10 of the best water play tables for children
Which are the top water play tables for toddlers and preschoolers? We've tested and rated dozens of them to find the best ones in a range of prices and squirty, splashy, surprising features
Water play tables not only provide a great focus for outdoor play (or indoor play, if you're prepared to brave it with a giant towel or a waterproof sheet), they're also are a brilliantly fun way of helping younger children develop key skills. Working pumps, spinning wheels, turning on taps and starting cascades can all help improve fine motor skills, cement the notion of cause and effect and introduce the concept of floating and sinking – plus, all that splishing and sploshing makes for some excellent sensory play.
Water table play also offers huge scope for creativity and imagination as your child introduces characters and accessories to the game. And, as the tables are usually big enough for more than one splashy player, they can provide a lovely opportunity to boost social interaction – with other children or siblings playing side by side. Water tables also require less water (and warmth) than a paddling pool, are easy to empty and tidy away and, because the play requires focus around the table, are much less likely to morph into the all-out over-excited charging around that sometimes comes with other outside water play toys that are really aimed at older kids, such as water pistols, bombs or buckets.
We took a good look at the water tables currently on the market, assessed their price and features and asked other parents who had tested these water tables what they liked about them, didn't like about them and whether they'd recommend them. After all of this, we've been able to come up with a selection of the best water play tables with different features, in a range of prices. We also pooled our parenting hive mind to provide you with a list of the things to look for when you're making your own buying decision.
Best water play tables at a glance
- Best water table for toddlers: Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table, £89.99
- Best water table for squirty fun: Little Tikes Anchors Away Pirate Ship, £89.99
- Best water table for preschoolers: Step 2 Archway Rain Showers Splash Pond, £110
- Best water table for different-age kids playing together: Little Tikes Magic Flower Water Table, £84.99
- Best water table with sun shade: Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table, £125
- Best water table for multiple ways to play: Plum Discovery Forest Water Run, £399.99
- Best water table for gentle wave action: Little Tikes Island Wavemaker, £84.99
- Best water table for portability: TP Toys Jungle Fun Trolley, £44.99
- Best water table for sustainability: TP Splash & Play Wooden Picnic Table, £129.99
- Best space-saving water table: Playhouse WaterWall, £99.99
What to look for when buying a water table
Age suitability – For very young toddlers, you might want to consider products that can be placed directly on the floor or on an existing bench or tabletop so they can reach it easily. For older 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.
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Care, drain plugs and lids – Caring for your water table is important, 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. Some tables come with drain plugs, which make emptying them much easier (otherwise you'll have to tip it up). You'll probably also want to use a lid or cover when your table's not in use: not all tables come with custom lids but you can find a creative coverage solution of your own (we use a BBQ cover to protect our water table from the elements).
Multi-use – Many water tables can also be used as sand tables and some have separate sections so you can have sand and water play at the same time. There are also water tables where you can move the fixtures around to create different water effects and others that have moulded car tracks around the edges or even on the lid. And some lids are flat and smooth enough to turn the table into a craft table or snack table. Going for a multi-use play table can help extend the life of the product as your child is less likely to get bored/grow out of it so quickly.
Accessories – You can just accessorise your water table with bath toys and plastic figures and utensils you already have around the house, but made-for-water-table-play accessories, whether that's boats, buckets or toy pirates, can really enhance play – especially if your water table has a particular theme. When comparing prices for products, take a look at exactly what is included in the package being offered. Some retail sites use publicity pictures that feature exciting-looking extras without always making it clear that these are not included in the price.
Material – The majority of water tables on the market are made of plastic for the very good reason that plastic is generally weatherproof, easy to clean and quick to dry. Wood is, of course, a more eco-friendly – and often more aesthetically pleasing – alternative to plastic but always check if it needs treating or sealing to protect it against the elements. Wood can rot if not correctly cared for.
Assembly – Most water play tables will require some self-assembly, sometimes with a screwdriver or other tools. If you're buying yours as a gift for a special occasion, such as a birthday, you might want to assemble it ahead of the big day to avoid having to stress-build the whole thing under the impatient eye of an excited child. Wooden products may need more assembly than their plastic counterparts.
