When it comes to playtime, few things keep kids happier than water. And as summertime approaches, one of our favorite ways to harness that and keep them busy is with a sensory-friendly water table. Water tables (or sensory tables) provide toddlers a relatively mess-free way to splash, scoop, pour and explore and set up easily in the backyard or on the patio. Beyond teaching valuable skills like hand-eye coordination and STEM learning, they're also a great way to entertain multiple kids at once, offering an opportunity to work on social skills like sharing and taking turns. (Looking for other sensory activities? Check out 50 Sensory Activities For 1-Year-Olds to Spark Play + Development.)
You might be asking, is a water table worth it when you have a perfectly fine bathtub? The answer is a resounding YES. In pouring (see what we did there?) through reviews (and in personal experience), parent after parent suggests that no toy in their arsenal sees as much action for as long a stretch as their water table.
Below you'll find the best water tables for toddlers, each picked for their high ratings and reviews. They're all easy to assemble and low enough for babies as young as 12 months to get their splash on. All you need to add is water!
A favorite among reviewers for its durability and easy set up, the Little Tikes spiralin' seas waterpark table gets high marks for kid engagement as well. (Which might explain its #1 best-seller status on Amazon.) Little ones as young as 12 months (or younger if they are comfortable on their feet!) can play for hours dropping balls down the spiral, spinning the ferris wheel and pouring water through the funnel to spin the gears below. It also boasts tons of reviews from parents with older kiddos, noting it's one of the few toys that lasts through toddlerhood into the preschool stages. As a bonus, it comes equipped with a water cup and five squirting characters, but it's important to note that they can become slimy with mold pretty quickly. (We recommend sealing them with hot glue to keep water out.)
At under $50, the Little Tikes fish and splash water table is hard to beat in the dollars to fun ratio. Like the above option it's easy to assemble and drain when they're done and entertains kiddos from 12 months on up. Fun features like a tipping fish bowl, launcher and spinning lily pad give them plenty of play options while the included fishing pole, scoops and floating critters help them work their fine motor skills. We appreciate that it comes with just enough toys to keep them busy without overwhelming!
Want to double down on the sensory play? The splash n' scoop sand and water table from Step2 is designed to accommodate sand and water side-by-side. Two distinct zones make it a great option for multi-kid play but if mixing the two causes messes you'd rather not deal with, just pop the cover on one side to take it out of commission. It comes with several super cool accessories, including a shark scoop and water tower and has a spot in the center for an umbrella (sold separately).
The Step2 rain showers splash pond water table is one of our top water toy picks given its sturdy construction and engaging design. (Non-walking baby leans? No problem.) More than any other option, this one promotes all kinds of STEM learning with a top basin that creates an endlessly entertaining waterfall effect and removable spinners and tunnels to customize a cascade of water. Another reason we love it? The unique oblong shape is fantastic for multi-kid playtime, easily allowing up to four toddlers to comfortably play at once.
Sometimes, simple is the way to go. If you're short on space or don't want to commit to a bigger spend (or more clean up😉), the Kidoozie sand 'n splash activity table gives little ones all they need to splash and explore. The compact design comes with removable legs, so it can easily be set up directly on the ground if you'd prefer, while the divided play area can be filled with water, sand, rice, etc. It also comes with a bucket, shovel, rake, boat, and crab mold to add to the fun!
Stoop, scoop, dump, repeat! Little ones love this water table alternative which has two sides of fun. (And I mean, how could they not? Even I want to play with this thing.) The moveable water maze pieces promote experimentation as they figure out which combos bring water from the top to the bottom. And, given the wide variety of ways to play, reviewers say that even their older kids can't resist getting in on the action. Even better? Colder temps don't necessarily put it out of commission. One clever reviewer set it up in her shower to bring the fun inside, mess-free.
One of the tallest and largest sensory tables on the market, the Step2 naturally playful sand and water activity center is a top choice for parents of multiples and older kids who've outgrown the other versions. The two zones can be filled with sand or water, allowing a full menu of sensory exploration while the included umbrella keeps everyone shaded and cool, no matter how sunny your yard might be. When playtime is over, just secure the lid (which features convenient tie-downs) and everything will be clean and ready when they come back. (Sorry, neighborhood cats. You're not invited.)
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