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Our Top 3 Picks for the Best Sand and Water Tables
Too hot to run around? Water table to the rescue! Water and sand tables also come in handy during cold, rainy seasons. If you’re looking to entertain your toddler or preschooler, sensory play with sand and water tables will meet your every need. They’re open-ended and versatile, good for multiple age groups, and as portable as you need it to be.
Sensory play can be as simple as a bubble bath and as complicated as a sand and water table construction zone. Best of all, it’s sneakily educational. Sensory play is the foundation for cognitive learning. Studies have shown that children learn best when using multiple senses. Sand and water tables help children develop problem-solving skills and set them up for success in math and science.
The sand and water tables featured here are enjoyable and multi-purpose. Whether you’re shopping for apartment-sized entertainment or an outdoor extravaganza, you’ll find the best sand and water tables on our list.
- Our Top 3 Picks for the Best Sand and Water Tables
- The Best Sand and Water Tables by Category
- Best sand and water table overall: Step2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table with Umbrella
- Best budget choice: Step2 Duck Dive Water Table
- Best splurge: Little Tikes Anchors Away Pirate Ship
- Best combination sand and water table: Step2 Dino Dig Sand & Water Table
- Best sand and water table for toddlers: Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table
- Best sand and water table for older kids: TP Toys Muddy Maker Mud Kitchen
- Best sand and water table with umbrella: Step2 Spill & Splash Seaway Water Table
- Best sand and water table for easy storage: Simplay3 Kids Indoor Outdoor Sand and Water Activity Table with Storage
- Best sand and water table for cleanup: WishaLife Kids 6-in-1 Multi Activity Table Set
- Best sand and water table for groups: ECR4Kids Assorted Colors Sand and Water Adjustable Activity Play Table Center
- A Guide to Buying the Best Sand and Water Tables
- FAQ on Sand and Water Tables
- Can you put sand in a water table? Can you mix sand and water?
- What ages are sand/water tables for?
- Can 1-year-olds play with a sand/water table that is recommended for ages 2 or 3 and up?
- What do you put under a sand/water table to minimize cleanup indoors?
- How do I make my sand/water table more fun?
- What other cheap options are there to replace sand in a sand table?
- How do I clean up after sand and water play? How do I clean the table?
- Will I have to replace/refill the sand in a sand table? How often do I have to do that?
- Is sand safe? What happens if my kid accidentally eats the sand?
- Final thoughts
The Best Sand and Water Tables by Category
Step2’s Cascading Cove sand and water table easily tops the list. It features two distinct and drainable areas separated by a road. The contours and accessories make it interesting, but its simplicity encourages open-ended play. An included umbrella shades kiddos from the elements. Step2 has a reputation for building sturdy products, and this table holds up to rain, wind, snow and dirt, and withstands being moved inside, outside, and back again.
- Separate areas for sand and water
- Includes an umbrella, cup, shovel, bridge, and 2 toy boats
This Duck Dive water table from Step2 is another sturdy choice. Toddlers will love the central spinner and the tower’s moving gears. Because it’s round, kids won’t fight over sides, and 2-3 kids have equal access to the water at all times. The spinner makes non-water play a little more difficult, since sand or rice might get jammed. But if you keep the volume low and get creative, this table can work for dry play too.
- Includes a shovel, three squirters, and a spinning tower
- Round shape lets multiple kids play together
- Middle spinner creates waves for boats and ducks
Little Tikes’ Amazon-exclusive pirate ship table comes packed with features to keep your kids entertained. There are spinners, a cannon-shaped water shooter, and a moving anchor. The main feature is a manual pump that sends water over the crow’s nest and into the boat. Waves will cause the other parts to spin.
The boat shape and pirate theme create a wonderful jumping-off point for make-believe. It’s not the greatest table for small spaces, but the size works well for siblings who need elbow room. Lots of spinning features, including the steering wheel.
- Interactive details like crank-powered anchor and squirting cannon
- Includes a shark, pirates, a bucket, strainer, and scooper
Step2’s Dino Dig table will delight dinosaur fans. The table has multiple layers for dinos to stand on, plus a big palm tree. The volcanic mountain actually doubles as a sand lid. When closed, dinosaurs climb the peak while sand stays dry. When open, archaeologists can dig in the sand for fossils. The main area is large, with plenty of room for bigger dinosaurs and other toys. The oval shape and bigger size makes this table a good choice for multiple kids.