Here’s our pick of the best water play tables for kids
1. Early Learning Centre Sand And Water Table, £89.99
– Best for toddlers
Age: 18 months+ | Size: 42cm x 68cm x 68cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Accessories: 10 toys, including rake, spade, boat, scoop and slot-in funnels and wheels
This sturdy, divided table gives you the option to have sand and water play together, although it's not best suited for water play in both sections as only 1 side has a proper drainage plug; the other just has a 'blocker' to stop the sand coming out of the hole. You get a lot of great accessories with this table, including great spinning wheels and funnels.
The separate lid (not shown in our picture) splits in two, so you can close one section, while keeping the other open for play, and it has a car track moulded on the top for a bit of added play fun. Once both sections of the lid are on and connected, it's definitely waterproof but maybe not completely water-tight. Liz, mum of our child tester Sophie, 13 months (pictured, above) said, "It's a perfect height for my daughter (she is on the tall side) and she stands and plays independently with it. I like all the toys, especially the ones that slot in and it's nice that the cover doubles as a race track." Easy to assemble. Also available in pink.
Pros: Excellent accessories, spinning features, cover, drainage plug
Cons: Plug only on 1 side, height probably only suitable for toddlers
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2. Little Tikes Anchors Away Pirate Ship, £89.99
– Best for squirty fun
Age: 2+ | Size: 80cm x 101cm x 71cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: No | Accessories: Toys including bucket, scoops, strainer, boat, life ring, 2 pirates and shark
This long-time bestselling water table is sturdy, well thought through and, with its cannon, crow's nest, ship's wheel and anchor (that you can lower and raise), it is full of things that jumpstart all sorts of imaginative watery pirate play. The crow's nest spins when you pour water on it and there's a spinning wheel and a pump to keep the water moving, but the real star features are the shark that squirts and the cannon which shoots water – both excellent fun. We like the pirate toys, too: they're just the right chunky size for little hands.
Kimberly, mum of our child tester Connor, 2 said, "My son loved pushing toys down the slide, pretending to play pirates. The only downside was that it needed a jet wash quite often."
Iman, mum of our child tester Nami 4 (pictured above) loved how well themed the table was – even down to the barnacles on the table legs. "There are lots of great elements to it, such as the mast in the middle," she said, "which has a water pump and the accessories are good. It feels very sturdy and it's quite big, which means 3 children could play with it at one time. I also really liked the tap used to drain water: it has small holes in it so the water doesn't come out all at once, so the grass underneath is less likely to become boggy".
It doesn't have a cover but it does have a drainage plug. Reasonably simple to assemble, though you will need a screwdriver and a drill, and Iman had some initial trouble getting the water cannon to work.
Pros: Great features, different levels, drainage plug
Cons: No cover
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3. Step 2 Archway Rain Showers Splash Pond, £110
– Best for preschoolers
Age: 18 months+ | Size: 79cm x 61cm x 99cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: No | Accessories: 13 toys, including bucket, scoop, 2 boats, spinners, chutes and various sea creatures
This generously wide water table has an upper level that allows you to pour water from a bucket (a small toddler would struggle to do this on their own) and watch it rain rather beautifully down through the holes into the 'pond' below. It has a fixed spinner on the top and comes with a good selection of other chutes, spinners and hook-on mini buckets that your child can fix – and rearrange – in different places to make different splashy effects. It has a drain plug but not a lid, and there is a moulded hole on the edge (meant for keeping the purple scoop net handy) that you could use to hold a sun umbrella.
Leah, mum of our child tester Macsen, 18 months (pictured above) said, "It's robust, sturdy and is suitable for a range of ages from older toddler up – I have a 3 year old who loves it too. It also has great accessories that come with it." Simple assembly but you will need a screwdriver. Also available in Blue & Green.
