A few years ago, I saw a DIY hand pump water table for kids on Pinterest, and of course, I decided we needed one IMMEDIATELY. I found a big red pump at Lowes and enlisted Mr Cobco for help building an intersting set up.

Check out the table we came up with:

These water play ideas are perfect for water tables and will give kids hours of unstructured play time.

We wanted the table to be moveable, so it could be pushed into the shade, and ended up putting it on wheels. All of the wood was leftover scrap from the garage, and the water collected into (and pumped from) a big 5 gallon bucket.

As you can see in the video, it turned out pretty good, but we did learn a few things after the table had been in play for a while.

  • The bucket that collects the water really needed a cover to keep out leaves and bugs.
  • The pump was really cool, but needed troubleshooting pretty regularly, as you would start pumping it and nothing would happen. Usually just needed to be primed, but a few times, it was a bigger issue.
  • The kids really liked making little dams out of things to block the water. This was way more interesting to them than floating things or sailing boats in the water.
  • Water wasn’t the only thing the kids wanted to play with in the water table. Dirt and leaves were hot items too.
  • We made it compact for convenience, but I wish it had a much longer run for the water to flow down. I think the kids would’ve been able to come up with more things to do with a little more space. I also would’ve had a separate section for dirt or sand, so that stuff wouldn’t get mixed in withe water.

It lasted a few years, until the big kids weren’t interested anymore. The table was dismantled and the materials all repurposed.

kids water table with red hand pump

Hand pump water tables for kids : other options

Nowadays they sell these types of hand pump water tables for kids in the big box stores, but they’re pretty pricey. However, I found a few really simple DIY’s on Pinterest if you want your table to have a hand pump OR if the pump is not important to you, all you truly need is a big metal/ plastic tub for your backyard. Fill with water and add some different cups and a ladle. Done! (You will sometimes see this referred to as a pouring station.)

Click to see some water table ideas on my Pinterest board

You’ll notice that I pinned some Step2 brand tables – I am not sponsored by them / these are not affiliate links. I have just had really good experiences with their playhouse and water tables in the past. Same with the Ikea bins. We use these for everythng – from toy storage to water play to moon sand.

Additionally, plastic water tables are one of those items that always show up on the curb, in secondhand stores, on Facebook Marketplace, and local Buy Nothing/ Freecycle pages.

Click here for a backyard scavenger hunt for kids!

Are water tables for kids worth it?

100% YES.

When I say this, I mean anything that can be used as a water table, whether a commerically purchased one, a DIY water table, or some plastic bins/ buckets. It’s the playing with water part that’s important.

Any kind of water play or water table provides a sensory experience that allows kids to pour, splash, and scoop. They can experiment with different objects they find in the backyard and observe how they interact with water. This type of open ended play stimulates their creativity and imagination. We all remember making “soup” out of water and leaves and sticks when we were little. Play is the best kind of learning!

Water play also encourages kids to engage in cooperative play. They can work together to build dams, imagine different scenarios for their games, and take turns during their games. It also gives them opportunities to problem solve and deal with any conflicts that arise.

Water play also helps build hand strength for young kids. In our posts on scissor skills, we talk about different activities to increase hand strength in preparation for cutting, and later, handwriting.

And of course, playing with water is also a fun way to cool off on those hot summer days.

Do you have a hand pump water table for your kids? Tell us about their favorite things to do with it in the comments.


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