Little kids are often excited by the chance to better understand the world around them and that includes exploring through sensory play. One of the easiest and most interactive ways to help kids learn through play is with water. They can see, hear, feel and in some cases taste the water (trying to get babies to not drink bathwater is a constant struggle). Water play has great STEM properties since kids learn about floating and sinking, can see the way water moves through tubes and down rivers, and witness cause and effect in practice (if I throw a heavy ball into the water, the water will splash).
Bath time is a great opportunity for water play and so are water tables. Water tables have taken off recently in popularity as an excellent item for growing kids. They require minimal space, they are affordable, they can be used with water, sand or other sensory fillers like rice or beans, and they are a great alternative to more screen time. Water tables foster independent or side by side play, require minimal maintenance, and for kids who love to be in the water, they provide a safer option for water play compared to a pool, river or lake (children should still never be left unsupervised near any form of water, including a water table).
The popularity of water tables took off in 2020 amid the pandemic when parents were eager to find toys that would stimulate their little ones and provide hours of fun without leaving the home. Even as schools, camps, and more public spaces open up, water tables still act as a great learning activity that kids will enjoy and parents can feel good about purchasing. An educational toy with no batteries and minimal assembly? Sign us up.
1. Car Wash Splash Center by Step2
If there’s anything kids love as much as water, it’s cars. Step2 combined the two fan favorites to make the ultimate water table and car wash combo with their Car Wash Splash Center. The interactive water table is shaped like a car, complete with a driver’s seat, steering wheel and windshield wipers. Kids will get a ton of mileage out of the fun setup, which includes two water basins, a top tray for rain showers, and several accessories that can be arranged in a variety of ways to create different water patterns. A rag and spray bottle are also included for a more ‘realistic’ car experience, as well as a gas tank. Parents can enjoy the back seat while their kids take part in independent play.Buy: Step2 Car Wash Splash Center, Kids Outdoor Water Table Toy, Pretend Play Car Wash Toy, Blue/Orange Car Wash Splash Center by Step2
2. Little Tikes Spiralin’ Seas Waterpark Play Table
BEST FOR LITTLE ONES LEARNING TO STAND
The Little Tikes Spiralin’ Seas Waterpark Play Table is a great basic water table that won’t take up much room and is small enough for young kids to be able to enjoy. The circular table provides easy access for several kiddos to enjoy at once, with a Ferris wheel for younger kids to turn and a spiral for taller kids to reach and drop the included balls into, watching them spin and splash. The low and sturdy table is a great option for young children who are still practicing their standing and need a firm handrail to hold for support.Buy: Little Tikes Spiralin' Seas Waterpark Play Table $44.99
3. TEMI Kids Sand and Water Table
For little kids who like to pull up a chair and get to work having fun, there’s the TEMI Kids Sand and Water Table. The table is split between two sections, giving parents the option of adding sand to half of the table or letting their kids enjoy water on both sides. A rotating pinwheel and waterfall provide endless entertainment for kids, while smooth edges and a no-leak drain plug create a play area that is safe and easy to use for parents. The Temi includes 27 accessories, from sand toys to a sturdy stool that lets kids relax while working on their next sand and water creation. All items included are made from non-toxic materials and are free of lead. With two sides, the Temi is also a great option for playing with two kids at once, since sharing is a skill that comes later. Much later.Buy: TEMI Kids Sand and Water Table $59.99
5. Step2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table
Is your kid like ours and refuses to wear a hat outside or were you nicer than us in a past life? For parents who are tired of the sunscreen/hat/long sleeve struggle during sunny months, your prayers have been answered. Mostly. The Step2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table includes a large umbrella to shade little ones while they enjoy playing with their new activity table. Both sides of the table can be filled with water or sand, with the water side including a river kids will enjoy racing through with the two boats included (a rake, shovel and cup are also included for the sand side). Drain plugs are included on both sides of the table and an elastic tie-down lid makes clean up fast and simple. The table and all the accessories included are made with kid-safe materials that are BPA and Phthalates-free with zero-VOC. As for the hat-wearing — thoughts and prayers.
6. Folding Water Fun Trolley Play Set Sand & Water Table
Buying a water table for your home, grandma’s home, the park, and your great uncle’s home isn’t the most economical plan. For a water table that can go wherever your little one is headed, we like the Folding Water Fun Trolley Play Set Sand & Water Table. The table opens to reveal a mini amusement park of water activities, including a wavemaker, a water pump, a fishing hook, race track, bridge, gate and house. When playtime is over, parents can securely close the table and kids can transport their new favorite toy thanks to the rolling wheels and handle. Even when closed, the playset still has enough room to store a few small toys inside, making it a great option for portable playtime.
7. Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table
We may not be ready to jump back onto cruise ships just yet, but kids can set sail with the Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table. The mini-cruise ship and water table combo has a fun twisty slide, a diving board, a slide and a boat that the little characters included with the water table can enjoy on their all-expenses-paid trip to your backyard. The lid on the front of the ‘ship’ can be removed to reveal a second section that can also be filled with water or enjoyed as a sandbox.
8. Little Tikes Magic Flower 12-Piece Water Table Set
MOST UNIQUE DESIGN
As we’ve seen in this list, ‘water table’ is a broad term. It can be a literal table, a car, a boat, or in the case of the Little Tikes Magic Flower 12-Piece Water Table Set, a fairytale garden. The charming water table has three levels of water wonder that are designed to look like an enchanted tree. Big kids will like pouring water into the top level and watching it cascade down past frogs and turtles, while little ones will enjoy the duck pond on the bottom level. The tiered design makes this table ideal for multiple children to use at once and it comes with several animals, as well as two cups and a watering can.