DIY Toddler Water Table from Recycled Wood: The Backyard Just Keeps Getting FUNNER

Make this DIY Toddler-sized Sand or Water Table

It is not lost on me that this has kind of been the summer of kid stuff here on the ol’ blog. I feel like maybe I need to apologize to readers without kids for being so relentlessly child-focused. We painted grown-up friendly chairs just last week to appease you! And, honestly, I might have more kid stuff coming up before I’m all done, but THEN! In the fall! We have plans for rooms the kids don’t even know exist! Not really. But they don’t go in them that much, anyway.

Even if you are not a child and don’t have one, maybe you would have a great time splashing around in your very own water table. You won’t know until you try, right?

We decided Abe needed a water table because of how people are always talking about how playing with water and measuring it and stuff is so important for little kids’ developing math skills. Also because he likes water, and it’s really hot out these days.

And then we decided he needed TWO of them, so that he could dump water from one to another and so that sometimes one could be a sand table. We would have made one long table with two bins for water, actually, except we needed it to be portable and were worried things would get too heavy.

I looked at a bunch of water table ideas online, but this one at The Inspiration Thief was our main, well…stolen inspiration. There’s not a full tutorial there, but I liked the simple design and the idea of using cement mixing trays for the water and sand holding parts.

The only things we bought for this table were the two concrete mixing trays we used for the water/sand holding part. These were $5 each at Lowes. Oh, I guess Dave bought a new drill bit, too, but I’m not sure that counts.

My short version of the directions is that you take some wood and build a frame to fit the concrete mixing tray, then add some triangles to brace the wooden box and some legs to hold the whole thing up (after carefully looking at how tall Abe is, we decided on 19 inch legs).

Here is Dave’s somewhat longer version:

Qty Length Item
4 25.5″ 2×6 frame
4 20.75″ 2×6 frame
8 19″ 2×4 legs
8 8″ 1×2 braces
bunch of 2.5″ deck screws

This was exciting because 100% of the material listed above was to be found either under the porch (left overs from the original stairs in the back) or in the garage (left overs from … other stuff).

I originally planned on making the entire structure out of 2x4s since I have a crap-ton of that for some reason. But thankfully before I started, I considered the depth of the bins and figured I wanted to leave underclearance for some triangular braces. The 2x6s were the perfect height for this.


Fortunately, I had just enough 2×6 (left over from the playhouse?) to make two frames. Zip zip with the miter saw and screw them together.

I used the Kreg Jig to make three pocket holes on each end of the 25.5″ boards …



… and fastened with 2.5″ screws.




I was running low on Kreg screws with their wacky square screw head. I still had some deck screws left from the playhouse, but they have the star screw head. I wasn’t sure if Kreg had some sort of fancy reason for me to buy their more expensive screws, but I experimented with one Kreg screw and two deck screws per corner in the first frame. Only problem, I didn’t have a star drill bit long and skinny enough for pocket holes, so I picked up a $4 bit (curses! add it to the total cost?) to tighten them up. I didn’t appreciate much difference in the way the screws gripped, so I used all deck screws on the second frame.

I almost made the braces out of more 2x4s, but I thought that would be too chunky. So I found some 1×2 strips in the garage and cut 8 trapezoids at 45 degrees. Predrill and sink some deck screws in (used some 1.5″ screws here) and you’re done with your frame.


I’m a little sad about the legs. I think it would have looked much better to attach them all the way in the corner. Instead, I lined up its edge with the longer 2×6. I had a reason – I was concerned about hitting the pocket screws. But in retrospect, I’m realizing that the place where I did attach them is closer to the pocket screws due to the angled pockets… And I didn’t hit any, so I guess hindsight and all that.


/Dave’s part (which was actually very not-wordy for a Dave’s part. I hope Dave’s feeling okay).

Then I sanded down the corners and joints and splintery parts with the power sander (I wasn’t going for completely smooth because sanding is terrible and anyway I wanted it to look RUSTIC). After sanding I stained them with a never ending thing of gray deck stain that we have, and then put on two coats of polyurethane (since we were using whatever wood we had on hand, I think it was a combination of pressure treated and not, so I wanted to make sure they were somewhat resistant to all the water that would be pouring all over them).

water08s water16s water18s

And then we turned the kids loose on them:

water10s water11s water12s water15s water17s

So far our little water tables are much appreciated by Abe.

DIY Water/Sand Table for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Made from Recycled Materials

Read about more kid-friendly projects:

Ikea Lego Table


 DIY Swing Set


Linking with:

The Inspiration Gallery

Link Party Palooza at I Heart Naptime


DIY Toddler Water Table from Recycled Wood: The Backyard Just Keeps Getting FUNNER — 20 Comments

  1. Those are the most stylish water tables I have ever seen! I have the crappy plastic one. My kids have really outgrown it so I can’t wait to give it away!

    • I suspect without the stand he’d be IN the plastic bin most of the time…the stand is more for us than him 😉

  2. Love this Love this! It is so much better than the store bought ones! Well done lady!! And what a happy little guy playing at his new table!! Nicole xo

    • The standard commercial water table height seemed to be 20 inches, but since Abe is a tiny little peanut, he needed his just a tad shorter 😉

  3. G’day from Oz. That is one happy kiddo you have there-what a smile!

    If you have a minute to spare I’d be thrilled if you could share your post at my weekly Say G’Day Saturday linky party. It has just started and this would be a fabulous addition.

    Best wishes for a great weekend.
    Natasha in Oz

    • I should! I keep thinking about submitting things since you first mentioned it, but I haven’t actually done it yet. I’ll do it tonight 🙂

  4. Pingback: How to make a sand and water table

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