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10 best 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 Jan 10, 2024

best water tables UK

A robust water 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. The best water tables are quick to assemble, constructed from high-quality, solid materials and come with lots of accessories to spark imagination and encourage sensory play.

Which are best, paddling pools or water tables? The answer will depend on you and your child (or you might decide on both!). A paddling pool provides hours of physical activity and fun, while a water table encourages quieter, more creative play. Perhaps you're researching the best outdoor toys for your garden, and are weighing up the pros and cons of toys such as trampolines, mud kitchens and climbing frames. With our handy round-ups, based on authentic recommendations from real parents and curated by expert writers, we've got you covered.

When it comes to good-quality water tables, look for lids that’ll protect the contents, drain plugs for easy cleaning, a sturdy base that is the right height for your child and features that’ll allow the table to grow with them for longevity. If your toddler loves dinosaurs, trains, animals or pirates, there are some fantastic-themed water tables that they’ll adore.

To make life easier (that's what Mumsnet is here for, after all), we've done the hard work for you and have thoroughly researched the best water tables, so you don't have to.

Here are the best water tables to buy in 2024.

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

ELC sand and water table

Price on writing: £72 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age: 18 months to 5 years old | Size: L 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

What we love

  • Great value

  • Can be used as a play table too

  • Lots of tools and toys included

What to know

  • Not height adjustable

What Mumsnet users say

“Definitely get 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)

Our verdict

When it comes to our overall winner, there’s no doubt Mumsnetters love The Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table. Not only is it a colourful and robust water table that’s suitable for both toddlers and preschool children, but it also comes with two durable waterproof lids for the sand and water sections which not all water tables have. Plus, we love that the lids have a road map carved into them with the option of being used as a play table.

With sturdy legs, generously sized tubs for the sand and water and a solid build, this table is the right size for a few children to play together. Additionally, it’s easy to assemble and take apart for storage and cleaning and is made with lots of tools and toys to help your children develop essential motor skills.

Related: The best beach tents for a sun-safe summer 2024

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

chad valley sand and water table

Price on writing: £45 | Buy now from Argos

Key specs

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

What we love

  • Easy to assemble

  • Great value

  • Sturdy

What to know

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

What Mumsnet users say

“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)

Our verdict

The Chad Valley Sand and Water Table is an affordable toy that’s quick and easy to assemble and take apart. Both sand and water tubs hold an impressive 7.5 litres, and it has a fun waterfall toy attached, as well as other durable tools to keep children engaged. The little plug is useful too as it keeps water in for a prolonged play and drains quickly before storage.

This budget-friendly 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.

Related: The best scooters for kids, tried and tested by Mumsnetters

3. Best water table with lid: Little Tikes Deluxe Easy Store Sand & Water Table

Little Tikes Deluxe Easy Store Sand & Water Table

Price on writing: £99.86 | Buy now from Amazon 

Key specs

Age: 2 to 6 years old | Size: H 50.5; W 144; D 74 cm| Capacity: holds up to 22kg of sand | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes |Accessories included: three garden tools; two moulds

What we love

  • Good quality

  • Multi-use

  • Comes with a side bag to store tools and moulds

What to know

  • Pricey

What Mumsnet users say

“We have this Little Tikes sand and water table. It's good because it has both plus a lid to keep cats out. Looks a bit random folded closed but is brilliant when unfolded.” (Water table with lid suggested by PurpleCrazyHorse)

Our verdict

The Little Tikes Deluxe Easy Store Sand & Water Table is a versatile play station that can be used as a mini sand pit, a water play table and, with the lid on, a nifty craft table too, which is an extra bonus. It’s robust enough to be used outside yet perfectly proportioned for indoor use too. It’s the perfect height for a toddler to stand at, while older kids will find plenty of room underneath to kneel or sit comfortably.

This deluxe water table comes with lots of toys and tools for hours of play, and the water area is complete with a moulded–in roadway, bridge and gate. The little boats are ideal for sailing in and out of the “harbour” and the hand cranks allow little ones the chance to make waves. There’s also plenty of room for a few toddlers to play together.

