Water Play Funnels for Cognitive Development in Babies

By Susan Revermann
Bath time can be an entertaining learning experience.
Bath time can be an entertaining learning experience.

When choosing toys for your baby, it may be hard to know where to even begin. By choosing water toys such as funnels, you’re not only offering a good distraction during bath time, you’re also stimulating your child’s cognitive development. This multisensory experience incorporates play and learning all in one.

Water Funnel Description

You will find a wide variety of water play funnels available for young children. These are usually made of child-safe plastic in an array of colors or simply clear. The funnels can be in the shape of animals, characters or simple towers. Some are in one piece while others can be pushed together into different shapes or stacked on top of each other. You’ll often find bends, twirls, shoots, sprinklers or rotating objects on or in the funnels.

Using the Senses

From birth, children are exposed to a whole new world, and they start learning from the beginning. Spirit Lake Consulting points to developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, and his take on a baby’s development. Piaget stated that infancy is the first stage in cognitive development, where the baby learns about the world through her senses and physical exploration of her surroundings. When a baby plays with a water play funnel, all her senses are at work learning, processing and categorizing. She is using her fingers to touch the water and hold the funnel. She watches how the water flows and splashes. She can hear the water go through the toy and splash out the bottom. She’ll probably try to taste the funnel and the water, too. As she processes each sensation, she starts to categorize and classify.


Using play funnels with your child is an ideal way to introduce new words. Point and say simple words about the object, like “water,” “pour,” “splash” or “float.” Describe what you’re doing, such as “I’m pouring water into the funnel” or “The water is wet.” Even if your little one can’t repeat the words or phrases right away, you’re exposing him to new vocabulary and correct sentence structure. Repeating the words also helps tie the word to the object or action for better recognition.

Developing Skills

Although your baby will not be a master of hand-eye coordination or fine motor skills quite yet, play funnels can help her to refine and develop these skills over time. She will start to realize how and where to grab the funnel or where to pour the water. Show your child how the toy works; help her fill a plastic cup and pour water into the top of the funnel. As she gets older, she will start to do these motions herself with more proficiency. It’s very likely that she will miss and water will go everywhere at the beginning, but practice makes perfect. Due to the mess potential and slippery safety issue, it’s best to play with the funnel in the bathtub or outside.