The arrival of summer also means the arrival of sunny days and scorching temperatures, so it’s time to dust off that water table in the outdoor learning area and put it to good use! Here are 20+ new and creative water table ideas, or ideas for your water sensory bin. They’re perfect to add to your summer theme lesson plans!
Cool Off With These Water Table Ideas
With the return of the intense heat, it’s time to cool off with water play.
I love having a water table for my young children. They provide hours of fantastic play and learning opportunities for both toddlers and preschoolers. Compiling this list has brought back many fond memories of playing with my sons at the water table in the backyard, in the playroom, or in the kitchen. Sometimes, we even turn the bathtub into a water sensory bin!
A water table is a must-have for playtime in any home or classroom. They’re not just for water play; they’re also perfect for all kinds of sensory play, as well as the development of fine motor skills by scooping and pouring water or squeezing a turkey baster and color mixing with an egg beater. They can also be used for learning activities!
Benefits of Water Sensory Table Play
Early Learning lets kids explore their environment and use nature as a teacher! Water play offers loads of fun, plus aids in physical ability building, emotional growth and enhancing early literacy skills. Best part? Kids are rarely ever bored by water play – it’s the perfect activity for children to enjoy learning through exploration!
Water play also promotes the following:
- math and science concepts
- concentration and focus
- social skills
- communication and oral language development
- hand-eye coordination
- fine motor skills
One summer I created an ocean themed small world sensory table on the back patio. My son loved feeling the different textures and playing with the ocean animal toys. It provided lots of opportunities to work on vocabulary and language skills while learning about all the different creatures in the sea.
While an ocean theme at the water table is quite traditional there are so many other creative play ideas for the water table.
FAQ About Water Tables and Sensory Bins
Water tables are inherently fun and are one of the best open-ended toys for toddlers and preschoolers.
You can make them more fun by adding interesting sensory materials along with a variety of toys such as cars, animals, cups, and scoops. Basically…anything that won’t be ruined by the water can be added to a water sensory bin!
Be creative in you water table play ideas!
One of the best things about water tables is their versatility. You can have fun with so many different materials in a water table, including water beads, ice cubes, soap foam, shaving cream, beans, rice, floral pebbles, sand, dirt…the possibilities are endless! You can also add common toys like a marble run, plastic animal figurines, or thematic math counters.
Water tables are a wonderful addition to your indoor play area, too, and you can even create winter water tables indoors.
They can be filled with dry materials and used just like a sensory bin! For easy clean up and to protect the floors, place a large bedsheet, tarp, or tablecloth underneath. You can even turn a bath tub into a water bin! Just make sure what you add isn’t so small that it could go down the drain.
Best Water Toys for a Water Table or Bin
We’ve mentioned a few already, but these water toys are our all-time favorites. In fact, sometimes my kids will sneak these toys into bath time.
Sensory Water Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Like all sensory activities, there are some safety differences in water table ideas for toddlers and water table ideas for preschoolers. We’ve created two lists dividing the two.
Please remember that since these sensory activities feature water, children should never be left unsupervised!
Water Table Ideas for Toddlers
Toddlers will have a blast playing in these easy-prep water tables! They’re all shallow and well-equipped with large accessories that are safe for toddlers. Be sure to supervise your toddler when they play, though; safety first!
Fine Motor Water Activity for Toddlers
Summertime also means water time! This water sensory bin activity is perfect for keeping toddlers nice and cool while they work on strengthening their fine motor muscles. All you need is water and some empty glue bottles.
Cool Off With a Scooping and Pouring Water Bead Water Bin
Preschoolers always look forward to the reappearance of the water bin when summer hits, and it's one of our favorite things about summer learning. Full of water beads, this scooping and pouring water bin is the perfect way to enjoy with warmer weather.
Bear Soup Water Sensory Bin
Call it what you will, but this Bear Soup water sensory bin is full of imaginary play that will allow your toddler to take the lead. This is certainly one to add to your summer activity list!
Bubble Foam Water Table: An Outdoor Activity
Welcome to one of the most epic activity ideas for a sunny day: the bubble foam water table! This is the stuff kids' dreams are made of. Warning: serious giggling will ensue.
