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10 best sand and water tables for exciting outdoor play

Enjoying beautiful sunny days playing in the garden is a wonderful way for a child to spend their time, and exciting outdoor toys like sand and water tables are a great way to encourage it. Here are the best ones to buy this year.

By Gemma Lumley | Last updated Aug 16, 2022

Little girl playing with sand water table

A robust activity table that allows little ones to build with sand and splash in the water, along with other fun activities, can be an investment purchase that will delight children of all ages. They should be quick to assemble, constructed from high-quality, solid materials and come with lots of accessories to spark imagination and encourage sensory play.

Look for lids that will protect the contents, drain plugs for easy cleaning, a table that is the right height for your child and features that will allow the table to grow with them for longevity. If your toddler loves dinosaurs, trains, animals or pirates, there are also some fantastic themed sand and water tables that they’ll adore.

To make life easier for parents (that's what Mumsnet is here for, after all), we've done the hard work for you and have thoroughly researched the best activity tables, taking into account the ones that come highly recommended by real parents.

Here are the best sand and water tables to buy in 2022.

1. Best overall sand and water table: Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table

ELC

Price: £69.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“Definitely a water table. You can get dual sand and water tables with lids, that's what I'd go for.” (Design of toy suggested by Mumsnet user SarahWoodruff)

The Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table is a colourful and robust outdoor toy that toddlers and preschool children will both love. It comes with two durable waterproof lids for the sand and water sections to protect them from the weather, pests and cats when not in use.

This sand and water table has lots of tools and toys; your little one will develop motor skills and creativity and have endless fun using them. We loved that the lids had a road map carved into them so they could be used as a play table too.

With sturdy legs, generously sized tubs for the sand and water and a solid build, this table is ideal for small toddlers and older children to play together. In addition, this table is easy to assemble and take apart for storage and cleaning. 

Key specs 

  • Age: 18 months to 5-years-old
  • Size: L x 28; W 38; H 70 cm  
  • Capacity: Not specified
  • Material: Plastic 
  • Cover: Yes
  • Accessories included: Two sand and water table covers; one boat; one star mould; two funnels, two spinning wheels, one rocker and wheel set, one scoop, one rake and one spade

Pros

  • Great value 
  • Can be used as a play table too 
  • Lots of tools and toys included

Cons

  • Not height adjustable 

2. Best budget sand and water table: Chad Valley Sand and Water Table

Budget

Price: £40.00 | Buy now from Argos

“I got this for my two-and-a-half-year-old. He is enjoying it. It's not the fanciest one and is a little basic but it does the job well. It depends on how much you want to spend. It comes with a cover which is useful and the little spade, fork, boats etc.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user eyesbiggerthanstomach)

The Chad Valley Sand and Water Table is an affordable toy that is quick and easy to assemble and unassemble. The sand and water tubs hold an impressive 7.5 litres, and it has a fun waterfall toy attached.

It comes with a durable set of tools and toys that will delight children of all ages and encourage their imagination. We found the plug useful too; it keeps water in for prolonged play and means it drains quickly before storage. 

This fantastic table comes with a lid that, with the help of a bag of sand or toys, will keep out moisture, neighbourhood cats and ants in all weathers. 

Key specs 

  • Age: 18 months to 5-years-old 
  • Size: H x 70; W x 52.5; D x 52.5 cm
  • Capacity: 15.2 litres
  • Material: Plastic 
  • Cover: Yes
  • Accessories included: Two moulds; one sand rake; one scoop; two boats

Pros

  • Easy to assemble
  • Great value
  • Sturdy 

Cons

  • The lid will need a heavy weight on top to keep it in place 

3. Best sand and water table with lid: Dolu Kids 3-in-1 Sand & Water Pit with Drawing Table

Dolu

Price: £40.13 | Buy now from Amazon

The Dolu 3-in-1 Activity Table is a versatile play station that can be used as a sand pit, a water play table and, with the lid on, a drawing surface. It’s robust enough to be used outside yet perfectly proportioned for indoor use too. 

This fantastic table is attractive to look at with bold colours, glossy robust plastic surfaces and a curved shape. It’s the perfect height for a toddler to stand at; older kids will find plenty of room underneath to allow them to kneel or sit comfortably. 

The Dolu comes with lots of toys and tools for hours of play. We loved the tough cups that sit in their holders on each side of the table and the waterfall apparatus in the middle. There’s also plenty of room for a few toddlers to play on it together. 

