You may have seen them at the preschool over the winter filled with rice and beans but in reality, it’s a water table. And it’s the perfect toy to get your child outdoors, cooled down and having a great time all summer long. Toddlers especially love water tables as they start explore working with different textures and learning what floats and what doesn’t. Some of the tables we found were super fancy with water spouts but others were just simple and fun. In the end, make sure you have one on hand for last minute playdates and hot days this summer. If you don’t have a backyard, don’t worry, most water tables are compact and are the perfect size for small patios. There’s nothing like just sticking them in the backyard (or patio) for a little playtime while mom gets a chance to read the latest People
Best overall: Step2 Water Wheel Activity Play Table, $36.98, at amazon.com.
Why we like it: It’s the most simple of all the water tables we tested and it still provides hours of entertainment. With less moving parts, it means there isn’t that much that could break, which is always reassuring to know when a toy gets hours of play and time in the sun. It comes with a water wheel, one cup and two sailboats but just add more of your own bath toys for extra fun!
Best value: Little Tikes Spiralin’ Seas Waterpark, $29.99, at toysrus.com.
Why we like it: For less than $30, you get a great toy that has a lot of accessories to go with it. Kids can drop the balls down the spiral and watch them cruise down the “lazy river” and there’s also a ferris wheel and a funnel. It’s a great value without committing a ton of money.
Best for small spaces: Little Tikes Mudpie Kitchen, $39.98, at amazon.com.
Why we like it: A little bit smaller than the other water tables, this table not only pumps water but also is an outdoor kitchen complete with mixer for making yummy mudpies. It comes with the accessories needed to make the pies including a pie tin, a sink strainer and a shaker with lid. It’s great for small spaces and can easily be stored come winter. No batteries are needed either, it runs on kid power!
Best for sand and water: Step2 Naturally Playful Sand & Water Center, $73.58, at amazon.com.
Why we like it: If you’re brave enough to bring sand into the mix, this is the table for you. There are two separate sides for the sand and the water and it comes with an umbrella for added shade and a cover to keep out curious animals at night. One side also has molded roadways for extra play with or without water.
Best for imagination play: Little Tikes Anchors Away Play Pirate Ship, $69.99, at toysrus.com.
Why we like it: What’s better than playing pirates?! This water table is shaped like a pirate ship and comes with a working water fountain (batteries required on this one), a shooting water cannon, an anchor for pulling in your boats and water flows to make currents in the water. This little ship is perfect for sailing off on warm summer days!