I love to set up water play and other sensory play for my kids. It can get a little messy but it’s an activity that always engages my kids for long periods, they will often all happily play together and it seems to calm fractious nerves, so it is worth a little mess.
We don’t have a fancy water table to use for sensory play. I’ve looked at some lovely commercially made water tables and even some great DIY ideas, but we really don’t have the space for a large water table inside so always decide not to spend the time, effort or money. Instead we use a variety of cheap, easy to find, containers for sensory play that are moveable and very versatile.
You don’t need a fancy, expensive water table when there are so many other great options.
Here are our five favourite alternatives to water tables:
A Large Mixing Bowl.
You probably already have a large plastic or metal mixing bowl in your cupboard, well they are perfect for setting up an individual play space.
Just the right size for a frog in a pond or enough slime for one.
An Under Bed Storage Container.
When everyone wants to get in on the action and we need big container for water or sand or any other sensory play, we use a large, plastic, under bed storage container.
These are great because they are big, but not too high, so you can sit them on top of a table and even little kids can still reach in to play with the contents. There is enough room for all four of my kids to crown around and play and they also come with a lid, so saving the sensory play for another day is as easy as clipping on the lid!
Small Plastic Tubs
Sometimes two want to play, but they have trouble sharing their space. This was the story of my life when my twin were smaller so I bought two cheap plastic tubs from our local dollar store to use for sensory play. With two tubs I can set up some water play side by side so they can both play together but they don’t have to share.
It still works today as my three year old doesn’t like it when someone else washes all his socks and hangs them on the line!
A Selection of Recycled Containers.
It doesn’t get easier, or cheaper, than three recycled ice-cream containers attached to each other with bull dog clips. This is a simple idea that offers a different set up for sensory play, perfect for animal habitats, or mixing different substances.
There is lots of fun to be had by moving things from one container to the next.
A Cutlery Tray.
We got this big cutlery tray from Ikea and with all the different sections it is so much fun to use for sensory play. It’s great for combining lots of different sensory mediums.
With a nice white backdrop it is perfect for a spot of colour mixing too.
All of these alternatives to a water table were inexpensive and easy to find. While a proper water table would be great, these options work well for us and have provided my kids with hours of sensory play fun!