In an effort to continue minimizing screen time in this era of social distancing and preschool closures, we ordered a few of Jack’s favorite entertainment items to keep him busy… but the thing that’s been the biggest hit is one of those nifty toddler water tables!
On warmer days, he plays in it outside for hours. But even though the table is technically meant for outdoor use, on colder days we’ve brought it inside and set it up on the kitchen tile. It’s still provided hours of fun for him… which equates to hours of downtime for me from the constant nagging of a three-year-old. #ParentingWin
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In an effort to bring you the same kind of relief, I’ll share the best water table options I found when I was researching which one to buy. Obviously, I am particular to the one we have, the Step2 Sand and Water Table. But there are some pretty cool options out there, and people like options… so here ya go!
Don’t wanna read the deets? See my pick for best water table here.
Best Toddler Water Tables: Quick Comparison Chart
|Water Table||Name||Rating (/5)||Price|
|Step2 Naturally Playful Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Step2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Step2 Spill & Splash Seaway Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Step2 Splish Splash Seas Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Little Tikes Sandy Lagoon Sand Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Little Tikes Spiralin’ Seas Water Table||~4.5||Check Here|
|Little Tikes Anchors Away Pirate Ship||~4.5||Check Here|
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What to Look For in the Best Toddler Water Table
What’s the Purpose of a Water Table for Toddlers?
Water play for toddlers provides great sensory learning opportunities. The simple act of splashing is not only entertaining – I mean, just look at how amused they get splashing around in the tub! – it engages multiple senses. Touching, pouring, and dropping things in water encourages imagination, experimentation, and even expectation, as they start to learn action and reaction.
For older kids who use more complicated tables or have more advanced toys, STEM concepts begin to be introduced. For example, some tables come with water wheels that introduce concepts of water flow and energy production. Some toys, such as funnels, introduce concepts of water flow and speed. Water play for kids provides such cool – and easy! – learning opportunities…
Best Toddler Water Table, or Best SAND and Water Table?
So, there are water tables for toddlers that are strictly water tables, and there are combination sand and water tables for toddlers. Obviously, the latter provides a bit more play and sensory options for your kiddo. Here’s my take…
If you decide to use sand, you have to purchase the sand, lug it to the house, fill up the table, and then keep it covered so the neighborhood racoon family doesn’t decide to make it their personal toilet…
As you may have guessed, the sand aspect doesn’t interest me. But that’s just personal preference. We like to move our children’s water table from outside to inside, depending on the weather, and non-removeable sand would just make it heavier… and messier.
If you opt for a sand and water table for kids, I absolutely recommend one that comes with a cover, so you can keep out the rain – and, more importantly, the critters – when it’s not in use.
You’ll want to consider the size of the area you’ll be placing your outdoor water table. On a tiny front porch? In a spacious backyard? It probably goes without saying, but we’ve all made the mistake of buying an item that didn’t fit where it was supposed to, right? (No? Just me??)
Whether or not you’ll be moving your table around is also something to consider – you’ll want a size and weight that’s compatible with your use. We use our toddler water play table as an “all seasons” water table – as in, both indoors and out. Ours is a fairly large water table, a 2’ x 4’ rectangle, but super light, so easy to move (it takes 2 people, though).
There are plenty of other water tables for kids on the market that are more compact than that, and therefore easy for one person to maneuver.
Water Table Accessories and Inclusions
Many less expensive kids water tables are just that – tables, with very few bells and whistles. Not that that maters much to kids… hell, our first baby water table for Jack was just a Tupperware storage bin with some of his plastic toys thrown in! When we decided to trade up, though, we knew we wanted a kids water play table with some features.
As I considered what features would be included in the best water table for toddlers, I knew I wanted one with a cover so we could keep the water and toys free from debris and bugs (and critter poop!) between uses. It makes things so damn easy, not having to clean the table out every single time it’s used. I also wanted it to have an umbrella, since there’s not a lot of shade in our yard. We could’ve figured out the water table toys either way, but like most on the market, ours came with toys included. One less thing to think about!
