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- Water tables are a great way to stay cool and occupy kids outdoors on long, hot summer days.
- We talked to a child psychologist and two toy industry experts to learn about the benefits of water table play and to narrow down our selection to bring you the best.
- From combination sand/water tables to a table reminiscent of a carnival game, we have a pick for every age and interest.
- Due to unusually high demand and supply shortage, many water tables are out of stock at major retailers. We continue to monitor inventory and update this list accordingly.
- Read more: best swimming pools, best beach toys, outdoor toys for kids, outdoor toys for toddlers
A water table is an excellent toy to set up on those long summer days. My 2-year-old will play with water tables for hours. One of the best things about them is that you don’t have to stop with water. Fill them with sand, dirt, leaves, snow, or any other sensory material, and your kids can play with water tables all year long. They provide a type of independent play that’s just structured enough to inspire creativity.
To learn more about the benefits of the type of play kids can experience with water tables, we talked to clinical psychologist Daniel Marston, PhD, ABPP, who works with children.
According to Marston, all play helps children develop physical strength and skills they’ll need to accomplish important tasks in adulthood. “Pretend play also helps develop imagination, but it is also essential for helping children learn how to handle boredom,” he said. When you set a water table in front of a child, you provide the launching point for pretend play based on the materials you provide.
We also spoke to two toy industry experts, Lee Scott, chairwoman of the educational advisory board at The Goddard School and pediatric occupational therapist Adriane Ransom. Ransom owns a pediatric occupational therapy practice that is located outdoors, so she’s no stranger to water tables. She recommends adding your own accessories, like squirt bottles or food storage containers and filling water tables with things like shaving cream or dry pasta.
Water tables provide unstructured play as well, which teaches children how to use their free time and be independent, according to Marston. He noted that this helps them “develop skills that will be important for figuring out problems on their own as they grow into adulthood. It also helps in developing the skills important for coming up with solutions to problems that other people have not already tried.”
Marston advises that a water table should provide a good combination of structured and unstructured play to prevent overwhelm and decision fatigue that takes time away from actual play.
We combined tips from the experts with our own experience testing water…