* Prices may differ from that shown
We have a fabulous Little Tikes sand and water table, but I hated the mess of the inevitable mixing of said sand and water so started using it purely as a sand pit. This worked well until Hollie decided she wanted to play in some water during the warm weather we had in March, usually she'd just play in our large kitchen sink but this year her sixteen month old brother wanted to play too and there's no way he could safely perch on a tall stool at the sink. I bought this Chad Valley table from Argos, planning to use this one just for water at the opposite end of the garden.
It's been a good plan so far; the table holds a good amount of water and is separated into three compartments, it's a different design to the one pictured above and is the table currently shown on the Argos website. All we had to do when it arrived was push the chunky legs into the holes in the base of the table, this was very easily done and the holes were perfectly shaped to accommodate the legs - if you push them in as far as you can before turning the table over you'll find the weight of the water/sand will push everything into place. The legs can be removed for storage, I don't bother as our garden is big enough to keep the table up but it'll be a handy during the winter when we try to vastly reduce the amount of plastic toys on the lawn!
Our table is orange with green legs, it has a flimsy lid which is protection only from dew really. It doesn't clip into place and just rests on top of the table, anything stronger than a mild breeze will move it and even if it stays in place the contents will get wet if (and when!) it rains. This isn't a problem for us as there's only water in it anyway, but if you're planning to use it for sand this is something you'll need to think about if using as an outdoor toy. It can be used inside as it's a fairly compact little table at 80cm high and roughly 75cm square, personally I'd not fancy sand + small people inside the house but would (maybe) consider letting the kids use the table for water in the kitchen.
This size suits my two youngest children perfectly; at four Hollie is tall enough to sit on one of her plastic chairs while she's playing, sixteen month old David has to stand on tiptoe to reach right into the compartments despite being tall for his age but can pretty much play unaided. The recommended age for this table is two years and above, but providing you supervise them I can't see why younger children shouldn't have a play - mindful of David's newly walking status I empty the water out of the table after each play session, both for hygiene and safety reasons.
Once filled with water or sand the table becomes very stable; while empty it feels substantial but not overly sturdy, but after filling there isn't so much as a wobble and it'll easily hold the weight of David hauling himself into standing position. The three compartments combined will hold a maximum of 30kg, I tend to fill all three with water to around 4/5 of the capacity which prevents water sloshing out each time the kids plunge their hands in but gives them plenty to play with.
Sometimes we'll do something a little different and add bubbles to one compartment and food colouring to another, this adds an extra element of fun and discovery for young children even if it does all end up getting mixed up quite quickly. One of the compartments in our table is slightly discoloured thanks to heavy-handed-Hollie adding too much blue food colouring (ie. a full bottle) and not telling me - I didn't shout, was more relieved that she'd walked away and not started playing in it (or encouraging her brother to). A few hours later I noticed, emptied it all out and gave the table a good scrub but the damage had been done and now our table looks much older than six weeks old!
When I bought the table it came with a small selection of plastic accessories, it didn't say on the Argos site what these accessories were but it's a nice little starter set. A small spade, fork/rake, mini bucket and three sand moulds all of which Hollie uses in the other sand and water table - to be honest she has lots of toys to play with in the water and the accessory pack is more geared towards sand play, rather than the water aspect. Argos suggest that you can use play balls in the table but it honestly doesn't hold enough to make this a sensible idea - each compartment is wavy edged so you can't really fill them completely, but Hollie did use the centre compartment to hold her Lego one day last week when she was attempting to build Barbie's Diamond Castle in the garden (which, incidentally, didn't go all that well).
For the £20 I paid I'm really pleased with my purchase, knowing that ours would only be used for water made the decision to buy this one easier than it might have been if I'd had to consider storing sand too. From the shape and dimensions of the compartments I know it would make an excellent table for sand, but as I mentioned earlier you'd need to invest in a stronger lid or cover to prevent the sand becoming weather damaged.
My best friend is another person who loves to spoil my twin boys so when I received a phone call to say she had "bought them the best present ever" I was intrigued. However when I spied her struggling out of her car with the Chad Valley Sand and Water table and two bags of sand maybe a little less so. I may be new to the parenting game but I'm not completely clueless; sand, water and two children means only one thing.... Messy play!