Suitable for Indoor/Outdoor Use
I mean, you can make any kids outdoor water table suitable for indoors if you really want to. We move ours into the kitchen when it’s cold outside, but if you’re not interested in your kid doing water play inside, the tables can be filled with dried pasta or beans and still provide a great sensory experience.
That said, some water tables are specifically branded as outdoor-indoor. The reservoirs can be filled with water and used outside in warm weather, but can transition to toy or craft storage when you bring the table inside for the winter. That means the reservoirs have fewer bells and whistles so there’s room for storage, but that also means flat covers that can be used as drawing tables (some covers are even dry-erase!).
A Note About Safety
Just like all parents do when their kids are in the tub, take similar precautions with water tables, especially for babies and toddlers. Like I mentioned, when Jack was a baby, we just filled a Tupperware storage container with water and let him play in it on the ground. Since that presented a similar risk as a bathtub, he was always supervised.
Best Water Tables: My Recommendations
Step 2 Water Table – Naturally Playful
If you search for the best water table for kids, you’ll see that Step2 pretty much has the market cornered, and for good reason – they make a kick-ass water play table… dozens, actually! This is the brand we went with, and we’ve been very happy with it. Step2 water tables have thousands of 5 star ratings, so lots of other parents are happy with the brand, too!
Our Step2 toddler water table is light, so we can move it around easily when we want to bring it inside. It’s pretty large, so takes two people – one on each end – to lift it. But when it’s empty, my 3-year-old can be one of those people! I’m not a fan of gaudy, so I chose the one with tan and green accents, as opposed to the bright pink or teal or others on the market (truth be told, though, those are far more popular).
Step2 also makes the best sand and water tables, and we went ahead and got one of those. However, knowing it’d be getting both indoor and outdoor use, we decided not to go the sand route for now – that would make it sooooo heavy. We just put water in both halves. That makes it easier to clean, easier to move, etc.
The 4 legs pop into the bottom of the table with waterproof(ish) rubber stoppers, and they come with screws so the legs can be affixed to make the table nice and sturdy. That said, I wanted to keep my kid’s water table easy to break down, so opted not to use the screws. That does make it more susceptible to leakage, so we need to be sure the stoppers are tight and the legs are square before filling. Even so, though, as he pushes and bumps the table, all bets are off! That’s probably mostly my fault for choosing to not put it together as directed, but it’s something to be aware of.
My favorite feature of our water table for toddlers is… okay, it’s two things – the umbrella and the cover. We don’t have a single tree in our tiny backyard, so the umbrella comes in super handy on sunny days. And the cover, in my mind, is a must. No worrying about bugs and debris getting in the table in between uses – just pop the cover on overnight (or even a couple days), and when it’s time for the next kids water play, the table is ready to go!
Step2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table
For something a little more colorful, but still with the features of a cover and an umbrella, the Step2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table may be a better fit for you. It’s literally the same as the Naturally Playful table – rectangular, with 4 legs, toys included – it just has brighter blue and green accent colors.
Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table
Though I prefer our water table, this may be the pièce de résistance of Step2’s water tables. The splash pond is the most widely googled of all water tables, and boasts majority 4- and 5-star reviews on a variety of platforms. If you’re into colorful, this is the table for your toddler’s water play.
It has a main table, plus a “waterfall tray” that spills water into the main table via water wheels and ramps. The waterfall tray also has holes that allow water to fall through like rain. It includes buckets, cups, and a catapult that launches the included rubber-duckie toys into the water. (A note about rubber toys: they aren’t my favorite, since they mold easily when water gets trapped inside. If you use them, check them often by holding them into the light so you can look for dark spots!)
Unfortunately, this water table doesn’t come with an umbrella. And because the waterfall tray feature makes it a two-tier table, it doesn’t come with a cover. Doesn’t mean you can’t throw a tarp over it, I suppose. Neither are total deal breakers, I just prefer a table that comes with shade and a cover included.
