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10 of the best water play tables for children

If you're looking for a cute but sturdy water table for kids, we've got some great options right here from brands including Little Tikes and ASDA

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We’ve all been caught out by an unexpected spell of warm spring weather when the request for water play suddenly rings out and the best you can muster is a washing-up bowl and a couple of coloured cups or – if you’re really lucky – a batch of bath toys dropped in an out of use sandpit.

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But with warmer weather on the horizon and more of us spending more and more time socialising in our gardens, a high quality water table could be a genuinely good investment.

Water tables not only provide a great focus for outdoor play (and indoor if you’re prepared to brave it with a giant towel or a waterproof sheet), but they are a great way of helping younger children develop key skills. Working pumps, spinning wheels, taps and cascades can all help improve fine motor skills – not to mention the opportunities to boost social interaction as this is a great small group activity.

They also offer huge scope for creative and imaginative play as children can introduce characters and accessories to the game. They also require less water (and warmth) than a paddling pool, are easy to empty and tidy away and are much less risky than water fights involving water pistols, bombs or buckets.

What to look for when buying a water table

Age suitability – For younger children you might want to consider products that can be placed directly on the floor or on an existing table top so they can reach it easily. For toddlers and beyond, compare the height of the water table with the height of your child and consider height-adjustable products too.

If you have children of multiple ages, think about the different features and accessories. A toddler might be happy floating a boat but school-age children will enjoy the extra stimulus of pumps, locks and waterfalls so try to choose a product that offers both. And remember, never leave a child of any age unattended around water.

Care – Caring for your water table is important to – especially if it spends most of its life outside. Follow the care instructions carefully, try to empty and dry the table regularly and don’t leave stagnant water in it for long periods of time. Where possible, you might want to use a lid or cover when not in use – if the water table doesn’t come with one, get creative. For example, we use a large BBQ cover to protect our mud kitchen from the elements.

Multi-use – Many tables offer multiple uses – a dual sand and water table being the most common option. Some convert into craft tables or car tracks or simply a table upon which your child can eat lunch. Going for a multi-use play table can also help extend the life of the product as your child is less likely to get bored/grow out of it so quickly.

Accessories – The right accessories can really enhance play – if you have a themed play table, it’s nice to have the right pieces to go with it – whether that’s boats, buckets or toy pirates. When comparing prices for products, take a look at exactly what is included in the package being offered. Some brands use publicity pictures that feature paid-for extras without always making it clear they are not included in the price, which can spell disappointment on delivery day. You may find you can also supplement the included accessories with a few bath toys, beach games or plastic figures already in your collection.

Material – The majority of the products we researched were made of plastic – predominantly because plastic is generally weatherproof, easy to clean and quick to dry. Wood can also be a great eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing alternative to plastic but check if it needs treating or sealing to protect it against the elements. Wood can rot if not correctly cared for.

Assembly – Wooden products may need more assembly than their plastic counterparts and if you’re buying something as a gift for a special occasion, such as birthday, you might want to build ahead to avoid any disappointment on the day if it takes longer than expected to erect.

Here’s our pick of the best water play tables for kids:

1. Little Tikes Spiralin’ Seas Water Table, £49.99

– Best for imaginative play

Age: 2+ | Size: H80cm x W73.5cm x L75cm

This fun-filled water table offers lots of opportunities for interactive play. Stimulate young minds and hands with the spinning Ferris wheel, a ball drop and a lazy river feature.

A highlight of this particular water table is the added extras that come with it – a scooping cup and 5 little squirt toys that can be used in numerous creative ways within the table itself. Kids can drop them down the ball chute, pick them up in the Ferris wheel or simply leave them to bob around in the water. They can also easily be transferred to the bath for an alternative method of play.

The bright colours appeal to young eyes and the easy to use features and smooth edges are kind to young hands.

Available from: Smyths Toys

2. Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table, £89.99

– Best for pre-school play

Age: 2+ | Size: 71.1 x 100.3 x 67.3 cm

This cruise ship-themed play table is a sort of mini water park for toys. The design is fun and appealing and the accessories are well thought-out.

Children can send the plastic figures (included in the price) down the boat’s water slide or launch them off a springboard into the pool area. This makes it ideal for stimulating imaginative play.

A selling point for this product is the cover that’s included – meaning you can protect the play area from the elements when not in use. This is particularly helpful as one side of the table is designed for sand – covering it over after use will prolong the life of your play sand.

There’s also a handy plug for draining out the water when you’re done so it dries out properly in between uses, which should help prolong the toy’s life.

Available from: Amazon, Wayfair, Step2 UK

3. Early Learning Centre Sand And Water Table, £59.99

– Best for versatility

Age: 18 months + | Size: H42cm x W68cm x D68cm

This multi-use table offers great value for money as it is both a water and sand table combined and a car track. It’s also designed so that all of the accessories it comes with can be stored neatly inside it when not in use.

With 2 troughs, you can fill one side with water and the other with sand – or both with water if you prefer. The 10-strong set of toys it comes with, including a rake, spade, boat, scoop, funnels, moulds and wheels, makes this a great way of entertaining children for hours on end.

There’s even a waterproof lid to pop on top which has a built-in car track for Magnetic Trio cars (sold separately).

Rating it five-stars on the Early Learning Centre website, one customer commented, “This water tray is study when built, it’s the perfect size for my 18 month old. He enjoys playing with it. I love the toys that are in it and that you can buy more to expand it. I also love the road on top.”

The extensive range of accessories are good for developing muscle control and fine motor skills too.

Available from: Early Learning Centre, The Entertainer, Amazon

4. Little Tikes Fountain Factory Water Table, £60

– Best for group play

Age: 2+ | Size: H95.25cm x W74.93cm x L74.93cm

This brightly coloured water table made by early years’ experts Little Tikes is so eye-catching it will appeal to children of all ages – and it clearly gets the parent vote as it’s an Amazon bestseller.