Make an Ice Table Sensory Bin
Out with the old water table ideas and in with the new! Try turning it into an ice table sensory bin that's perfect for beating the heat.
Ideas for Water Table Fun with Babies and Toddlers
Explore these themed water table activities for your little one that are sure to bring on the summer fun! Playful ideas using a few fun items from around your house plus a few of our favorite toys for your water table.
Washing Dishes Water Play for Kids
Toddlers love pretending to do what grown-ups do! Adding play dishes to the water table with some soapy water will provide endless fun on a warm summer day...and maybe teach an important life skill, too!
Water Table and Pom Poms
Adding colorful pom poms to your water table is such a fun way to incorporate an interesting texture to the water. Toddlers will have fun scooping, squeezing, and sorting them! Add some sorting bowls for even more fun!
Vegetable Soup Water Table Play Activity
Little kids love pretending to cook, so a fun way to use a water table is to turn it into a large pot of vegetable soup! Toddlers will have a blast stirring, scooping, and serving up their own soup on a hot summer day. Watch as they make up chants and songs while they play, too!
Ocean Sensory Table
Summertime is a great time for toddlers to learn about the ocean. This ocean sensory table is the perfect way to introduce young learners to ocean animals and ocean vocabulary in a playful way!
Best Sand and Water Tables for Kids
We’ve had a few sand and water tables in our preschool These are our favorites due to their size and versatility.
Water Table Ideas for Preschoolers
Water tables can provide a wide variety of fun learning and play activities for preschoolers. Check out this list for some amazing water activity ideas for preschoolers to get you started this summer!
Try a Sink or Float Water Sensory Bin This Summer
Most sensory bin ideas can be transferred to a water table. Doing this science sink or float activity in a water table allows preschoolers a better opportunity to explore the items. There's no need to buy specialty materials, either!
Duck Pond Sensory Play
Adding some adorable rubber ducks, pebbles, wood blocks, and other pond themed items to your water table will provide preschoolers with endless play and learning fun. Watch your preschoolers get in lots of language practice as they make up stories about their duck pond!
Washing Farm Animals Sensory Bin
One of the best things about water tables is they often have two sides. This water table idea uses dirt on one side and soapy water on the other. Kids will love make the dirty animals clean again while using fine motor muscles to scrub and wash. If you don't have a water table, you can easily convert this activity to two small sensory bins that sit side-by-side.
Water Bead and Shaving Cream Sensory Activity
Water beads and shaving cream is an amazing sensory experience for preschoolers. Doing this activity outside in a water table will make clean up a breeze.
Disney In Ice Escape Water Table STEM Activity
Cool off on a hot summer day with your preschoolers' favorite characters frozen in ice in the water table. Kids will have so much fun trying to break and melt the ice cubes to free the toys.
Beach Water Table Invitation
If you don't live near the ocean, you can bring the beach to your preschoolers with this fun beach themed water table! Kids will love exploring the soft white sand, seashells, and cool blue water with this activity.
Colorful Ice Boats
This water table activity encourages preschoolers to explore buoyancy, temperature, and colors while having fun outside playing with water.
Frog Counting Activity
Preschoolers will love this water table activity that features a favorite pond animal: frogs! It's a great way to incorporate counting, one-to-one correspondence, and number recognition into a playful activity for summer.
Water Table Dinosaur World
You can turn your water table into almost any imaginable small world. This amazing dinosaur world is sure to get your preschooler interested in dinosaurs and pretend play!
Nature Soup – Nature and Water Play for Preschoolers
Fill your water table with all sorts of natural materials and let your child's senses run wild with a nature soup. This is an excellent way for preschoolers to explore nature with the five senses. It's perfect for summer or for a five sense theme.
These 20+ water table ideas just might save your bacon this summer.
With rising temperatures, we want our preschoolers and toddlers to be safe while learning and playing outside; water table activities are the perfect way to keep them cool. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and keep your little ones hydrated, too! And just as important, always supervise your preschoolers and toddlers when they play around water!
Must Have Items to Keep Kids Safe This Summer
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.