Pros: Different levels, moveable fixtures, accessories, drain plug
Cons: No cover, too big for some areas, probably too high for a small toddler
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4. Little Tikes Magic Flower Water Table, £84.99
– Best for different-age kids playing together
Age: 2+ | Size: 66cm x 76cm x 20cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: No | Accessories: 9 toys, including watering can, frogs turtles, ducks, fish
This good-sized, 4-level water table is perfect for children of different ages to play with together: the younger child can splash around the bottom levels whilst the older can play nearer the top. The extra wow factor with this table is the 'magic flower' right at the very top, which opens (in pretty multicolour) when you spray it with water from the watering can.
We also really like the big turtles and frogs, which can balance and spin on the leaves (and even stack on top of each other) and make really good water splashes when you pour water over them. Katie, mum of our child testers Paige, 4, and Felicity, 2 (pictured above), said, "I love the different levels of play: both my children get great use out of it. The accessories you get with it are good quality and really extend play." Do note that there's no drainage plug, though. Simple assembly but you'll need a screwdriver.
Pros: Different levels, hidden features, accessories
Cons: No cover, no drainage plug
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5. Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table, £125
– Best for staying out of the sun
Age: 18 months+ | Size: 58cm x 61cm x 108cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Accessories: Canopy, spade, bucket, 2 boats, 2 mini-bridges
This is one of the most expensive tables in our selection but it's also the largest and it comes with a removable sun canopy, a great lid and some nicely thought-through accessories. The sturdy, chunky table is split down the middle, so your child can either fill both sides with water or put water in 1 side and sand in the other, and each section has its own drainage plug (which means you don't need to tip the whole things over to get the water out).
The lid has elasticated tie-downs at each end, which we particularly rate for keeping everything super-weather-tight. And both the lid and the table have moulded roadways, providing ramps for toy vehicles on a waterside road, and slot-in anchor points for the mini-bridge accessories to make some over-the-water pathways. Easy to assemble but you'll need a screwdriver.
Pros: Tight-fitting lid, drainage holes, comes with a canopy and toys, accessories included
Cons: Pricey, too large for some spaces
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6. Plum Discovery Forest Water Run, £399.99
– Best water table for multiple ways to play
Age: 3+ | Size: 90cm x 60-130cm x 160-335cm | Material: Wood | Cover: No | Accessories: 2-in-1 step and storage box, paint pots | Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards
This clever, adjustable water table has 3 levels and 5 individual wooden reservoirs that can adapt to suit different gardens, depending on how much space you have. It has natural bamboo racing chutes and 3-way water racing gates that can be opened and closed to different heights, regulating the flow and direction of the water so children can race against each other. We love the specially designed 2-in-1 step and storage box and the wipeable painting screen with included paint pots is a really nice touch.
You just easily attach your hosepipe to the top and a constant, smooth water flow is provided — but there's also plenty of fun to be had when you turn the water off. As long as it's been filled up, there's a big pool of water at the bottom and kids can also fill up tubs and transport the water to the top of the run and watch it trickle down. We love the longevity of the water run as Emily, mum to our child tester Arthur, 4 (pictured), said, "it's fantastic, there's unlimited ways to play with it — every time the kids go to it they find a new game to play. We've found racing water beads down the runs really fun!" Quite a difficult assembly as it took our tester 4-5 hours to put together.
Pros: Different levels, adjustable, great features
Cons: Pricey, no cover, too large for some spaces, lengthy assembly
7. Little Tikes Island Wavemaker, £84.99
– Best for gentle wave action
Age: 2+ | Size: 94cm x 56cm x 20cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: No | Accessories: 6 toys, including bucket, pirate on a boat, treasure chest, shark, narwhal and mermaid
This action-packed water table has a working steering wheel on the side that makes little waves in the water, a palm tree that spins when you pour water on it and and 2 slides (1 on the raised island) for toys to shoot along. The pirate-themed accessories included are great and really tee up a good session of bucaneering play. We particularly like the treasure chest, which fits into each of 2 'secret' hiding places. It has a drain plug but no lid.