It’s perfect for pre-schoolers who are still honing their social skills as it’s ideally set up for group play, with lots of different stations around the table that can be played with individually or as part of a wider group.

It includes interchangeable plumbing pipes that can be rearranged in multiple combinations and a water pump that can be used to channel liquid into any of the three fountains.

A boat, water cup and funnel are also included in the price offering more ways to play for your money.

Available from: Amazon, Smyths Toys, Argos

5. Aquaplay Lockbox, £40

– Best for small spaces

Age: 3+ | Size: H22.1cm x W65.02cm x L85.09cm

This water play table stands out from the crowd due to the fact it folds away when not in use and is much more portable than most toys of this type. When folded, you could easily throw in the boot to take on holiday or store it away in a small corner of the shed.

The initial set-up is quite fiddly and while you can close it up with everything inside, this is also a little time-consuming – it’s not quite the simple “click and go” process the instructions might have you believe. It’s worth watching a video of the process on YouTube to familiarise yourself. But it gets easier over time and – more importantly – offers a lot of play value.

There are tonnes of accessories included the price – a boat, a truck, a character and a working crane among them – plus the removable water gates and a pump. It’s a great way of teaching children about how water moves and also introducing them to how a real canal system works.

It also gets bonus points for versatility – it’s a fun track for boats and cars even without water.

Available from: Amazon, Argos, John Lewis

6. Clear Water And Sand Play Table by Me and Freya, £299

– Best for growing families

Age: 3+ | Size: H44-58cm x W63cm x L89cm

This sturdy play table is the most expensive product to make our list, but it’s also an entertaining and educational way to introduce children to a range of skills including sensory play, group play and basic science skills. And it will appeal to a range of ages, meaning if you have children at different development stages, they can all use it together.

A stand-out feature is the clear plastic design meaning children can see the water contained in the table through the sides and underneath, helping them to understand the concept of floating and sinking better.

The table can be used either with or without the metal stand meaning that while older children can stand around it, younger children can sit on the floor or ground to enjoy their water play.

The frame is also on wheels (with brakes) so it’s easy to move around. It also means that when playtime is over, you can wheel it directly over a drain and simply pull the plug. The table comes with a lid which doubles up as a shelf too – pop it underneath to store extra toys during use.

Available from: Not On The High Street, TSS Group, Hope Education

7. Dolu Sand and Water Activity Table, £59.99

– Best for multi-use play

Age: 2+ | Size: H73cm x W67cm x L47cm

Indulge your child’s senses with this activity table which offers 3 completely separate uses. Fill it with water and add the boats (2 are included) and the water tower to create a sort of marble run for water. If they tire of that, it can instead be filled with sand and two sand moulds are also included.

And if that’s still not enough fun for your child’s imagination, the toy can even be converted into a drawing table.

If you’re short on space or money and therefore want to ensure you get maximum play from a single piece of equipment, this is the ideal product for you.

Available from: The Entertainer, Early Learning Centre, Very

8. Kid Connection Sand & Water Activity Table, £20

– Best for value

Age: 2+ | Size: H30cm x W50cm x L45cm

This simple water and sand dual-use table offers great value for money at just £20 – especially when you consider that the price also includes a lid and a whole host of accessories.

With 2 separate compartments, it can be used for sand and water play simultaneously or simply filled with water on both sides. The set includes a watering can, bucket and water wheel with a funnel, 2 tools, 6 sand moulds and a lid to keep everything safe when not in use. Sealing the table when not in use can also help extend the life of the product as it is not exposed to the elements and gets a chance to dry out between uses.

The impressive selection of accessories offer opportunities for creative play and fine motor skill development.

Available from: Asda

9. TP Splash & Play Wooden Picnic Table, £99.99

– Best for eco-conscious parents

Age: 2+ | Size: H50.5cm x W94cm x L89 cm

Updated for 2021 to feature a working sink, this funky picnic-style table is a popular choice for parents who want to reduce the amount of plastic they are buying – and to those looking for something more aesthetically appealing than your average brightly-coloured toy table.

Full of activities, there’s a splash tub hidden inside the table top and a sink with running water, operated via a pump button. The sink recycles water from the splash tub, meaning you don’t need to keep refilling it. Alternatively, the tub can be filled with sand instead.

A bonus of the sink feature is that when your child is finished playing, you can show them how to wash up their toys before tidying them away – a skill they will (hopefully) go on to use elsewhere.

It’s also made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified timber and can be used simply as a picnic bench in your garden too.

Available from: John Lewis, TP Toys, All Round Fun

10. Little Tikes Anchors Away Pirate Ship, £79.99

– Best for longevity

Age: 2+ | Size: H90.1cm x W71.3cm x D100cm

Listed as a Number One bestseller among kids’ water tables on Amazon, this is a design that has stood the test of time having been available for more than a decade now. The gender-neutral pirate theme appeals to kids of all ages and stimulates imaginative play with its working water cannon and pump.

Around 77% of Amazon customers who bought the product rated it 5 stars including one who said, “We’ve had it over two years now and the kids still love it. We’ve used it as a sand pit, paddling pool, messy play tray, ice rink for toys in the winter (with frozen water) and currently we’re using it as a pond for growing tadpoles. It’s a fab item and with a bit of imagination (which kids certainly don’t lack) it will provide hours and years of fun.”

Accessories include a crow’s nest, boats and characters, a steering wheel and a water bucket to make it even more interactive.

Available from: Amazon, Selfridges

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About the author

Amy Burns is a journalist and mum-of-1. She is the expert parent and baby reviewer for iBuys and a regular contributor to IndyBest.

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