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Water tables for toddlers are among my favorite toys for little ones. Water tables are imaginative spaces where your child can grow developmentally through play.
They’re great for children starting at 1 years old and grow with them for many years. A little messy? Sure. But when you watch your kid having so much fun outdoors and think about all the sensory benefits they’re getting, it’s clearly a winning choice for play time.
Not only do water tables make amazing outdoor activities for summer no matter how much outdoor space you have, but they also turn into an incredible sensory experience if you switch out the water for sand in cooler weather.
Not to mention they entertain little ones beautifully, which really can’t be beat!
Is a Water Table Right for My Family?
You might be wondering if you can actually fit a water table in your home. If you live somewhere where space is a consideration, we recommend checking the sizing of the water table you’re thinking about buying and then measuring your outdoor space.
Water tables are a lot of fun for kids and parents, alike! Even if you live in a small apartment or condo, as long as you have some outdoor space, a water table will fit easily.
If you don’t have any outside space, you might want to purchase one for a family member or friend’s house who does have outside space.
The combination of water tables and toddlers doesn’t make for a great indoor experience for anyone, especially parents! But if grandma and grandpa have a lovely outside patio, a water table would make a great addition to help keep their precious grandkid occupied and happy while at their house.
One BIG consideration about water tables for toddlers is that you should never leave your child unattended around a water table.
After birth defects, drowning is the number 1 cause of death in toddlers ages 1-4. Toddlers can drown in as little as 1-3 inches of water, and it can happen silently. Curious by nature, toddlers can get into all sorts of trouble. Add water to their playscape, and you up the ante for serious accidents exponentially.
We don’t say this to terrify you, but when you’re trying to decide if a water table is right for your toddler, you need to factor in constant supervision.
If a water table is something that you can commit to hanging out with your little one while they play with it, or that your babysitter or nanny will commit to, then it’s all good! Drain it when they aren’t actively playing, and you remove both the risk and the grimy buildup!
How to Choose the Best Water Tables for Toddlers
Okay, now that we have the space and safety considerations out of the way, let’s talk about how to choose the best water table for toddlers.
Here are our top considerations for water tables:
- Check the reviews. If you’re buying on Amazon, check the reviews of the water table you’re interested in. Often parents will leave helpful reviews of products so you can get a good idea if it’s right for your child.
- Check the size. Some water tables are pretty large, while others are more manageable! Measure your space and envision the table in it so you’re not overwhelmed when it arrives.
- Check to see what the table comes with. Some tables come with toys and interactive games. If accessories are sold separately, you’ll want to know beforehand.
- Check to see what it’s made of. Some water tables are much sturdier than others. Check the reviews to see what they say about sturdiness, too.
- Check to see if it’s easy to clean. If you leave your water table outside and exposed to the elements, it’s going to get dirty. Check to see how easy it will be to wipe down before your child goes out to play in it.
- Check for a drain plug. There are two reasons to keep your table drained: safety and cleanliness. Leaving water in your table provides a safety hazard if your child gets near it without supervision, and it also provides the opportunity for bacterial growth. A drain plug will make your parenting life cleaner, safer, and easier.
Best Water Tables for Toddlers
Our favorite water tables for toddlers are full of sensory and imaginative opportunities for littles. They also allow them to practice hand-eye coordination, hone their fine motor skills, and simply have fun.
All of our recommendations come with drain plugs (a must for easy water-table cleaning and safety), and unless specifically noted, they convert wonderfully to sand tables in different seasons.
1. Step-2 Rain Shower Splash Pond Water Table
We bought this water table for Jack when he was a toddler and my adoration for it has never waned.
The waterfall trays add a uniquely fun element, and littles are endlessly fascinated as they use the bucket to pour water in the top, only to see a rain shower come down to the bottom.
The many accessories make play easy. Rearrange the waterfall pieces like a puzzle, creating fascinating STEM play as your child gets a bit older. Perhaps my favorite thing about this table is how easily it grows with your little one.
