Tin Foil River – Outdoor Play Activity

Tin Foil River: Outdoor Play Activity. Toy boats floating on a river made from tin foil.

This week we’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden…making the most of having an actual summer for once! As much as I’m loving the heatwave, it can be a bit much for little ones. This Tin Foil River is a great outdoor play activity that gives them chance to cool off!

It was really easy to do, totally thrifty and lots of fun. It’s a great sensory play activity, as well as encouraging imaginative play.

This idea came from a picture I saw on Play Hooray’s Instagram last week. It’s a great account full of ideas and inspiration for new activities. There’s also a website full of ideas!

Plastic toy boats floating on a river made from aluminium foil.

Setting the tin foil river up

It only took me a few minutes to set the tin foil river up, although it did take a few trial runs to get the right shape and size. The first one I tried was too long and just didn’t keep the shape of the sides once the water was in.

So I made it shorter and used a few layers of foil to make it more sturdy. Just lay the foil out flat, then start bending up the sides and scrunching them to form a raised edge. Add more layers of foil underneath and do the same again until it feels strong enough to hold water. If you need to weigh it down, add some smooth flat stones to the corners.

I made the river during Ollie’s nap because I knew it would be hard work with him around! I filled it with water and put his plastic boats in and left it for him to find.

He was really excited and couldn’t wait to start playing. Ollie decided to get in the river and have a little paddle. Unfortunately he stood on the sides, flattening them and letting all the water out! The great thing with using foil though, is that you can just reshape it! So I fixed the walls back up, put some more water in and we carried on playing.

It was actually a good opportunity to teach Ollie more about being careful and gentle. He’s like a bull in a China shop most of the time so any chance to teach him why he needs to chill out a bit is always useful! 

Once he’d had a few walks up and down the river, he decided to crouch down and sail the boats up and down it. This was a good time to practice the colours he’s been learning lately.

He liked splashing in the water with his hands and pushing the boats to make them move along the tin foil river. He also liked the noise the tin foil river made when he stood on it.

It was a really hot day so playing in the water was a great way to cool off without having the full paddling pool out. It’s also really easy to tidy away afterwards.

Child playing with boats

Ollie really enjoyed this outdoor play activity and we’ll definitely be doing it again! In future I might try colouring the water to make it look a bit more interesting. You could easily adapt this for older children and make it into more of a challenging activity. You could set your own fishing game up or get them to help make the tin foil river themselves!

For more summer fun, check out these fun kids activities to keep them cool in summer!

As with all activities, children should be supervised at all times.

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