and have fun! take away that time if she plays in the water when its not time


Set aside specific time each day for water play (either inside/outside-whatever you decide). Let her know that if she plays with the water at any other time, the water play time will go away. This will give her something special to look forward too-- It may take a few times, but she will understand that there are certain times its ok and other times when its not. Good luck!


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Greetings C.: I spent yesterday with my granddaughter who is much like your little one. She likes the sound that water makes, was thrilled to just sit by a puddle and see how the wind made ripples and waves. We both splashed in a fountain. I am sure she is just as happy pouring it as drinking it. Water is used by doctors all over the world as treatments. You may have a future famous surfer on your hands!! So make it easy on yourself and think outside the box of ways she can play with water and not make you crazy. Can you get her a stool that she can have at the sink and you give her different size containers to pour water into ? This really conserves water and still gives them enjoyment. I have also found that you can make a water thunder toy by connecting 2 large size soda bottles together and they tip them back and forth, the connectors are just about everywhere and this has even entertained my 10 year old grandchildren!! We have a big country sink that a 4 year old likes to take a bath in-- actually she calls it her mermaid time, that way I get things done and she has fun.
We let the kids play in the recycled water we save and let them water all the plants with it so it can filltheir need and mine. Good luck in the adventure of parenthood! Nana G

1 mom found this helpful

Some schools have water play time. Do llike they do.. get some storage bins create some activities for a designated area and time. have her pick out all the toys or activities, and have fun! take away that time if she plays in the water when its not time

She's curious! Don't punish her for being curious about water! Kids love to play with water. (And if you think water is messy, what will you do when she starts to paint, or play with play dough or clay?) If she wants to play with water inside, take her into the bathroom and let her play in the sink or the tub. (You have to stay with her, of course.) Tell her that when she wants to play with water inside, she has to do it in the bathroom, with mommy to help her.

I think you just have to be consistent with the punishment. We can teach our children right from wrong, but whether to do the right thing or wrong thing is ultimately their decision. she just needs to know that she WILL be punished, not MIGHT be punished and then she'll make her own choice about what to do or not do.

Hello C.,

When our daughter was 3 we gave her a lot of freedom in our house to go in any room and play. She would constantly disappear in the bathroom and create a watery mess. I would have her help clean it up and tell her I was very disappointed in her but she would still create a "swamp".

I don't know why it took me so long to create boundaries for her, I thought just telling her to not make a mess would be enough, silly me. We started to limit her time she could be in the bathroom and we would stand over her when she washed her hands after going potty. As her parents, we stopped being lazy (not that you are!) and made sure she was acting properly in the bathroom and with water.

She is 4 now and doesn't create "swamps" anymore!

I don't know if my story has helped but I hope it does!

It's a phase. She'll grow out of it trust me. My daughter did the same thing and she passed through it. Although she is still quite fond of water when it's appropriate to be using it ;-) Now my 14 month old is starting his "water phase". The only thing you can do is try to redirect her. Timeouts didn't work for us although I only tried it a couple of times. We had our daughter "clean up" her water messes and that seemed to have more impact. Cause and effect ;-) Best of luck!

She is normal. Maybe try a swim class to help channel the energy and teach water safety. Good luck!

Yeah, it's normal, and like I tell my 3yold, it's just water, if you are going to spill something water is the best thing! I (had) double sinks in my master bath and would let her play in the sink while I got ready, cleaned, etc. She would pull her stepstool up and I would turn the water on reeeealy low. She had cups, lids, whatever and would occupy herself by filling up, dumping out, and inevitebly I would hear "oops!" and i would just toss her a towel and tell her to mop it up. Sometimes we went through a couple of towels, but I always preferred this activity over watching tv to keep her occupied.

My little guy is similar. At first I was upset b/c there was water everywhere, but then I figured I could use this to my advantage. Instead of letting him get into trouble, I slowly made it into a reward. "If you stay in your bed when it's time to sleep, we can play in the sink tomorrow. We can even add bubbles if you...." We're trying to conquer some sleep issues here, but you can insert anything that needs correcting in your household. Make sure you keep your promise though. They do remember everything you say. I know we moms always have tons to do, but they only stay little for so long. Take that 15-20 minutes to really enjoy THEIR joy...and if you play with her, it will be an even better reward for her! Eventually, she'll move on to something else..Good luck.