If the reviews are any indication, those items don’t matter to most parents! The huge majority of reviewers love this water play table for toddlers as-is.
If you like the exact design and features of the Splash Pond, but might be interested in a different theme, check out the Step2 Tropical Rainforest Water Table (the waterfall tray is a tree canopy and the characters are forest creatures) or the Step2 Rain Showers & Unicorns Water Table (baby blue and lavender colored, with unicorn characters):
Step2 Multi-level Water Tables with Umbrella
Step2 makes some pretty sweet tiered water tables. Unfortunately, that means they don’t come with a cover, but several do still come with umbrellas included (yay!). The all have 3 legs instead of 4, sport different features and themes, and have 4+ star rating across multiple platforms.
Step2 Spill & Splash Seaway Water Table
The Step2 Spill & Splash Seaway Water Table is great for younger kids, since one of the tiers is pretty low to the ground. It appears to be the sturdiest option, since there’s a crossbar (of sorts) between the legs. The top tier has a waterfall cut-out that lets water flow into the lower tier. It comes with a diving board and a catapult that launches the included toys into the water.
Step2 Splish Splash Seas Water Table
The Step2 Splish Splash Seas Water Table is tropical-themed, with an “island” in the middle that features a pool for the toy characters that are included. It also comes with water spinners, and slide and diving board accessories.
Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table
The Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table is ship-themed (obvi) and includes a captain, steward, and 2 passenger characters. It has a diving board, not one – but two! – slides, and an umbrella with a nautical design.
Little Tikes Water Table
Okay, I’m finally moving away from Step2! Overall, the Little Tikes brand offers more compact water tables than Step2, and the price tag is slightly lower, too. “Little Tikes Sand and Water Table” is a heavily searched item, and the brand is pretty solid according to the reviews, which consistently top 4+ stars.
Only one has a (partial) cover, and none have umbrellas, but the smaller size means they use less water and are quicker to fill and to empty (just dump the water out!). They’re also lighter and easier to move from outside to inside (just be aware that some features can cause water to easily splash out of the table).
Sand and Water Table – Little Tikes Sandy Lagoon
The Little Tikes Sandy Lagoon water table is my top pick because it’s the only Little Tikes water sand table that comes with a cover (it only covers the sand side, though). If, like me, you’re not interested in using sand, you can just fill both sides with water.
The table comes with a couple cute little “diver” characters that can slide down one of the two slides or jump off the diving board. There’s also a little funnel and water “see-saw” feature that spills water into the table below.
This Little Tikes water and sand table doesn’t come with an umbrella (unfortunately, none of their options do), but according to the reviews, that’s not a deal-breaker for most folks.
Little Tikes Spiralin’ Seas Water Table
This Little Tikes water table has the most reviews of all the Little Tikes tables on the market. It’s the most compact of all the others I’ve recommended, and therefore, less expensive (score!). But with thousands of 5-star ratings under its belt, it scores right up there with the pricier competition.
The coolest feature that sets it apart from others is a clear spiral tube that rises right up from the middle of the table. Kids can pour water into it and watch it fall, or they can slide the included toys down and watch them slide. There are also water wheel and “ferris wheel” features. Note that there’s no cover or shade, though.
Little Tikes Anchors Away Pirate Ship
This is the largest of the Little Tikes water tables, and with thousands of 4+ star reviews, it’s a favorite of parents. It’s shaped like a boat (obvi) and has the most inclusions and accessories of all the Little Tikes sand water table options.
My favorite features are the ones that move water, namely the squirting cannon at the back of the ship. It also has a pump that moves water into the pirate’s crows nest, holes that provide a rainfall effect, a water wheel, and water spinners. It has a slide, an anchor, a plank, and a half dozen other buckets and toy characters. Eeeeek!!!
And there you have it. Hope your kiddo has as much fun as mine (and that you can enjoy some down-time in the process!).
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