Build a Water Table for Kids

Building an outdoor water table for kids is a relatively simple project and will provide them with hours and hours of amusement.

| August/September 1994

  • 145 backyard adventures - water table for kids - gyso4ka - Fotolia
    Properly built, a water table for kids is big enough to let your youngster splash around in the shallows but small enough that they can't wad into it.
  • 145-053-01c_01m
    Diagrams show parts, dimensions, and assembly method of water table. 
  • 145-053-01b_01m
    Diagram shows the necessary cuts to make in a sheet of plywood for the water table. 
  • 145-053-01_01m
    Diagram shows method of securing the water table's corners.

  • 145 backyard adventures - water table for kids - gyso4ka - Fotolia
  • 145-053-01c_01m
  • 145-053-01b_01m
  • 145-053-01_01m

If you've visited a kindergarten recently, you may have seen children playing in an indoor water table: a sturdy work table with a low rim around the perimeter to hold a very shallow pool of water. And they love it, but at an indoor table they must exercise enough self-discipline to create quiet little water worlds and not a big wet mess; either that, or they need an adult there the whole time making sure things don't get out of hand.

An outdoor table allows for more rambunctious play, not to mention a less complicated design; indoor tables are typically built kid-waist high and require a rigid frame and legs. The water can also be a little deeper. Accordingly, the plans that follow are for an outdoor water table for kids. You'll save time, trouble and weight (filled with sand or gravel, rocks, and water, it will be heavy enough.) 

Size and Depth  

Build it on flat ground and block it to be perfectly level so the kids can play in it much as they play in the sandbox. The table should be long enough to present an independent play area at each end but be narrow enough that children ranged along opposing sides can reach in and play together. Again, observe a pair of kids playing dolls or cars on the rug and measure the distance from the belt of one to the other. I've found that a 2' x 4' table is fine for small kids, 2 1/2 x 6' good for older ones. Do not be tempted to make it so big the children are tempted to climb in, splash around, and bust it up.

If small kids have (even forbidden) access to a hose, they will eventually fill the water table to brimming. And despite being told not to, they will eventually go wading in it. A small child could conceivably slip, fall ...and a toddler can drown in even an inch of water. Unless you will have an adult in constant attendance, don't give them the chance to come to grief. If your youngest is under age 3, build a table with a low rim or drill drain holes all around so water can never get more than an inch deep. If the youngest is over age 6, water can be up to 4" deep. However, the table isn't meant to be a pool, but a miniworld with shallow, play oceans and rivers. I think that a box with 3" sides containing an inch or so of gravel and drain-hole drilled to give a maximum standing-water depth of 2" is best. The kids can have fun and you needn't worry. You can block up one end a couple of inches to give a shallow and deep end and enough slope to make little rivers through the gravel or sand when the hose is left on in a trickle. Kids can use wood blocks to dam the stream in 3"-deep pools to give a most satisfying, little waterfall. (We also provide a supply of little disposable bathroom-size paper cups for pouring. Otherwise, a succession of cooking measures, coffee mugs, and dangerous glass drinking vessels found their way out to the table.)

Build a 2 1/2'-Wide x 5'-Long x 4"-Deep Box

You will need:


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