When you finish using it, just pull out the drain plug, let it drain, and then wipe down to prevent buildup.
2. Little Tikes Fish ‘N Splash
We love this water table for the fun, educational games you can play with it. Watching water come down the slide, feeling the motion with little hands, and talking about gravity is a great sensory and STEM activity.
And the fishing games that come with the table make not only for great fun, but for a great opportunity to talk about colors, counting, and more.
The drain plug makes for easy cleaning, and the spinning lily pad can entertain kids for hours. Not to mention they work on hand-eye coordination and dexterity as they pick up fish with the hooks.
3. Paw Patrol Sea Patrol Water Table
My only regret about buying a water table is that I didn’t know that Paw Patrol would become an obsession just a year after our purchase.
And as it turns out, the obsession is the same in every preschool home I know.
That’s what makes this water table special–it allows for so much imaginative play taking plotlines kids know and love out into their own watery wonderland.
Kids work on coordination as they pour water into the Paw Patrol Tower and love watching it run down into the “sea.”
Little ones practice fine motor skills as they spin the whirlpool and play with the side flipper, all while sending Chase, Marshall, Skye, and Zuma on a fun water rescue mission.
4. Step 2 Car Wash Splash Center
A super fun variation on a traditional water table, this option is especially great if your best home for a water table is in the driveway. It’s also great for multiple kids with plenty of different activities they can do together while practicing sharing.
This table is full of spinning elements, falling water, sensory activities, and it allows kids to model what they see their parents do–wash your car while little one washes theirs!
One downside to this table is that it doesn’t work as well as a sand table, but it also offers unique summertime fun that other water tables lack.
Best Water Tables for Toddlers with Umbrellas
Some parents really love umbrellas on their little ones’ water tables because of the protective shade they provide to both the kids and the water.
While most umbrellas don’t cover the entire water table, they often help cover a large portion.
Plus, you can create more shade by moving it around depending on the angle of the sun when your little one is out playing.
Umbrella water tables are an especially great idea for families with unshaded, sunny outdoor space. Here are our favorites.
1. Step 2 Spill & Splash Seaway Water Table
The 2-tier design of this water table gives the waterfall effect without all the bells and whistles of slides, mazes, or runways for water. The two separate bowls also make it a great option for multiple kids playing together.
The starfish on the top level allows for the spinning effect found in so many water tables, and the open space for free water play is amazing.
2. Step 2 Splish Splash Water Table
This adorable water table with umbrella comes with so many fun accessories to make kids’ play as fun as possible. With the umbrella in the middle of the table, there’s much more protective cover than with many other umbrella water tables.
This table comes with an island that sits in the middle of the water, allowing for a waterfall effect and fun water play in the palm tree.
There is a spinning water wheel in the center of the table, as well as a fun slide to add to the entertainment.
3. Best Choice 3-in-1 Sand and Activity Water Table
This 3-in-1 activity set does it all–it’s a water table, activity bin, and picnic table. The umbrella provides cover to the seats, making it easy to feed kids outside or let them play while shaded.
While this table doesn’t provide the amount of playspace as many others, the fact that it’s so versatile is well worth the trade off. If you’re limited on space and want to get as much function as possible out of a play table, this is the perfect choice for you.
Water Tables for Toddlers FAQ
The best water table depends on your family’s needs, your child’s interests, and your physical space. Look for a well-reviewed table with a drain plug and lots of stimulating elements to support fine motor development. Our favorite water tables are by Step 2.
Depending on height, a water table is great for children who can stand and walk on their own, ages 1-5. They should always be used with supervision.
Many water tables also make great sand tables. Like when they have water in them, be careful to keep them clean.
Sand and water tables are amazing for children’s physical development, allowing them different sensory experiences and the opportunity to practice hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
What was the best water table for your family? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, 2 children (Jack & Branham), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.