Iman, mum of our child tester Nami, 4 (pictured above), "I like that there are lots of elements to it. The wavemaker is easy to turn and there are lots of characters that come with it, including a pirate, narwhal and mermaid, all of which can travel down the slides on the table." Straightforward assembly but you will need a screwdriver and pliers.
Pros: Wavemaker feature, different levels, hidden features, pirate-themed accessories, drain plug
Cons: No cover
8. TP Jungle Fun Trolley, £44.99
– Best for portability
Age: 2+ | Size: 65cm (double when unfolded) x W51cm x 21cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Accessories: Features including boat, dam, rocker, gate, raft, trees, water pump, wave maker and bridge (but not the animals shown in the picture)
The portable water table is a clever idea: it simple folds up into a wheeled trolley with a carry handle for your child to pull along to wherever you're going – or stow in the car boot for longer journeys. Obviously, because it's designed to be folded up quickly, it hasn't got legs, so this is a water table your child can't play with standing up.
The jungle-themed features included are really top-notch: we particularly like the dam gates and the spinning wave maker you can crank with a handle, and the little animal rocker is very cute. It doesn't have a drain plug and it hasn't got a lid because it doesn't need one. Some light assembly (fitting on the features).
Pros: Good value, excellent features, easily folded
Cons: Not raised, so can only be played with while sitting, no drain plug
Available from: TP Toys
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9. TP Splash & Play Wooden Picnic Table, £129.99
– Best for sustainability
Age: 2+ | Size: 71cm x 89cm x 94cm | Material: Wood | Cover: Yes | Accessories: None
This wooden picnic-style table, made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified timber, has a (plastic) splash tub on one half (hidden under the removable table top, shown in our picture with sand in it) and a sink on the other half that features a rotating spout and running water, operated by a pump button.
We really like the sink's wiggly maze of a draining board and are impressed by its in-built water-recycling reservoir – when you remove the plug, the reservoir underneath fills with the water, ready to be pumped out of the tap again. Quite a lot of assembly required, using a screwdriver and sometimes making pilot holes.
Pros: Working sink feature, removable lid that allows it to double as a child's picnic bench
Cons: Large, difficult to store, lengthy assembly, pricey
10. PlayHouse Waterwall, £99.99
– Best space-saving water table
Age: 3+ | Size: 104cm x 59cm x 86cm | Material: Wood | Cover: No | Accessories:8 x Guttering, 8 x Guttering End Caps, 4 x Guttering Connectors, 2 x Corkscrew Frame, Collapsible Bucket, Seesaw, Waterwheel, Watermill and Waterfall | Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022
A very inventive alternative to a water table is this water wall from Playhouse. It's made from high-quality, sustainably-sourced wood and it's specifically designed to be kept outdoors all year round. Thanks to its clever design, there's so much scope for creativity for children as the interchangeable modular pieces can be moved around easily to create different combinations.
Our child tester Heidi, 6 (pictured), loved the features of the wall, saying: "I like it when the water makes the bits that turn spin around. I also like the slides and changing them around so the water falls into the bucket." Her mum, Joanne, said that "it's the first thing my daughter wants to play with when she goes outside and she keeps going back to it throughout the day. She gets so excited showing me the different ways she changes it to get the water to run down." Not only is it clearly fun for kids, it also teaches them about gravity, angles and water flow. It will also help boost their problem-solving skills as, through trial and error, children will need to establish whether their water flow system works and, if not, how to fix it. Some light assembly is needed as some of the wood doesn't have pre-drilled holes.
Pros: Great accessories, lots of different combinations, small footprint
Cons: No cover, pricey
How did we choose our 10 of the Best?
When choosing and testing these water tables we considered age suitability, size, price, assembly, whether or not it has a cover and drainage plug, special features, included accessories and, of course, play value.
Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club.
Each year, 1000s of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10 but instead a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don’t just tell you what is best, we aim to help you discover what is best for your family.
About the author
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for the MadeForMums team. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products for parents, ranging from best sleep aids to best playpens. She has a first-class Honours Psychology degree, and a strong interest in and knowledge of child development.
Pics: Product websites/MadeForMums toy testers
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.
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