Key specs 

  • Age: ‎24 months - 5 years
  • Size: L x 67; W 47; H 73 cm
  • Capacity: Not specified
  • Material: Plastic
  • Cover: Yes
  • Accessories included: Cups; boats; sand moulds

Pros

  • The lid creates a sturdy table surface 
  • Lots of toys and attachments to explore 
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • The lid needs extra weight on top to make it watertight

4. Best play table for sensory development: Little Tikes Anchors Away Pirate Ship Sand and Water Table

Pirate

Price: £69.99 | Buy now from Amazon

The Little Tikes Anchors Away Sand and Water Table is an excellent toy for sensory development and hours of absorbing fun. It has lots of activities such as a water wheel, anchor pulley systems, squirting cannon and waterfall, plus toys and tools that will help your little one learn. 

This brilliant table can be built in under 20 minutes; you just need to attach the legs and toys. Once erected, it’s sturdy and has plenty of room for toddler friends to play together or an early years child to play alone. 

We loved the pirate theme. The ship-shaped table looks fantastic and will encourage your child’s imagination and storytelling skills.  There’s no lid, however, so to protect the sand and water from debris, it’s a good idea to bring it into a garage or shed during bad weather or overnight.

Key specs 

  • Age: 24 months to 6 years 
  • Size: 22.86 x 99.06 x 73.66 cm
  • Capacity: Not specified 
  • Material: PVC plastic 
  • Cover: No
  • Accessories included: Bucket; water wheel; pirate characters; cups; anchor pulley; slide

Pros

  • Lots of interesting activities 
  • Sturdy build 
  • Fun pirate theme

Cons

  • No lid

5. Best sand and water table for toddlers: Step 2 Dino Dig Sand and Water Table

Dinosaur

Price: £139.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“My DS loves dinosaurs, so we got him the Step 2 Dino Dig Table.” (Suggested by Mumsnet user Ricekrispie22)

The Step 2 Dino Dig Sand and Water Table is a superb outdoor toy that will delight lovers of dinosaurs and messy play. The sand pit comes with a mountain-shaped lid also designed to be used as a dino adventure landscape with cascading water. 

This is a great activity table for toddlers and school-age children; there’s so much to explore and imagine, from the hidden bones and footprints to the fun they'll have splashing the dinosaur figures in the water and building castles in the sand. 

The Dino Dig is easy to assemble and clean; however, you do need to use a scrubbing brush in the decorative grooves. The lid is sturdy and will protect the sand from pets, weather and debris. We were also impressed with the amount of space allowing a few children to play together.

Key specs 

  • Age: 24 months to 8 years
  • Size: L x 74.9; W x  83.8; H x 76.2
  • Capacity: Not specified
  • Material: Plastic 
  • Cover: Yes
  • Accessories included: Four dinosaur figures; two scoops; spade/rake tool

Pros

  • Lid included for the sand side 
  • Suitable for a wide age range 
  • Wide feet for extra sturdiness 

Cons

  • Expensive 

6. Best sand and water table with removable trays: Smoby Sand and Water Table

Smoby

Price: £64.99 | Buy now from Amazon

The Smoby Sand and Water Table is an excellent toy for learning through play. It’s a simple design with bright colours, a smooth, glossy plastic surface, and interlocking sand and water tubs that can easily be removed, emptied and cleaned. 

This tremendous outdoor toy can also be used indoors if you feel brave and have a sizeable messy mat underneath it. It is easy and quick to assemble and feels solid when built so that it can withstand weather and giddy toddlers. 

We loved the thoughtful touch of the UV coating to prevent fading in the sun and the hole in the middle of the table, which is the perfect fit for a parasol. The included toys are simple yet durable and encourage your child to dig, pour and build. 

Key specs 

  • Age: From 18 months 
  • Size: L x 69cm;  D x 69cm; H x 46 cm
  • Capacity: Not specified 
  • Material: Anti UV plastic 
  • Cover: No
  • Accessories included: One red boat toy; two sand moulds; one shovel; one rake

Pros

  • Anti UV coating to prevent fading 
  • Hole in the middle for a sun parasol
  • Easy to assemble 

Cons

  • No lid

7. Best multi-use sand and water table: Tuff Spot Play Tray And Stand

Tuff spot

Price: £39.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“Get a Tuff Spot. Then you can use it for loads of things” (Recommended by Mumsnet user LooseLipsSinkShips)

Tuff Spots are used in many nursery settings as they are an excellent robust and versatile play tray. They can be used with or without a stand and will be helpful until well beyond your child’s toddler years. 

This great value kit includes a stand that is adjustable to three heights to grow with your child up to around 10 years. Beyond that, the waterproof tray can be used indefinitely for crafts and sewing.  

The Tuff Spot isn’t ideal for water play indoors as the sides are low; however, it can easily be a part of your child’s game if it's outside. The stand takes some time and tools to build, but once assembled, it is durable yet lightweight, so it can easily be moved around the garden. 