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

Anchors Away Pirate Water Playset

Price on writing: £60 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age: 24 months to 6 years old | Size: H 80; W 101; D 71 cm| Capacity: Not specified | Material: PVC plastic | Cover: No |Accessories included: One bucket; one water wheel; two pirate characters; cups; one anchor pulley; one slide

What we love

  • Lots of interesting activities

  • Sturdy build

  • Fun pirate theme

What to know

  • No lid

What Mumsnet users say

“My toddler is out every single day with his water table and buckets of water and watering cans tea pots etc. Washing down all the other totally over-looked garden toys.” (Activities with water table suggested by Mumsnetter sittingonacornflake)

Our verdict

The Little Tikes Anchors Away Sand and Water Table is an excellent toy for sensory development as it has lots of activities such as a water wheel, anchor pulley systems, a squirting cannon and waterfall, plus toys and tools that encourage learning through play.

This jam-packed 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. 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.

Related: How to keep paddling pool water clean

5 Best water table for toddlers: Oypla Toddlers Kids Childrens Sand Water Table Toy With Accessories

Oypla Toddlers Kids Childrens Sand Water Table Toy With Accessories

Price on writing: £37 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age: 3 years old and above | Size: ‎42 x 39.5 x 61.5 cm| Capacity: Not specified | Material: Plastic | Cover: No |Accessories included: One bucket; one spade; one watering can; two moulds; two boats, one sieve

What we love

  • Good value for money

  • Comes with plenty of toys and accessories

  • Wide feet for extra sturdiness

What to know

  • Doesn’t come with a lid

  • Height only really suitable for toddlers

What Mumsnet users say

“A good sturdy sand and water table is all you really need. Chuck a load of dinosaurs and little people and some trucks in it- hours of fun.” (A sturdy water table suggested by Mumsnetter Pineapple Cocktail)

Our verdict

If your little one gets bored easily, (don’t they all!), this sturdy water table is a good choice as it comes with 20 different toys and accessories to keep your child engaged for longer. As a second budget-friendly option on our list, we like that this table is good value for money and made from thick, high-quality plastic, so it won't bend, break or leak and is versatile enough to be used for sand, water or both.

From flower funnels to water wheels and moats, there’s so much to explore and imagine. Plus,  children will have endless fun splashing in the water section and building castles in the sand. The Oypla Sand and Water Table is easy to assemble and clean; however, you do need to use a scrubbing brush in the decorative grooves and will need to store it indoors as it doesn’t have a lid.

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

Price on writing: £70 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

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

What we love

  • Has removable trays

  • Easy to assemble

  • Anti UV coating to prevent fading

What to know

  • No lid

  • Pricey

What Mumsnet users say

“The most played with by my 2 DC have been the sand and water table and mud kitchen.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user APurpleSquirrel)

Our verdict

The Smoby Sand and Water Table is an excellent toy to encourage fun learning through play. The simple design is brightly coloured and it has a smooth, glossy plastic surface, plus interlocking sand and water tubs that can easily be removed, emptied and cleaned.

This lightweight table can also be used indoors if you feel brave and have a sizeable messy mat underneath it. It’s easy and quick to assemble and feels solid when built to withstand weather and giddy toddlers. We like the thoughtful touch of the UV coating to prevent fading in the sun on warmer days. It also comes with a few simple, yet durable toys to encourage your child to dig, pour and build.

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

Tuff Spot Play Tray And Stand

Price on writing: From £40 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age: From 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

What we love

  • Height adjustable frame

  • Great value

  • Multi-purpose

What to know

  • Takes time and tools to assemble the frame

  • Less entertaining than some other options

What Mumsnet users say

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

Our verdict

Tuff Spots are used in many nursery settings as they’re a hardy, versatile play tray and can be used with or without a stand. It’s evident from the Mumsnet Forum, that many parents find these tables  helpful until well beyond a child’s toddler years.

