One of the best things about playing outside is being able to make a really good mess! This messy play frog pond is great fun for toddlers and young children, and can be adapted and put together using whatever you have at home. It will provide a great chance for sensory exploration, stimulate imaginative play and learning about wildlife, and keep your little ones cool and entertained on a warm day.
Family activity: how to make a messy play frog pond
- A container to hold the water – for example a roasting tin, seed tray, bucket or tough tray. If you don’t have a big one you could use a few smaller ones to make a series of mini ponds.
- Rocks and pebbles
- Short sticks in different shapes and sizes
- Non toxic plants – herbs are good. I picked sage, bay, mint and some long grass. A few hazel leaves made excellent lily pads.
- A jug of water (you may need to fill this a few times if you have a big container)
- Green or blue food colouring
- Small waterproof toy animals – frogs, insects, fish, rubber ducks from the bath tub or some smooth pebbles and a permanent marker pen
- Basil seeds (available to buy in large bags online)/chia seeds/giant tapioca pearls
- Tools for scooping and fishing, eg a small aquarium net, large spoon/slotted spoon, small bucket/flowerpot
Step 1: make the frogspawn a few hours ahead of playtime if you can. The easiest way is to take a couple of tablespoons of basil or chia seeds and soak them in about three times their volume of water – you can always add a bit more water if you need to. The seeds will swell up and form a jelly like coating around themselves. Store them in the fridge until you’re ready to make your pond. To make bigger frogspawn you can boil giant tapioca pearls until they are squishy but still pearl shaped. The pre-coloured black ones work really well, or you can add your own food colouring to the cooking water if you like. Let the pearls cool before adding them to your pond, and store in the fridge if you’ve made them in advance. In the photos here I have used basil seeds.
Step 2: gather up all the things you need for the pond and choose a good spot for your container outside. Bear in mind the water and frogspawn will get splashed about at playtime so you might want to avoid surfaces that become slippery when wet. Start by arranging your rocks, pebbles and plants. Then add the frogspawn you prepared earlier.
Step 3: add a little food colouring to the water in your jug and stir until you get the colour you want. Gel or liquid colouring work fine but if you use gel remember to make sure it all dissolves or you may find any remaining lumps stain hands and clothes. If you want to keep it natural you could use the leftover water from cooking a green vegetable like kale or spinach - that might give your pond a slight whiff, but ponds do whiff a little! Gently pour the coloured water into your container.
Step 4: now you’re ready to add the finishing touches – the animals!
If you don’t have any suitable toys don’t worry. A few smooth pebbles can be transformed into frogs by adding some big round eyes with a permanent marker. Look for some empty snail shells in the garden (but make very sure the snail is no longer inside!), or turn an old shoe lace into a snake going for a swim.
Step 5: add your fishing net, bucket and spoons, and it’s time to play! You might want to have a towel and a change of clothes on hand, just in case.
- Jelly pond – take the sensory experience to a new level by replacing the water with wobbly green jelly. Mix up the jelly according to the instructions on the packet and let it set. When you’re ready to play give the jelly a stir to break it up a bit and plop it into the pond container. This will make the activity a lot stickier, so messy play clothes are a must!
- Dinosaur swamp – it doesn’t have to be a frog pond, you can use the same process and add dinosaur toys to make a great prehistoric play tray.
- Under the sea – do you have a collection of shells from a trip to the seaside? Add these to the pebbles, make your water blue and perhaps even add a few scoops of play sand. Some toy sea creatures and a boat, and you’ll be ready to take to the waves.
How about making a real miniature pond for the wildlife in your garden to enjoy? Perhaps you’ll even attract some frogs!
Pond dipping is a great way to get close to wildlife. There are so many amazing creatures living under the water.
Use this template to make a frog mask and burn off some energy hopping about the garden.