I'd suggest closer supervision, if possible, and perhaps doing closely supervised water play in the house if it works with you. Perhaps more play in the bathtub, too? She probably likes to be around you, of course. good luck! I think that water is really important, so I wouldn't do time outs if you can avoid it. Then again, I'm not much for time outs because they seem a bit interuptive for things that aren't clearly bad. just my two cents.

I would totally take advantage of this water interest as it's something she enjoys, learns by playing with and is having FUN! There are so many water toys you can get for her that are low cost- if it's too hot outside, put the towels on the floor by the kitchen sink, bring up the step stool and let her have at it! I loved this water time with my kids- they were so occupied during this phase and I have some GREAT pictures! Plus, they both LOVE to swim when they were old enough for lessons.

So let her enjoy herself- be creative. Get some of the fizzy bath tablets so she can experiment with colors in a glass bowl. Jump on these interests that come up that will engage a toddler. Punishing her for being so naturally fascinated would be, IMHO, detrimental.

BTW, there are places like the Exploratorium in SF, Lawrence Hall of Science, Children's Discovery Center, YOUR BATHROOM, YOUR KITCHEN SINK, sprinklers out front, community water parks with run through sprinklers, etc. that you and your 3 year old would really enjoy.

Don't forget the sunscreen. ;)


Children this age love to play with water. The tactile stimulation is something they enjoy. I would suggest allowing your daughter to play with water but in a designated area, like a high chair/ tray. My daughter is nearly three and for several months she has been pouring the water out drinking it off the tray, splashing in it, and transferring it from cup to tray and back. When she wants to play with the water I allow her too but inform her that she can only play like this while sitting in her high chair. While this may be messy and a tad bit annoying for you to deal with and clean up, it is actually a learning mechanism children use.
- T.

Hi C.
it's a phase and too, it's a good thing.. afterall, she could be obsessed with crummy things like soda, sports drinks or processed juice. Instead, she likes water, it's a good thing and a GREAT drink... :) Also, water is easy to clean up... unless it's ruining something ??? I would just let her have her fun.. At some point, I think you have to choose your battles and at other times, go with the flow (so to speak :)
Also... don't fill her cup up too much and if need be, can you keep the bathroom door closed so that she doesn't go in (unless she needs to potty) at which time she can ask you for help?
When my son was very small, we simply shut all the doors and he played in the livingroom and diningroom.. when he needed to use the bathroom, I helped him. Now...he is seven and it's hard to get him to bathe............... hahaha so see ,they grow out of their like of water.. hahahah

hi C....
why not give her a proper place ie the bathroom, to play with water inside as well, or move to an outside space if she seems to be wanting to play with water at the time, time out is not really necessary, at least in my opinion, since it is obviously not working, and as far as developmentally, water play is extremly important for our toddlers. just be happy she is finding water so facinating in the summer when weather really does permit its exploration.

my girls are the same way.....I just had to keep putting them in time out..and now, I tell them to clean up thier own mess....it seems cleaningthier watery messes is not as fun as making them...so it happens less frequently....though for us....playing in the water outside is a blessing


Set aside specific time each day for water play (either inside/outside-whatever you decide). Let her know that if she plays with the water at any other time, the water play time will go away. This will give her something special to look forward too-- It may take a few times, but she will understand that there are certain times its ok and other times when its not. Good luck!


I know it is messy for you but it sounds like very normal three year old behavior to me. In pre-schools there is often a water table...a bit difficult to have in the house, but if she gets a lot of bath play and is not content with outdoor water play under your supervision you might try putting a plastic cloth on the floor and placing some water in a tub (preferably not one big enough for her to get into) and some toys cups, bottles, even a water wheel for her to enjoy the water with. Maybe she has to be dressed in her swim suit for this special activity or you can train her to just wear a water proof apron. If she gets good at not making the whole room a disaster area, you could graduated to an easel and some water based paints again with a cloth underneath to protect the floor. Maybe you have a budding artist or scientist!! Try to enjoy her explorations. Good luck!!N.