The Tuff Spot stand is adjustable to three heights, which means it can grow with your child up to around 10 years. Beyond that, the waterproof tray can be used indefinitely for crafts and sewing. Although the Tuff Spot isn’t ideal for water play indoors (thanks to low sides) it can easily be a part of your child’s outdoor games. The stand takes some time and tools to build, but once assembled, it’s durable yet lightweight, so can easily be moved around the garden.

8. Best portable water table: Smoby Aquaplay LockBox

Smoby Aquaplay LockBox

Price on writing: £44 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Age: From 36 months | Size: 22 x 88 x 50cm  | Capacity: Not specified | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes |Accessories included: One lock; one lock gate; one crane; one marina ramp; one amphibious truck and a transport boat with containers.

What we like

  • Good quality

  • Lightweight

  • Easy to assemble and stow away.

What to know

  • Doesn’t have legs

  • Children may outgrow it fast

What Mumsnet users say

“DS also loves this Aquaplay set. It folds in half so is portable and has had loads of play. We often take it with us when away too.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user PurpleCrazyHorse)

Our verdict

If you’re looking for a simple, yet fun water table that you can take to friends for play dates, on holiday or to the grandparents, this Aquaplay set is a good choice. It’s lightweight (children can comfortably carry it), yet made from good-quality, durable plastic and is packed with plenty of tools, games and accessories to keep your little one happy and entertained.

The thoughtful educational theme behind the design will allow your child to steer the boat through the canals and let the water raise it. Plus, the crane shifts containers between the boat and car, providing hours of fun. When you’re done, simply drain, lock and off you go.

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

TP Toys Picnic Table and Sandpit

Price on writing: £93 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

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

What we love

  • Made from sustainable wood

  • Weatherproof cover included

  • Comes with one-year guarantee

What to know

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

  • Doesn’t come with accessories

What Mumsnet users say

“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)

Our verdict

This Picnic Table and Sandpit is a fantastic idea for small gardens as it combines seating and playtime for up to four children. It’s 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’s also been treated for best protection against the elements. 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. We think this picnic/play table is excellent value as it’ll last for many years and comes with a weatherproof cover that can be tied on for protection during the winter.

10. Best water table with sunshade: GYMAX Water & Sand Table

GYMAX Water & Sand Table

Price on writing: £74 | Buy now from Amazon  

Key specs

Age: From 6 months to 12 years | Size: H 14.6; W 44. 5; D 9.8 cm | Capacity: Not specified | Material: Polypropylene | Cover: No |Accessories included: One water tower; one spin water spiral; one water slide; two corner toys

What we love

  • Comes with 19 accessories

  • Has a drain to empty the water

  • Parasol offers extra shade

What to know

  • Pricey

  • Has no lid

Our verdict

The GYMAX Water & Sand Table is a sturdy outdoor toy that combines a sand pit with a water play area and large water tower.  It’s generously sized, so can comfortably accommodate three to four children and the extra wide legs are designed to ensure it won’t topple over, even on windy days.

We like the detachable parasol that can be securely attached to the centre of the table offering full coverage for everyone. It’s also easy to put together, if you read the instructions carefully.

What to look for when buying a water table

Knowing the best water table to buy depends on your children's age and interests. There are some brilliant, themed tables, but the practicalities are essential too if you’re to see value for money. Here are a few things to consider before you buy:

Age range: Some 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 older children will enjoy more scientific tools and gadgets 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 and experimenting with tools like locks and pulleys or funnels like you’ll find in the Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table

Accessories, toys and tools: Most 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 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 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 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 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 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.

What is the best kids’ water table to buy?

While there are many great water tables on the market, we picked the Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table as our overall winner. It’s affordable, yet good quality and made with inquisitive children in mind. We like that the table comes with plenty of fun toys and accessories that can be neatly packed into the table after use, with a convenient lid to keep all contents safe. Plus, another bonus is that the table is suitable for both water and sand, and is easy to keep clean and store away.

This model gets a lot of love on our Forums too!

How we chose our recommendations

To help you choose your child’s new water table, we’ve thoroughly researched the best you can buy in 2024 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 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

Water tables need to be easy to assemble and keep clean, and they can be expensive, so we wanted to be confident that the tables 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 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 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.