 Key specs 

  • Age: 36 months to 10 years
  • Size: ‎64 x 62 x 10 cm
  • Capacity: Not specified 
  • Material: Plastic tray and steel frame
  • Cover: No
  • Accessories included: None

Pros

  • Height adjustable frame 
  • Great value 
  • Multi-purpose 

Cons

  • Takes time and tools to assemble the frame
  • Less entertaining than some other options

8. Best water table for entertainment: Little Tikes Magic Flower Water Play Table

Flower

Price: £105.48 | Buy now from Amazon

The Little Tikes Magic Flower Water Table is a cute and fun outdoor toy that will delight children who love animals and nature. It comes with a set of adorable creatures, a watering can and a flower that will magically bloom when your little one pours water on it. 

This tall compact design is fantastic if you’re struggling for garden space, and it could also be used in an empty bath or paddling pool indoors. The shape means many children can play with it at once, and older kids can have fun too. 

The Magic Flower is a water toy, not sand, but there’s so much to enjoy on it; this won’t matter. Robust, stable and straightforward to assemble, this fab toy will be out of the box and entertaining in a super quick time. 

Key specs 

  • Age: 24 months to 6 years
  • Size: H x 66; W x 76.2; D x 20.3 cm
  • Capacity: Not specified 
  • Material: Plastic
  • Cover: No
  • Accessories included: Three turtles; two frogs; two floating ducks; one watering can; a swimming fish

Pros

  • Great for interesting sensory play
  • Easy to assemble 
  • Compact design

Cons

  • Expensive 

9. Best sand and water table with seating: TP Toys Picnic Table and Sandpit

picnic

Price: £109.04 | Buy now from Amazon

“Agree with the child-size picnic table! We have one with a lid that doubles up as a sandpit and it’s great.” (Product suggested by Mumsner user  Bim2021)

This Picnic Table and Sandpit is a fantastic idea for small gardens as it combines seating and playtime for up to four children. It is beautifully made and will look fab in your garden or on a patio. 

The table is made from FSC-certified pine or spruce wood, so you can be assured it’s sustainably sourced, and it has also been treated so that it will be protected against the elements for at least a couple of years. Sand and water or toys can be stored in the durable bright blue tubs in the centre of the table, and the surface is suitable for eating or drawing. 

This picnic/play table is excellent value; it will last for many years and comes with a weatherproof cover that can be tied on for protection during the winter. It even comes with a one-year guarantee too. 

Key specs 

  • Age: 6 months to 12 years
  • Size: H x 14.6; W 44.x 5; D x 9.8 cm 
  • Capacity: Not specified
  • Material: FSC wood and plastic tubs
  • Cover: Yes
  • Accessories included: None

Pros

  • One-year guarantee included
  • Made from sustainable wood
  • Weatherproof cover included

Cons

  • The instructions aren’t clear and it can be tricky to put together

10. Best sand and water table with sun shade: Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table

Cascading

Price: £124.99 | Buy now from Amazon

The Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table is a sturdy outdoor toy that combines a sand pit, water play area and a roadway. It’s generously sized, so it will take up room in the garden but allows several children to play together. 

We loved the parasol that can be securely attached to the back of the table and which will protect the little ones from strong sunshine as they play. It also has a waterproof cover with an elasticated hem to keep it firmly in place. 

This fantastic table is easy to put together, as long as you read the instructions carefully. Once assembled, it feels solid enough to withstand bad weather and rough play by several toddlers. 

Key specs 

  • Age: 18 months - 4 years
  • Size: ‎108 x 61 x 58.4 cm
  • Capacity: Not specified 
  • Material: Plastic 
  • Cover: Yes
  • Accessories included: Two boats; two bridge pieces; double-sided rake and shovel; one cup

Pros

  • Cover protects both the sand and water
  • The top of the cover can be used for play too
  • Parasol included 

Cons

  • Will take up lots of room

What to look for when buying a water table

Knowing the best sand and water table to buy to delight your children depends on their age and interests. There are some brilliant dinosaur, pirate, and nature-themed toys, but the practicalities are essential too if you’re to see value for money. 

