DIY Backyard Toys

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I’ve been the mom of toddlers for about ten years or so. In my earlier years I wanted my child to have the very best of everything. What mom doesn’t? But, back then, I thought “best of everything” meant brand new and expensive.

I didn’t know that, richer or poorer, kids really don’t need much to keep themselves happy and occupied. In fact, over the years, we’ve discovered that the fewer bells and whistles, the happier the child — and the parents.

That said, one of the things that I’ve always wanted for my little ones was a sand and water table. I have great memories of my own backyard sandbox and the hose that inevitably joined us.

For years I would walk past the display in Walmart or Target and I would pine for one. But, 50 or 60 bucks just didn’t seem right. And, since I’m not too experienced on the garage sale/thrift store circuit, I’d never found one along that avenue either.

Make Your Own Sand and Water Table

Instead, this past week, I decided to make one myself. We already had a small kid-sized table and a bunch of bath toys. I bought two “under the bed” boxes for $5.50 each at Walmart and threw in a newer set of sand/water toys for another $5. My mom had picked up 4 bags of playsand for $1/bag on clearance last fall and donated those to our cause.

One box gets filled with fresh water, the other holds the sand. The littles have had a blast playing with their new backyard toys. Cleanup is a snap as we put the lid on the sandbox and empty the water from the other box and use it to hold all the toys.

Sand and Water Tables: $11, $9 for the additional toys and sand
The fun they’ve had: Priceless

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  1. This is such a great idea. Water/sand tables are so expensive. I can’t wait to try this out when spring finally arrives here.

  2. This is a great idea and shows there is no need to spend lots of money on expensive versions.

  3. This must be the theme this week, frugal fun for kids. I had the same post for this week; very cheap entertainment for kids!
    How fun!
    I agree, it reduces the stress and pressure of “toy-overload”!

  4. This is a great idea and so cheap! I will be using it this summer as our water table blew down the road in a wind storm last year and broke!

  5. Great idea! thanks. I do want one of those tables. I will check the consignment stores first but if not, I will just make one this summer. 🙂

  6. We’ve done this too – it works great! 🙂 My mom used an underbed storage box and it was perfect for storing the sand toys after playtime.

  7. Oh we have a sandbox (I found on the curb on garbage day!!) but I would never have thought of a bin for water. SUPER IDEA.

  8. This sounds like a great idea. We have a sandbox already but nothing for water fun. We are definitely going to have to do this once it gets warmer here.

  9. That looks like so much fun! I can’t wait for sunshiny days around here!!!

  10. What a fab idea!! If only it would get warm enough here for us to try it out 🙂 Water tables are my daughter’s favorite toy, but I’ve never bought one for the same reasons you listed.

  11. I have found two sand and water tables in the trash, cleaned them up and resold them on Craigslist. I bought one for my kids at a thrift store for $5 and bought one for a friend at a church rummage sale for $10. They seem to find me!

    Here’s another good, cheap idea for sand and water tables – if you don’t want the mess of sand. Put one side of soapy water and one of clean. The kids love playing with the bubbles and “cleaning” their toys. Much neater (and cheaper!) than sand!

  12. Genius! I wonder if our 7 yr olds are still young enough to enjoy that?? We shall see!

  13. I love this idea. I wonder if I could find cheap play sand at this time of the year. Hmm. I’ll have to keep a look out.

  14. Great Idea. Both my kids are obsessed with playing in water. This will add some cheap fun to the mix!

  15. That is a great idea for a “sandbox”! Plus, it also solves another concern of mine about why we don’t have one (yet) — the neighborhood cats.

  16. I love this idea. We do not have much of a yard and this would be a perfect way to play outside, but then clean it up easily after we are done.

  17. When my son was 2, he received a water table as a gift. The table was a big diappointment. The height is for a 2 year old, so once he started to grow he out grew the table in a couple of months! $65.00 for 3-4 months of play, that is ridiculous! I love your idea! The table has its own storage and it will “grow” with your kids!

  18. What a GREAT idea. Like you I’ve wanted one but couldnt see paying that much. I’m going to use your idea…but first I need a table for outdoors.

  19. Ha..ha..!! Great “teacher” minds think alike!! I had made this exact same “sand and water table” in my classroom when I got my first teaching job back over 10 years ago! I was to have an autistic child in my class that year who was very tactile, so this was the perfect therapy for him, and fit the classroom budget!! And, I have since made the same one for my own kids…although now we upgraded to the “Sand boat”… but we greatly missed the water version last summer, so we’ll have to bring that back!! Super thinking… and again, we have great ideas, so therefore, we teach!!

  20. Super idea! I did the same when I taught kindergarten, since the “professional” water tables designed for classrooms cost upwards of $200 … yow! Glad to hear you’re covering your small sand box at night, to keep the toys clean, the sand in place, and the ants and cats out. As a teacher, I stopped allowing my students into the playground sandbox (the great big one) after one little boy came in from recess and proudly produced a “fossil” from his pocket … uh huh, something a neighborhood cat had left behind. Yuck!

    Other things kids love to play with in the water table (instead of water) include rice, dried beans, styrofoam packing pellets, and ice cubes (just buy a big bag of ice at the store and dump it in on a hot day … what a treat!).

    If your “littles” are old enough, it’s fun to put small plastic items in the sand/water/rice/pellets, and let them see how many they can find in a scoop or net. Great for early math skills … counting, sorting by shape or color, patterning, etc.

    I have lots of fun pre-K through 2nd grade learning activities and hundreds of classrooms-and-kids photos on my teaching website, at, so please stop by if you’re looking for free ideas.

    Have a blessed Easter!

    30 Days Of Junkin’ in April