I had a toddler and a newborn at home and was eyeing toys that would keep an 20-month-old engaged for long stretches. A playset that allowed for sand and water fun seemed perfect. By its very nature it promotes imaginative play and exploration, so baby number one could have a good time playing independently while I tended to baby number two for a while. After some very unscientific research, I decided on the sand and water table from One Step Ahead. It was everything I expected and is standing up to the test of time, keeping a third toddler happily entertained four years later.
Just Enough...and Surprisingly More
There are sand and water tables that are bigger and have more bells and whistles. The cost for those can quickly surpass $100. One Step Ahead's table is under $70. The value is important to me, but it would have been penny wise and dollar foolish if the set itself hadn't been entertaining enough for my kids. I didn't have to worry.
- Stands 17-and-a-half inches high, just the right height for kids ages one-year-old through preschool years.
- Detachable legs let kids sit and easily reach in to play with the sand or water.
- Consists of two separate play bins so you can fill one with sand, one with water and/or let two children play in their own space at the same time.
- Includes an interlocking lid so you can store the toys in the bin and use the set as a play table when it’s not filled with sand and water.
- Allows for quick clean up with drain plugs on the bottom and an easy-to-wipe-down surface.
Having Fun: Pros of the One Step Ahead Sand and Water Table
This model comes with eight toys including a series of spinners, funnels, and levers that allow your little one to build simplistic Rube Goldberg machines that drop water or sand into the play bins. These pieces can be configured several different ways, so toddlers can experiment and learn about cause and effect. Of course, toddlers will, undoubtedly, turn their own playthings or everyday items into tools for sand and water games anyway, so it’s really not necessary to get a play set that includes more than a handful of toys. Everything from toy trucks to baby food containers ended up in our table.
So, if toddlers can turn any old thing into fun, why bother investing in a sand and water table anyway? A good table works both to inspire a child’s imagination and store all those playthings.
If it's going to do those things well, it also means you want a table that can stand up to the force of toddlers dropping and pushing things around. There are some lower priced models, but they may not be as sturdy. Thus, a toddler could accidently tip the table while playing and leave a mess of mud (which might still be fun for him, but maybe not so much for mom). Other models don’t necessarily offer an easy storage option like the One Step Ahead version either. I found this model very easy to drain and wipe down. After it was cleaned up, we occasionally left the table in the living room with the lid on so the kids could use it as a play space. Other times, we removed the legs and stored it easily in a closet.
The removable legs were a big plus in my family. In fact, we often used the table without the legs so the kids could get comfortable; they would then play for over an hour. They end of the game was usually when one or both would climb into the play bins. As a three-year-old, my long-legged daughter could still fold herself into one side. Although most of the water would spill out when she did so, it was giggley fun for her.
Drawbacks: Cons of the One Step Ahead Sand and Water Table
While the dual bins allow you to have one side be sand and one side be water, I did find this to be too messy and the ease with which one side can spill into the other would frustrate the kids. Our solution was to choose one medium to play in per session. Thus, we would do an afternoon of just water, or fill it with sand and leave the sand in place for several days. We could remove the sand and store it in other containers if we wanted to go back to playing with the water table. But, yes, I this could be rather inconvenient.