  • Age range: Some sand and water tables can be used without the legs, which would suit the needs of small toddlers; others have adjustable height legs that make it easy for taller children to play. The features, toys and tools are vital to think about too. For example, little ones will be thrilled to simply tip water in and out of a cup, whereas children at primary school will enjoy more scientific activities such as pulleys, pumps and waterfalls. 
  • Versatility: For maximum fun and longevity, it’s a great idea to get a table that combines lots of types of play, from digging in the sand, splashing in the water, experimenting with tools like locks and pulleys, plus playing with cars, drawing and crafting on the lid. 
  • Accessories, toys and tools: Most sand and water tables will come with attached toys and accessories like watering cans, creatures and pouring cups. What's included should be durable and add something to the quality of the play, like pirate characters with the Little Tikes Anchors Away set. Always ensure the accessories in the picture of the toy you’re interested in are included in the price. 
  • Ease of care: A sand and water table which sits outside can get grubby very quickly. It’s a good idea to purchase one that can be emptied, cleaned and dried regularly to stay fresh and free of debris. Stagnant water is especially grim! Most tables have plugs through which they can be drained without fuss. The sand and water tubs can usually be removed entirely on simple tables without many attached toys. Plastic is easy to clean with hot soapy water, and if you choose a wooden model, ensure the wood has been treated and maintained every two years. 
  • Lids and covers: A securely fitted top or cover will protect your sand and water table from cats using it as a litter tray, fallen leaves and twigs and the weather. Budget models often need extra weight on top of the lid to keep it watertight; a bag of sand is helpful for that. 
  •  Ease of assembly: Building your sand and water table should only need 30 minutes and a screwdriver if that. Ensure you follow the instructions and view any YouTube videos they direct you to. It may take a little longer to construct if you’re investing in an elaborate wooden picnic table/sand pit. 

How to keep water tables safe

Children should always be supervised when they are playing with or near water. We recommend draining the water out of your table when each playtime is over. A secure lid or cover will prevent cats from pooping in the sand and sharp debris from getting in. It’s also essential to keep the toy as clean as possible to avoid a build-up of bacteria. 

Where do you put a water table?

Water tables are best kept in the garden so you won’t be worried about the mess. Place them away from overhanging trees and dripping roofs and keep them in a shed or garage if they don’t have a lid. 

How often should I empty a water table?

“Just a tip, I don't use sand and water at the same time on different sides, or it becomes one big slush as my one tips sand into water and vice versa. One day is the sand day, and another is water day!” (Useful advice from Mumsnet user eyesbiggerthanstomach)

Stagnant water is smelly, unsightly, and a health hazard, and even fresh water can be unpleasant after a day of play, especially when combined with sand. Therefore, most sand and water tables will either have plastic tubs that can be removed and the water tipped out or a convenient plug through which you can drain the water after each use.

If you decide to keep the water in place for a day or two, put the lid or a tarpaulin over the top and make sure you sieve out any debris and dirt before play begins again. 

What toys should I put in a water table for kids?

“We bought bath toys to put in it for water play.” (Suggestion from Mumsnet user  8by8)

Bath toys, plastic gardening tools like watering cans and simple plastic cups of different shapes, sizes and colours are all great options for toddlers. Pots, pans and plastic food are also fab for little ones who enjoy pretending to cook; their imagination will no doubt lead them to include the sand that might be on the other side of the table. Foam soap and bath gels which older children can sculpt and squidge is another fun choice.

How do I clean a water table?

You need hot soapy water and a scrubbing brush to clean a sand and water table and accessories. Doing it regularly will be much less arduous; mould and grime can quickly build up in nooks and crannies. Vinegar and water is a helpful solution for tackling stubborn mould and dirt. A hose or pressure washer will be beneficial (and fun) for a deep clean at the start of the warmer weather. If your table comes with a lid or cover, use it. It will make keeping the whole thing clean much more manageable. 

How we chose our recommendations

To help you choose your child’s new sand and water table, we’ve thoroughly researched the best you can buy in 2022 by consulting a wide range of reliable and trustworthy sources. Here's more on how we carefully selected our picks. 

Recommendations from real Mumsnet users 

Members of the Mumsnet community agree that a robust sand and water table with lots of fun accessories is a great way to keep their children entertained in the garden. So, we weighed the toys their toddlers have played with and loved, which they wholeheartedly recommend. Their experiences, including cleaning advice and the tables which suit children of all ages, have informed our choices of the outdoor toys you should invest in. 

Expert opinions 

Sand and water play tables need to be easy to assemble and keep clean, and they can be expensive, so we wanted to be confident that the toys we picked would perform well while being educational. To do this, we’ve investigated the opinions of the child development experts and toy retailers we trust the most. 

Authentic customer reviews 

We then evaluated the outdoor toy bestseller lists and investigated the best sand and water table reviews from various retailer sites to see which products were best rated. Lastly, we weighed the pros and cons of each choice to determine which were best suited to different age ranges. 

Why you should trust us

Mumsnet has been helping parents make their lives easier since 2000 and, in that time, we've investigated, tried and reviewed thousands of products.

As the mother of two children, Jasmine and Liam, our writer Gemma was determined to provide honest and independent advice on the sand and water play tables your little ones will love using. 

Transparency is vital to us, and that's why we're always honest about where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their friends and family.

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