The 8 Best Water Tables
8. Step2 Cascading Cove
7. ECR4Kids ELR-12401
6. Little Tikes Fish 'n Splash
5. Liberty Imports Sandbox Castle
4. Little Tikes Spiralin' Seas
3. Step2 Splish Splash Seas
2. Step2 Paw Patrol
1. Little Tikes Anchors Away
Why Water Play Matters
Water might just be the best toy you can give your child. And it's certainly the cheapest tangible play item. When paired with the always popular water table, this simple, ubiquitous element becomes a medium for play, exploration, and the development of physical, cognitive, and social skills.
The average toddler will gladly while away an entire afternoon splashing around in a water table. But in fact what looks like mere play to the untrained eye is in fact an in-depth exploration of many fundamental concepts. And also it's just good old fun, which is of critical importance at a young age.
Playing with water offers a child the chance to explore both the tangible and the conceptual; they experience physical sensations such as cool and warm, wet and dry, and the weight water lends to various objects, and they can study volume, gravity, and motion, all while getting the benefit of the communal aspects of shared play, too. In fact, the range of experiences a young child gains from water play is so extensive that several aspects warrant specific illumination:
- Hand-Eye Coordination
- Mathematical and Spacial Reasoning
- Socialization Skills
- Creative Development
Hand-Eye Coordination: Pouring water from one object to another seems simple enough for the average adult, but for the child who hasn't had as many years to practice, this ostensibly simple activity actually involves careful use of both fine and gross muscle motor control. A water is the perfect place to practice these skills, because spills don't matter.
Math and Space: When you see a child try to fill a small container from a large one, or vice versa, you are seeing their young brain try to solve what, for them, is a complex problem. Basic math skills and spatial reasoning take years to develop, but physical play speeds and enhances the process.
Social Skills: A water table creates a nexus point for children to gather and play; some of their play will be "parallel," meaning not involving direct interaction, while some will involve sharing toys... or fighting over objects. All of it is valid, and a water table creates a safe space for disagreements.
Creativity: To you, it's a water table. To the young mind, it might be the ocean, a store, a secret island, or a laboratory. Choose toys that help you child create a world within the water table then sit back and let them explore.
Choosing The Right Water Table
When it comes to choosing a water table that's right for your child, first consider basics. How large a table can your home accommodate? How many kids will play with it? Will there be ample drainage available (such as with a table set up in grass) or is this for indoor use, thus splashing must be contained? Are your kids standing on their own yet, or do they need a hand to stand?
For the youngest children, simple, stable water tables without a lot of accessories are best; even better are options like those available from Little Tykes and Step2 that have easily removed toys. Let the kids initially explore water itself, using only the simplest objects like cups and spoons. As they grow older, introduce spinning wheels and themed accessories and balls, but initially, simple is better.
Older kids will quickly tire of playing with water and cups, so tables that allow for mixed media are a great idea. Consider tables that feature both wet and dry areas, allowing kids to play with sand and water at the same time, for example. Mixing the two materials together can do more than double the fun, it can allow your children to explore both scientific and artistic concepts. Making a sand castle involves basic physics, chemistry, and design, after all.
Making The Most Of Water Play
Playing with water, especially through the medium of a water table stocked with carefully selected toys, can help accelerate your child's development cognitively, physically, socially, and in terms of language. Think carefully about the toys you choose and you will soon have a child thinking critically about the world around them
Cups: Kids love pouring water back and forth, and will do so readily without much guidance. So why not provide them measuring cups with clearly demarcated volumes instead of regular old cups? In time, with gentle guidance, a child will be able to determine which cups hold more or less water, and will understand how to quantify those properties with numbers. This basic skill radiates out well beyond the water table.
Sticks And Stones: You can't find a cheaper, simpler way to teach a child about density, floating, and displacement than by using buoyant sticks and dense rocks in a water table. Let them explore on their own; they'll come to plenty of conclusions without help, and you'll be there to answer questions, too.
Mixed Media: Once your child has "mastered" the basics of water table play, introduce food coloring, fabrics, sand, and anything else that might catch their interest as it changes in reaction to water, or changes the water itself.