- Sand lid shaped like a volcanic mountain
- Includes 2 scoops, a shovel/rake, and 4 dinosaurs
- Includes a hole for an umbrella (purchased separately)
The Rain Showers Splash Pond table boasts a double-decker design, with the top layer creating a waterfall effect. Kids will love pouring water over the top and watching it rain below. Falling water travels down ramps and makes wheels spin. The upper layer might be too high for young toddlers, and the lower level too short for big kids. Still, it’s a great table for 2- or 3-year-olds looking for water play.
- Comes with ramps, spinners, cups, squirters, and a bucket
- Big basin holds 5 gallons of water
- Cause-and-effect style of play is the perfect STEM activity
The Muddy Maker Mud Kitchen offers a twist on the traditional sand and water table. It’s essentially a kids’ make-believe kitchen, but intended to be used outdoors. The sink side is a plastic basin where kids can mix pinecones, sand, sticks, dirt and water. The other side looks like a stovetop and oven, which doubles as storage.
After your kids have played with plastic sand and water tables for a few years, they might enjoy a change of pace. They can still dig, stir, pour and get messy, but with a new layout.
- Set up like a classic kitchen to encourage make-believe
- Includes pots, pans and a whisk
- Safe to be inside or outside
The setup of the Spill & Splash Seaway table is ideal for siblings who don’t share well. Each kiddo gets their own section! The double basins also clearly divide sand and water. Step2 actually designed it solely for water, with kids sending a cascade over the top edge into the bottom pool. However, many customers report using it for both sand and water since it lacks small parts for sand to clog. Best of all, an umbrella protects little ones from the sun and the heat.
- Double basins for clear division of sand and water
- Includes umbrella, shovel, scoops and squirters
Best sand and water table for easy storage: Simplay3 Kids Indoor Outdoor Sand and Water Activity Table with Storage
This award-winning table from Simplay3 can be configured four different ways. It has a flat tabletop for crafts or snacks, and a side with edges for messier activities. The table’s legs can be pushed together to save space. When they’re pulled apart though, they reveal deep bins you can fill with sand, water, or toys.
Simplay3 created the table to be used indoors or out. Parents report using it as a LEGO table inside, then moving it outdoors for sand and water play. We love that sand and toys can be scooped into the bin at cleanup time. This design makes storage a breeze.
- Table can be configured four ways
- Bins hold two gallons of water
If you have limited storage space, this multi-activity table from WishaLife is a great option. Kids can use it as a snack table, art or LEGO table, and as a sand and/or water table. It’s surprisingly stable, given the snap-together construction. After sand play, you simply put the lid on and keep using the tabletop. The smooth plastic can easily be wiped down. Extra bins on the sides hold water toys and blocks.
- Multi-purpose, making it ideal for limited space Comes with 119 duplo-sized bricks and one chair
- Soft, high-quality fur
Best sand and water table for groups: ECR4Kids Assorted Colors Sand and Water Adjustable Activity Play Table Center
This four-table station isn’t a sand/water table in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a group of bins intended for sensory play. The set-up works well for groups, since four kids can each have their own area. The height-adjustable stands can be set at different heights. Users have filled these bins with water, sand, rice, birdseed, dirt, and shredded paper. The bins each have a lid and can pop out of the stands for easy cleanup.
- Four bins with four lids
- Adjustable height, so bins can work for different ages and sizes
A Guide to Buying the Best Sand and Water Tables
How do I choose the best sand and water table for me?
With so many cool tables on the market, it can be a tough choice. Keep in mind these key factors:
How old is your audience? Many tables work across age groups. But some tables lend themselves to toddler play, and some are bigger and taller for older kids. Also pay attention to small parts that might get chewed by young ones.
Number of kids
If you’re shopping for a group, look for a bigger table. Find one that holds plenty of sand or water and can be easily reached by several kids. If your kids have markedly different needs, or don’t share well, consider the ECR4Kids group of bins, where each child gets their own station at their own height.
Will you be using the table inside or outside? Do you have limited space? Make sure your table can be left outdoors or won’t take up too much room in your home. Remember to measure the space around the perimeter so kiddos have room to move around comfortably. Some kids prefer to sit. In this case, be sure to leave room for a chair or two.
