Product Type: ELC Outdoor Toy
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The Beach In Our Garden
ELC Sand and Water Table
Member Name: sandemp
ELC Sand and Water Table
Advantages: Very sturdy, can be used with or without legs, has lid
Disadvantages: Lid not completely weatherproof
Although I do feel that toys from The Early Learning Centre can be a little (or lot) pricier than many of their competitors, I also feel that on the whole the superior quality is well worth the extra cost and they regularly hold special events where their own brand toys are reduced in price. The ELC Sand and Water Table is a case in point, at £45 it is a fairly expensive purchase, but it is extremely sturdy and even comes with a number of toys. We purchased our table last year during an outdoor toy event and while I cannot remember exactly how much it cost, it was somewhere in the region of £30.
==A Parent's View==
The Sand And Water Table is supplied in a fairly large cardboard box and requires assembly before use. Although not especially heavy, the box is large enough to be unwieldy and make carrying difficult, so I really would recommend getting this delivered if at all possible. Assembly is a simple affair, the supplied instructions are basic but easy to follow and should you lose them it is possible to download a copy from the ELC website. I especially like that there is no requirement for special tools, making assembly and disassembly a five minute job. Once assembled the Sand and Water Table is a reasonable size measuring in at approximately 70cm square. The actual table section is formed of bright red plastic and sectioned into two compartments. The means you could either fill one with water, the other with sand, or both with water or both with sand. Each of the compartments has a drainage plug to allow easy removal of water, only these aren't quite as handy as you would think, as I discovered while cleaning it out today. Yes they do form a tight seal and so don't leak, but it really isn't a pleasant experience trying to remove them when the compartment is full of freezing cold rain water.
The table comes with four legs that simply slot into place and these legs are slightly splayed out which leaves the table very stable and unlikely to tip. With the legs in place the table stands approximately 40cm tall, meaning it is the perfect height for the average toddler aged between 18 months and four years. When we bought this last year Freddy was not yet standing and what we really liked about this table is that it could also be used without the legs, meaning Freddy could sit on the floor and play with the sand and water. Once Freddy was able to pull himself up to standing we attached the legs and once filled with sand/water it did an admirable job of supporting his weight as he leant on it to play. The table also comes with a cover that is in two parts which clip together and then on to the table top. The really good things about this cover are that it has a road embossed on it which adds yet another element to play and it keeps cats out, but the not so good is that it is not completely water tight and sand inside will get wet if the closed table is exposed to heavy downpours.
The toys included with the table are pretty good and would cost a fair amount to purchase separately from the Early Learning Centre, so I was really pleased that they were within the box. All of the toys are formed of thick, tough plastic that feels as if it is unlikely to break any time soon. You get a spoon and a scoop both with a large bowl that makes it easy for the child to transfer the sand around the table, a rake for making patterns in the sand, a starfish mould to fill with damp sand and create your own starfish and a boat to float on the water. The boat is really good and actually does float unlike a lot of bath toys. There are also some toys that you can connect together in various ways and then attach to the centre of the table. There are two large funnels with attachments to adjust the flow of sand or water, two single water wheels and a double water wheel with a tipper. What I really love about these toys is that I can use different combinations which keeps them fresh and exciting and that they are easy to clean and can even be sterilised (using solution).
Although it is perfectly possible for this table to be used indoors, personally I'm not keen on the idea of sand and water all over the floor, so this has been kept outside, all through the summer, autumn, winter and recent downpours. While sand could be used in both compartments, we have sand in one side and then fill the other with water changing it on a daily basis. I find that one 15kg bag of play sand is perfect to fill one side of the table and although the ELC do sell their own version (but do not deliver), the Argos version is just as good and very reasonably priced. Although the lid keeps the majority of rain and bugs away from the sand, it doesn't do a perfect job, so the sand will need checking on a daily basis. The whole table is extremely well constructed and can survive almost anything the the British weather can throw at it. As I said this has been left out in all weathers and yes the lid did leak leaving the interior slimy and yucky, but this easily washed off by taking the table completely apart and putting it in the bath. The only other damage done to the table is a little fading from sunlight, so after a clean it is still perfectly usable, although I will probably put it under cover next year as winter approaches.
From an adult's point of view this is a sturdy, well made sand/water table which positively shows that sometimes it's worth paying a little extra and I love the addition of the toys. But as with any toy it's not just my opinion that counts.
==A Toddler's View==
Although Freddy was over the recommended minimum age when we bought this table, due to a developmental delay he wasn't able to stand unsupported or indeed walk. For this reason we started by leaving the legs unattached and simply placing the table on the grass in the garden for him to play. The compartments are nice and deep meaning that they can hold a decent amount of water or sand and there's plenty of room for splashing or digging. Freddy really enjoyed playing with the sand, using the scoop and spade to lift it and pour it into the funnels. While the sand was damp it would clog in the funnels and not pour through and onto the water wheels, but when the sand is dry it works really well and is great fun to watch. The wheels and funnels work really well with water, and because of the way they can be positioned in so many different ways we can really have fun experimenting and seeing what happens when we move them round.
Once Freddy was standing and starting to cruise, we attached the legs and it is now the perfect height for him to play, allowing him to easily reach all the different parts. He loves to play with the sand or water or play cars on the lid. Although we started by placing the table on the grass, that was probably a bit of a mistake as we ended up with sand all over the grass and no way of clearing it up or water that made it a bit muddy. Now we have it on concrete and even though the sand still goes everywhere it's a lot easier to clean. Although the weather hasn't yet been suitable for outdoor play this year, Freddy had lots of fun with the table last year and was pretty excited to see me cleaning it ready for this, so I would say that it has been pretty much a hit with him. Oh and it was also enjoyed by one of Freddy's friends last year who is a year older than him.
==Suitability and Developmental Benefits==
The ELC state that this table is suitable for children over the age of eighteen months, and personally I would say this is probably about right. As the legs can be removed even toddlers who cannot walk or support themselves standing can play and as long as you use "safe" sand and supervise even children below this age would be able to play. As to an upper limit, well the ELC doesn't give one, but I would imagine that children over the age of five will find the table a little low and uncomfortable to play with.
As with so many toys a sand/water table is a great opportunity to allow your child to learn new skills and discover the world around them. As they pour, dig and mould the sand they will be improving their hand-eye coordination and dexterity. You can fill a section with water and then experiment to help your child discover what items float and which don't, experiment with arranging the funnels and wheel in different configurations and see if your child can guess what will happen, or add some washing up liquid to the water to have some bubbly fun. By adding a little water to the sand you can help your child mould it and build sandcastles, or maybe pretend it's a desert. The possibilities are limited only by you and your child's imagination.
This is an extremely well made and thought out sand/water table that will last your child for several years from toddler-hood through to pre-school. Although more expensive than some competitors, it is far more sturdy and durable and even comes complete with basic toys. If you have a garden or balcony and a toddler/preschooler then I can't recommend this enough and even with the relatively high price I'm perfectly willing to give it five stars out of five.
Summary: A brilliant water and sand table that will give your child hours of fun all you need to add is sand