DIY: Cardboard water play easel for preschoolers

I just love all the water wall ideas that I have read about over the summer. Most of the water walls are far more ingenious than what I have to share but I really wanted to try making one that I could move around easily so I made a water play easel instead.

I started out with a heavy piece of cardboard. I got this piece of cardboard from our local box recycling place. It is fairly thick and it was very long. It already had three folds in it so I just trimmed it up to make it stand like a large easel…

Of course, cardboard is going to break down as it gets wet so I will eventually just haul it back to the recycle place when it is no longer usable. To make it last a little longer, I painted it with some high gloss spray paint. I chose white so I could use colored water and be able to see the water more easily as it flowed down the wall…

To make water flow in different directions, I cut up a variety of 2 liter and small plastic drinking bottles to attach to the board. The bottles make great funnels and the two liter bottles make great catchers at the bottom of the wall. Since all the bottles are see through, the water can be easily seen…

To attach the bottles to the board, I simply used a screw driver with a pointed end to poke a hole through each bottle and through the cardboard.  I chose a skinny screwdriver so the holes would be fairly small. Then I pushed short screws through the hole in the bottle and the cardboard and added a nut on the back to hold the screw in place. The way the bottles are attached allows you to turn the bottles to the left or right so you can adjust which way you want the water to flow. I thought about using velcro instead because you could get the same idea and move the bottles from one location to another more easily. Next time, I may try that…

I left the lids on some of the bottles which allows you to stop the flow of water too if wanted. The lids can be taken on and off as desired….

I intended to add more bottles to the back of my water play easel but ran out of time before my news segment the other day. So instead I am using the back of the water play easel to decorate with foam shapes…

I simply cut colors of foam craft sheets into a variety of shapes and either dip the shapes into water and stick them on the wall or brush water on with a paint brush and stick them onto the wall that way…

The foam shapes will stick to the water on the board making a fun canvas to explore shapes and patterns…

Lots of potential uses and so far my cardboard water play easel has stood up to the water. I make sure I set it out in the sun to dry out then fold it up to keep it flat at night.  If I leave it standing in water too long, it wants to bend over so letting it dry flat helps to keep it standing nicely….

This is the water play easel all set up by my pool and ready for play!

Here are some links to other water walls…

Planning a new water wall by Let the Children Play

Sand and Waterwall by Child Central Station

Waterpainting with Shapes by Almost Unschoolers


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  1. says

    Love the moveable water wall. And I didn’t know that foam shapes would stick to a wet surface so well. I’ll be adding these ideas to my stack.

  2. Megan says

    Depending on the width of the cardboard, after painting it white you could use clear contact paper to help protect the cardboard from absorbing so much water. Just run the roll vertically across the cardboard instead of horizontally while covering it.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I hadn’t thought of using contact paper. That just might make a difference!

      • Trisha says

        You could probably just use white contact paper. But would it come loose with the water? Maybe paint over the contact paper??

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I have tons of bottles – this was a good way to use them up!

  3. says

    This is such a brilliant idea! I wish I hadn’t just dropped a giant piece of cardboard off at the recycling center yesterday.

  4. says

    I love how simple the water wall is to make. Little J has an “inventors box”. I’ll have to see if he would like to make this with me one afternoon. Looks like a lot of fun, and easy!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Thanks for stopping by Rachele and featuring me! What a very kind thing to do:)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I was a little intimidated about making a permanent one or one on a board but if I can take the idea and make it from cardboard – then I will give it a shot:)

  5. says

    You should be able to use a plastic garbage bag and glue it (while smoothing it out!) along the side too… As far as velcro for the bottles, stick-on velcro might wear off faster if water leaks out onto the sticky parts. Plus if it gets wet it could get moldy. Ewwww. I might try this with some thin board (I forget what it’s called) since I’m too lazy to go through this kind of effort more than once!
    And that foam shape idea is great! That should work in the bathtub too! I wonder if Sizzix or Cricut can cut thin foam… I could make an alphabet and shapes for each letter (apple, bear, cup, etc.)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Yes, the foam works well on any wet surface and you should be able to cut the foam with the Sizzix!

  6. says

    Oooh although with velcro you could also put extra backs on various spots on the board and let them not only twist the bottles in place, but move them around into their own configurations. Trial and error kind of thing.

  7. Kymberli says

    What a great idea! I’m thinking that I could adapt this to use on our school’s cyclone fence. If I make the bottles long enough and punch a couple of holes in the back (high up) and put pipe cleaners through…it’s worth a try!