If you intend to play both outside and inside, look for a table that’s lightweight or breaks down easily. While some — like the ECR4 Kids bins or the WishaLife table — snap together, many tables have screw-on legs. These have to fit through your doorways while constructed.
A multi-purpose table is great. If you plan to do lots of water play, look for a table with a drain. When using a variety of materials, wet and dry, skip water-specific tables with gears and spinners. Water squirters easily get jammed with sand.
FAQ on Sand and Water Tables
Can you put sand in a water table? Can you mix sand and water?
Yes! In fact, most kids will immediately combine the sand and water. You’ll have sand in your water table and water in your sand table. Pay attention to corners, spinners, and squirters, though, so you don’t get sand in tight spaces. Some water features will get jammed if kids put sand there.
What ages are sand/water tables for?
Manufacturers usually recommend their tables for ages 18 months to 6 years. Toddlers tend to be fascinated by sensory play, and as soon as they’re able to safely stand, they’ll love exploring a water table. Sand can be trickier if little ones love mouthing objects. But generally, big kids and little kids will all enjoy sand and water tables.
Can 1-year-olds play with a sand/water table that is recommended for ages 2 or 3 and up?
You know your child best. Some 1-year-olds walk solidly and don’t eat sand. However, some 1-year-olds will be too short for these tables. The small accessories, including sand, could be a choking hazard.
What do you put under a sand/water table to minimize cleanup indoors?
Anything from a towel to a tarp can work under a sand/water table. We love this splat mat for protecting your floors and making clean-up a breeze.
How do I make my sand/water table more fun?
Sand/water tables provide a wonderful platform for exploring your child’s interests. If your kids like cars, get some water-safe vehicles to play with. You could even add tracks and bridges, or build a construction site. Crayola sells these color drops that will turn the water different colors. Create a blue ocean in your backyard! If your kids enjoy nature, you can use the table for dry exploration. Fill it with leaves, pine cones, acorns and sticks and let your kids investigate colors, textures and sounds.
What other cheap options are there to replace sand in a sand table?
If you don’t mind messy play, try these colorful, squishy water beads. You can also buy several colors of kinetic sand, or keep it basic with rice and Cheerios. Try mixing different textures by using dry beans and some monkey noodles. We’ve also found that instant mashed potato flakes make fun fake snow.
How do I clean up after sand and water play? How do I clean the table?
Sand notoriously gets everywhere. Keep a broom or a vacuum nearby to clean up right after play. Cleaning the sand table itself can be a bit more complicated. Kaplan has some tips for cleaning your play sand to prevent mold growth. Be sure to rake your sand so it rotates, and eliminate as much moisture as possible. Water tables can be washed regularly with soap or bleach, just like any other plastic container.
Will I have to replace/refill the sand in a sand table? How often do I have to do that?
Sand should be free of any visible contaminants, like bugs or trash. Bacteria can be hard to see, though. If your sand regularly gets wet, try to dry it out frequently. If you keep it clean, though, you won’t need to replace the sand often. You’ll only need replacement or refill sand when your kids have spilled too much over the sides.
Is sand safe? What happens if my kid accidentally eats the sand?
When you purchase sandbox sand from the hardware store, you’ll find finely-ground sand perfect for building castles. But that doesn’t mean it’s silica-free. As popular manufacturer Sakrete says, if you’re comfortable having your kids on the beach, you should feel good about using standard sandbox sand. Sakrete also explains that silica levels in their sand are non-toxic. Still, if you want something designed specifically for child safety, you’ll find plenty of options. Sandtastik is wonderful for indoor or outdoor play and doesn’t contain quartz or silica.
If your child ingests sand during play, monitor them for signs of illness. Usually they’ll simply be upset about the yucky taste and texture. But invisible bacteria could cause problems. Too much sand in the system can also wreak havoc on your child’s digestion.
We love sand and water tables because they’re both simple and wildly entertaining. You can use them right out of the box or customize them to fit your child’s needs. What sounds like summer fun can truly be used year-round, indoors or out. On hot days or snowy days, you’ll be so glad to have a multi-purpose activity table at home. We hope you’ll find a suitable one for your family from our list of best sand and water tables above!
For more toys that are suitable for indoors and out for this age range, check out the best toys for 4-year-olds.