***Chad Valley Sand and Water Table***
The Chad Valley Sand and Water Table is a moulded plastic triangular sand and water table. This has 3 separate compartments and has a lid which acts as a protective cover but also means the table can be used as a desk or table. The table is 78.5cm high, 73.3cm wide (at the widest point) and 41cm deep. The table has three green legs (which can be dissembled), the main compartment of the table is blue and the table lid is red.
The table comes with accessories which includes a green spade, a green rake and a blue sieve. To fill a compartment with sand Chad Valley states you will need 1kg of sand.
The table is suitable for ages 18 months and older.
Obviously this was a gift but the Chad Valley Sand and Water Table is available both from Argos and Amazon for £19.99. Argos also sell 1kg bags of sand for £2.50 to go with this toy. I think this is good value for money as the (smaller) ELC Sand and Water Table costs £29.99.
***Playing with it***
As I mentioned the Chad Valley Sand and Water Table does come in quite a large box, hence my friend struggling with it. The box is very light to carry however. When you get the table out of the box you will need to assemble the table. All of the individual pieces and accessories are wrapped in cellophane so once you unwrap everything (which takes around 5 minutes) you simply slot the legs into the main section of the table, these clip inside and you are ready to start using the table.
My friend purchased 2 bags of sand alongside this toy. Each bag is 1kg and costs £2.50. On the first use we only used half a bag as I did not really trust my boys with the sand (and being honest wanted to limit the mess they made). We took the sand and water table outside to play with and let the boys play on the patio with this. My boys were 16 months when they started playing with the table with sand in. This is under the recommended age but they were supervised (by two adults and a 13 year old) and are generally quite good at not putting everything in their mouths. My boys were able to play at the table however at this age did struggle slightly reaching right into the compartments as they are so small. This would not be an issue for most children of this age however my boys are particularly small (0.4 centile) and aged 6-9 month sized clothing are too large for them. However at 18 months old they have grown very slightly and this does not seem to be an issue. The table is sturdy however and my friends little boy who is 17 months and can't walk unaided can easily stand at the table and pull himself up without pulling the table over onto himself.
My boys really enjoyed using the spade and fork into the sand and playing with the sieve. At 16 months when they first started playing with this I must admit I did play alongside them showing them how to dig and splash the water into the sand. This probably limited the amount of mess but we did end up with some sandy sticky messes when we had finished playing. After playing I would simply tip the sand out into the bin then wipe down the inside of the compartments before putting the protective cover back on. Unlike many sand and water tables there is no "plug" in the compartments therefore it can be quite awkward tipping the whole table up as it is quite large.
The protective cover is a brilliant idea and even in high winds remains on top of the sandpit keeping everything out of the compartments. The accessories that come with the table fit neatly in one of the compartments; in fact we have double the amount of accessories in there now, all which fit in just one of the compartments. I do use this table with the cover on as a table for when the boys are in the garden and we put their beakers and snacks in here. The only issue is that the protective cover just sits on top of the table therefore my boys enjoy pulling this off when we are not playing with the sand and water.
My boys at 18 months now play more independently with the table and I have noticed the more independent the child is the more mess they make. My friends three year old little boys loves to play with this when he comes however sticky sandy mess usually ends up everywhere despite constant supervision. My boys really enjoy tipping water into the sand compartments and then splashing the accessories into the mess they have created. Because there are three compartments my boys play together better because they can have one compartment each for sand rather than having to share a large compartment between them as many sand and water tables only have two compartments. We have also had 4 children playing with this at one time and this was not a squash or they didn't end up fighting for space (but did make A LOT of mess) . On occasions when I don't feel like cleaning up lots of mess I have also filled the table with water and my children love to splash around with this.
This is a messy toy therefore as a parent you need to expect a lot of mess which is why I think this is best for outdoor use, or in an area (like a garage) where you do not mind a lot of mess being created. I was surprised though at how long my boys were engaged with this toy. At 16 months they spent around 20 minutes in one go playing with this which is more than double the time they usually would concentrate for. Now at 18 months I can see real enjoyment and hear lots of giggles as they play creatively making lots of mess.
However the Chad Valley Sand and Water Table is one of the better designed sand and water tables and excellent value for £19.99. The design of the table with the three compartments is an excellent idea and means if two children are playing together they can have a compartment of sand each rather than being limited to two compartments; one for sand and one for water. The protective cover also is great for storing this outdoors in addition to doubling up as a table which your children can play at. The accessories that come with the toy (the sieve, spade and rake) are a brilliant idea meaning your child is all set to play with the toy once it has been assembled. Sturdy, good quality and well-designed just a little messy!