at her age, my baby brother told my mom -after getting caught swinging out the window from his drapes, "I'm sorry I got caught, but I'm not sorry I did it, 'cuz it was fun! And I want to go again!"
At least he was honest - it made my mom cry.
Make her help clean up.
don't let her play with water at all for a period of time give her a sponge bath instead of the usual to really show her NO WATER!!.
put tot locks on the bathroom doors.
Take away another favorite toy or activity as a consequence if she breaks the rules. She's old enough for longer term consequences than time out.
My son seems to think time out is like the crime has been washed away and he can start right back at it.
My son likes to play with dirt and water in the house -he makes aquariums with potting soil water and toys. It started at 3 but at almost 5 he still gets into it once in a while usually right after I've cleaned the entire house.
Your daughter will find something else to make a mess with or get your attention with eventually - but water is really fun and cool Mommy!

Watch her like a hawk and re-direct from the sinks; take her water cup away when she plays with it, and pray she'll get over it soon! Ha ha! My almost three year old will take a sip and spit it out- charming, I know. But she hasn't done it as much since I started taking her cup away. Her favorite thing is to fill the toy kitchen stuff and have tea parties and soup. I feel your pain!

Hey C., Let her play. Every day right after breakfast, let her stand on a chair at the kitchen sink and wash dishes. Give her a few plastic cups and spoons and a little water,,maybe bubbles from dish soap. Toss a bath towel over the front of the sink so it doesnt soak the cabinets, but let her have some time to play. Then have her clean it up. Later, let her go outside and play a plastic bowl full of water, with a couple different size paint brushes.(2 inch wide and small art type are great) Have her paint the fence, deck, picnic table,the trees,, whatever she can. She will see the color change when its wet, and it will dry and she will paint again. It sure cant hurt since it must rain where you live and these things get wet anyway. Get one of those sand and water tables if you can. Let her have a spray bottle of water and put colored paper on an eisle for her to spray. Have her clean up that wet paper mess too. Sit at the picnic table with her and let her pour water from a pitcher into glasses and tap them with a spoon and show her the differnt sound they make when filled to dfferent levels. Let her scoop and pour it back and forth and experment with it. If she has a small wading pool let her have plenty of pouring toys, cups, bowls, toy pitchers, scoops. Be sure to never leave her alone of course. Give her a plastic water bottle and let her water the plants outside, refilling from the hose with just a trickle of water coming out so it takes her time, and gives her the satisfaction of water play and a purpose. Water is fun and shes learing more than you know when she plays with it. Its not going to distroy too much as long as you dont let her have buckets full inside. Just give her plenty of opportunities to run with her interest and be glad summer is coming. Get a stack of towels out and let her go. She sounds like a delightful spunky girl!

You can't (get her not to). I would suggest you consider how much time she gets to play outside. You may want to try to increase that time to help her get more time to do water play. I also like the suggestions that you find a way to let her play with the water inside. You can devise 'games' that you do with her that will help satisfy her need to play in water, while also giving her some good learning experiences. I like one where you put a block of ice in a large tub, then use eye droppers to let the child drip colored water on the ice and see how it runs together. You can also let her sprinkle salt onto the ice. Let her feel the ice, and watch how it melts. Do sink or float activities with various items in a tub of water. Make up a variety of bottles with water in them, for her to experiment with. You can tint the water with food coloring, add sparkly confetti, or small floating items, then seal the cap on so she can't easily remove it, but can shake the bottle and enjoy the effects. Make up an "ocean in a bottle". Another favorite is to get a "tornado tube" (available at many toy stores) and put together two soda bottles, with one half filled with water. The child shakes the bottles and watches the water spiral down through the tube into the empty bottle... making a 'tornado' funnel.
When your daughter does make a mess with water, have her do the clean up. She can get most of it with towels, then you can go back and just make sure it is all done. Most of all, be sure when she does have access to water that it is in a situation where you have some control. Keep bathroom doors shut, and if necessary put a latch on to be sure she can't get in by herself, because she is still young enough to need supervision in the bathroom. Teach her to sit at a table when drinking water, or any other liquid, so she isn't dragging it all over the house to make messes that are in out of the way places or where she might ruin something important.
Make a 'together' game of her water play, because it sounds like part of the 'obsession' is the attention she is getting from you when she does make a mess.

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