Looking for a fun, engaging STEM activity for kids of any age? Just add water. Water is perhaps one of the best learning tools for kids of any size.

Water’s mesmerizing and highly sensory, quickly lulling kids into play and experimentation. And what play and experimentation leads to is important discoveries about the many properties of water. To name a few: How it flows, what kind of energy it creates, what floats in it, what absorbs it, what repels it, and how it evaporates.

Even if you don’t say a single word about the physics of water, educators say when kids get up close and personal with their physical world, it creates an important building block in learning. Experience supports their ability to learn the science in a classroom setting.

“The creation of new ideas does not come from minds trained to follow doggedly what is already known,” says early childhood researcher Selma Wassermann. “The creation comes from tinkering and playing around, from which new forms emerge.”

In other words, playing is learning. Here are three highly engaging ways to bring water into playtime. If you have older and younger kids, even better: Bigger kids can play a role in designing and building any of these three kinds of water play stations, which is highly empowering.

Water table: With just a plastic bin and some PVC piping, you can construct a water table for toddlers and preschoolers. (Even better, if you have older kids, get them to help with the measuring and assembly. All the instructions are here.) Add some pouring containers, funnels and perhaps even some food coloring.

Water wall: For this interactive backyard station, start with an old pallet, garden lattice or tall wooden fence as your backdrop, mount on some clear plastic piping, old food containers and other objects they can move and manipulate. Then, let the magic of falling water keep their minds and hands occupied (if wet) for hours!

Water dam: With LEGO Bricks and large baseplate, build a simple network of canals with tunnels and bridges, and show how gravity helps water find a way out. Without a doubt, it won’t be long before they’re gathering up more LEGOs, completely engrossed in the challenge of improving the design to make water flow through the canals in new directions. (If they really want to bump it up a notch, here’s a blog that talks about making a LEGO water wheel.)