13 Best Outdoor Activity Tables for Kids
Keep your little ones cool and busy for hours on end with these outdoor water tables, sand tables and mud kitchens.
Activity tables and sensory bins are having a moment right now, and for good reason. These large, plastic tubs (usually filled with water, sand or small objects) stimulate the senses, develop children's fine motor skills and build focus. They also keep little ones entertained on hot summer days, which is a major plus for parents.
So if you're trying to get your kids outside this summer, we say start with an activity table. Here are 13 water tables, sand tables, two-in-one tables and mud kitchens we love, as well as some things to consider while you shop.
What to Look for in a Kids' Activity Table
SIZE: For ease of use, your child's activity table should be about waist-high. Your little one should be able to stand on their own and reach the water or sand with minimal assistance. If you have multiple children (or regularly host playdates), opt for a table with several compartments or buckets so everyone can play together.
ACCESSORIES: Most activity tables include spinners, slides, scoops and more to keep your little one engaged. (You can also toss in plastic balls, rubber ducks, sand molds, etc.) If you're worried about the sun, though, look for an activity table with a shade umbrella or a molded-in hole that can accommodate one.
DRAINS AND COVERS: Pollen, leaves, dirt and pests? No thanks. Always drain your water table, wipe it dry and store it in a covered area. For sand tables, choose a design with a cover to keep bugs out.
Best Water Tables for Kids
When it comes to water tables, the Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond is our top pick every time. The large, open design allows multiple kiddos to play at once, and the basin can hold five whole gallons of water. (So they can really make some waves this summer.) The water table also boasts a rain shower, a side flipper/toy launcher, an adjustable maze, two scoops and a few rubber animals.
Now here's a water table that's genuinely buckets of fun. Invite your little ones to scoop and splash with this Little Tikes Easy Store Water Table. In addition to two reservoirs, the activity table boasts a top rain shower tray and two snap-on scoop accessories. When they're done for the day, the water table folds up for quick and convenient storage.
Get playtime in gear with this Step2 Ball Buddies Adventure Water Table. The two-tier activity center is packed with winding roads, ramps, bridges, loading docks and lazy rivers for endless water fun. Plus, the Ball Buddies Adventure Water Table comes with the characters themselves (a smiling helicopter, boat, truck and train), so your cutie can haul the plastic balls to their destination.
What better way to develop their fine motor skills than with this adorable Step2 Car Wash Splash Center Water Table? The stationery vehicle is apt for sensory and imaginative play alike and puts adventurous little ones in charge of their afternoon fun. They can wash the plastic windshield, turn the steering wheel, fill the gas tank and even "change the oil."
Is it a waterfall? A maze? A racing game? Try all of the above and then some. Unlike traditional water tables, the Step2 Discovery Waterfall takes a vertical stance and sends water racing through the adjustable spinners, zigzags and funnels. The double-sided design also allows multiple kiddos to play at once and introduces them to early STEM concepts, like motion and cause-and-effect relationships.
Best Sand Tables for Kids
Bring a taste of the beach to your backyard (and encourage hours of uninterrupted play) with this Step2 Crabbie Sand Table. The adorable crustacean stands on three plastic legs and features a large basin for buckets, shovels and even dump trucks. Best of all? The Crabbie Sand Table comes with a slide-on lid, so you can protect their new play area from the elements.
If you need a slightly bigger setup, try this Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table. The large footprint allows multiple kids to play at once and keeps toys within arm's reach. The Naturally Playful Sand Table also includes a plastic lid (complete with molded-in roadways) to protect the sand and serve as another play surface.
Best Two-in-One Tables for Kids
You'll have no problem getting all hands on deck with this Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand and Water Table. Up front, the ship's plastic "forward" pops off to reveal a secret beach, so some kiddos can dig for buried treasure while others make a splash in the swimming area. The unit includes the table base, lid and a 10-piece accessory kit with plastic figurines. (Or should we say "passengers"?)
Combine their love of dinosaurs and digging into one fun (and fully contained) activity with this Step2 Dino Dig Sand and Water Table. The playful prehistoric land is divided into two domains: a watering hole and a "volcano" with a sandy cove underneath. The activity table also comes with four plastic dinosaur figurines, two cups, one shovel and a molded-in hole for an umbrella.
If you're looking for a traditional sensory table, we highly recommend this custom two-in-one station. The table is crafted from sturdy birch wood in a cool gray finish and stands at about 2 feet tall. Meanwhile, the center holds two plastic tubs that you can fill with water and sand.
The beauty of this All-Around Playtime Patio is that it can be a water table, a sandbox and an outdoor kitchen so your kiddos can switch from sensory to imaginative play at a moment's notice. Once they're through the double doors, they'll find a grilling station with a sink and swivel faucet, a snack bar and two troughs for sand and water. A lid is also included to keep the sand clean or store accessories.
Best Mud Kitchens for Kids
Making mud pies just got so much easier. Give your little one permission to get their hands dirty and enjoy some imaginative play with this petite mud station. The structure is made from solid pine and birch wood (so it can handle dirt), and it comes with a removable splash sink and stainless pots for mixing.
Fun Fact: Two chefs can operate this outdoor mud kitchen at once. The playset is crafted from European timber and features a removable splash tub, a faux stovetop, a lower cabinet and a chalkboard for writing up the day's menu. (Mud pies? Puddle pops? Better let the kids decide!) The set also includes stainless steel pots, pans and a whisk.