There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the sun was shining brightly as we kicked the ball back and forth. “Mommy, what can we do next? I don’t want to play this anymore.” Ugh. I don’t believe I have to be his entertainer, but at the same time, this was one of those rare days I got to just be with him. No interruptions. No appointments. No plans. Just play.
I thought he would want to play outside longer. I refused to go inside- it was one of those perfect summer days.
Water table to the rescue. Before I heard the dreaded “I’m bored,” we grabbed our water table and were off to happily playing again. Thankfully, it was easy to set up and kept us happily experimenting and playing until lunch.
We love our water table. The water table provides endless hours of sensory fun for toddlers and preschoolers. Not only with water, but water tables provide a great way to play with all kinds of different fillers and manipulatives.
Can I have a water table indoors?
The great thing about water tables is that they don’t have to be played with outside. Stuck inside during the middle of winter? Put your water table in a bathtub and you have hours of fun. You can also put your water table in the kitchen or on a hard floor with an old shower curtain or bedsheet (for dry fillers) underneath for easy clean-up.
What are the benefits of water play?
Water play is a fun way to help young children develop gross motor skills and fine motor skills. They love to squeeze, dump, scoop, and pour, which all help develop muscles in their little hands. It can provide great learning experiences and help develop focus, hand-eye coordination, math, and science skills. Not to mention, playing in the water is just plain fun.
What do you put in a water table for toddlers and preschoolers?
Water tables can be used for so much more than just water play. They’re also perfect for sensory play.
Fillers to Add to a Water Table
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- Kinetic Sand
- Pom Poms
- Rainbow Rice
- Ice Cubes
- Shaving Cream
- Water Beads
- Cloud Dough
Manipulatives to Add to a Water Table
- Toy Boats
- Foam Letters
- Items Found in Nature
- Cups, Scoops, Buckets
- Construction Toys
- Empty Elmers Glue Bottle
- Bath Toys
- Turkey Basters
- Plastic Containers
- Slotted Spoon
- Spray Bottle
- Little People
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What should be in a water table for toddlers?
Toddlers are the perfect age for water tables. Although they need to be watched carefully around water play, changing the toys in a water table just a little make it a new and exciting adventure.
Dramatic play is an important activity for toddlers too. Add some farm animals to pretend your child lives on a farm, ocean animal to visit the ocean, or just add your child’s favorite toys to see what they start imagining.
You can also make your water table activities around an academic theme.
Add some water color tabs or water beads and collect all of the (water-safe) toys you have around the house that are one color. Put them all in the water table and see where your child’s imagination takes them. Remember to discuss different colors as your child plays.
Go on a shape hunt! Have your child find all the shapes around your house that are water safe and put them in your water table. As your child is playing, ask them to find all of the triangles.
What should be in a water table for preschoolers?
Preschoolers are at the perfect age to turn your water table into an educational tool. Much like sensory bins, you can create an activity for your water table around a theme.
Throw foam numbers in your water table with (or without) manipulatives. When playing with numbers alone, call out a number and have your child find it. If they can’t recognize their numbers yet, have them grab a number and talk about what number it is together. Kids can grab a number, identify it, and match it with that many manipulatives.
Foam letters are always a hit. Kids can grab a letter you call out, or they can hold up a letter for you to identify. Have your child spell their name, or give them words and have them figure out what the first sound is before finding the letter. Make alphabet soup by calling out a letter and having them toss it in their bowl.
Collect some items around your house that will sink and float, and show them to your child. Better yet, ask your child what some items are that they think will float? Sink? Have your child collect items that they are curious about. Talk about your child’s prediction if they think the item will sink or float, and put each item in to see if they’re correct.
Some Items to Include in Your Sink/Float Water Table Are:
- Empty water bottle
- Items Found in Nature (twig, leaf, flower, rock, acorn, pinecone)
- Toy Cars/Trucks
- Cup (Can you get it to float? Can you get it to sink?)
Everyone loves a good car wash! Collect your cars and trucks, add in a little soap and a washcloth. Your child will love pretending to be the carwash!
Kids Water Play Activities
Preschoolers love the magic of magnets. Why do they stick to some things and not to others? Allow your child to experiment with magnets underwater. Do they still work? Grab magnetic and non-magnetic items from around the house, or use this magnetic kit.
Fishing is so much fun- especially when you’re fishing for letters. Call out a letter for your child to catch, or let them catch letters and then identify them.
Grab this fishing set and write letters on each fish for your child to identify.
Buckets, Kitchen Utensils, Bowls
Scooping, dumping, and pouring is great fine motor practice. Allow your child to go crazy cooking and serving in their pretend water table kitchen with pots and pans, whisks, ladles, and spoons.
Water beads are a fun filler to add to the water table. Probably best used outside (you don’t want them going down the drain), they add a new and exciting way to play with the water table.
Another filler that’s probably best used outside, use just shaving cream, add some color, or even some water beads to make your water table turn into a new and exciting experience for your little learners. Allow your child to scoop and play with the shaving cream before offering some water. Once they can mix water and shaving cream the experiment has started all over! Add spoons, bowls, cups, and any water-safe toy that your child loves for more excitement.
Other Water Table Ideas
This idea is genius by Busy Toddler! We love bubbles in my house, but they aren’t just for the bath anymore. Add them to your water table for hours of fun with soapy water.
Bubble Foam Water Table by Busy Toddler
The ocean is a fascinating place, and kids love to explore new creatures and have exciting adventures when pretending to be in the ocean. This sensory table will encourage your child’s imagination as they explore ocean life.
Ocean Sensory Table by Stir the Wonder
I think I love dinosaurs more than my son, so I got really excited when I saw this Water Table Dinosaur World by No Time for Flashcards!
Water Table Dinosaur World by No Time for Flashcards
We love the idea of making colorful ice boats to add to our water table. The best part is your kiddo will love making these with you, and because they helped- it will be more fun to play with when they’re done!
Colorful Ice Boats by Busy Toddler
The creative way Happy Hooligans keeps germs at bay is genius! Kids love this toy wash.
We are all about experiments in our house! I love using the water table to experiment…it’s a better idea than trying to do it on my kitchen table!
Water Table Experiment by Stir the Wonder
The Best Water Tables
Step 2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table
This water table is great because kids can pour water in the top and watch it sprinkle down like rain. It comes with all of the spinners, buckets, water squirters, and ramps that kids need to experiment with and spend hours of water-loving fun outdoors.
Step2 Waterpark Wonders Two-Tier Water Table
This is a great water table that you can hook your garden hose up to for hours of fun with the sprinkler. With the sprinkler and the slide for water and boats, your kiddos are going to love playing with this water table.
Step2 Summer Showers Splash Tower Water Table
Kids practice fine motor skills with scooping and launching ducks with the flipper on the side of this water table. Kids will love the maze spinners and playing with the toys this water table comes with.
I hope this got you thinking about different ways to have water table fun. These water play ideas are fun in the early years and are great for outdoor water play, the bath tub, kitchen sink, or even for bringing your water table indoors. Your child is sure to love playing with their water table in different ways….and these fun water activities just might save you from having to hear “I’m bored” One. More. Time.
If you liked this, you’ll love:
Simple Sensory Bin Ideas for Toddlers
13 Genius Dot Sticker Learning Activities That Will Delight Preschoolers
Alphabet Chart: 5 Genius Ways to Teach Letters with the Alphabet Chart
What’s your favorite way to use a water table for toddlers and preschoolers?
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