Monday, August 1, 2011

DIY Farmhouse Sand and Water Table

SWT open front view - title
This is simply the best toy that has ever come into our home.

It's a sensory delight
It allows for completely open-ended play
It fits in a narrow space
It's beautiful
It's built to last
It's inexpensive
It will absolutely enrich your life

I love it so much I want you to have your own, too!

Below the jump you’ll find the why and how of this project and a link to complete plans to build your own. Enjoy!

SWT open

The Why:

Why on earth did we build a sand and water table when there are so many commercially available?

The reason is simple: I couldn’t find what I wanted at a price I could afford.

I wanted a sand and water table for my 1 and 3 year old girls that fit these requirements:

1] must be $50 or less

2] must be off the ground and at child height

3] must fit 2+ kiddos at a time

4] must be securely covered - to keep neighborhood cats and fire ants out of the sand and kiddos away from standing water.

5] must have separate spaces for sand and water, preferably with separate covers - so you have the option to play with one side at a time. (Some days I have the wherewithal to deal with a swampy, sandy-water/watery-sand table, some days I don’t. I cover accordingly.)

6] must fit on my narrow front porch - so the girls are shaded and so I can supervise comfortably close by without hovering.

SWT on porch

7] must be beautiful - not because there’s anything inherently wrong with plastic, but because I believe children better appreciate and care for their toys when they are well made and beautiful. And because it’s going to be on my front porch - let’s be real here.

8] must be simple. The simpler a toy, the more room there is for open-ended play; for imagination. I didn’t want a sand and water table with roads, bridges, ramps and ice bergs already built-in – making them is half the fun!

The How:

When I realized that no sand and water tables in my price range met these requirements, I started looking for DIY tutorials that I could do with tools we either had or could borrow.

I loved this tutorial at Our House in the Middle of Our Street, but it required a skill saw (we don’t have access to one) and didn’t address #3, 4 or 6 on our list. So I borrowed some brilliant ideas and headed over to my all time favorite DIY site: Ana White.

If you’ve ever walked through a store like Pottery Barn and thought, “that $200 bench is four pieces of wood nailed together – I bet I could make that,” Ana White probably already has a knock-off plan for it! She is the master of figuring out how expensive furniture is put together and explaining it in plain language so an amateur can build it easily and affordably with simple tools and off-the-shelf lumber. Live well for less. I love this woman. And her site.

So I went there and gathered ideas from her Farmhouse Table and Mom’s Train Table, and I started putting a plan together.

I already had two plastic bins with lids and knew they were a good depth for playing – not so shallow all the sand and water end up on the ground, but not so deep that the kiddos can’t reach the bottom or the greater volume of sand and water become too heavy for the frame to support. I figured out the dimensions for the wooden frame based on the size of the plastic bins.

You can download a free PDF of my plans here, complete with shopping list, cutting list, and step-by-step diagrams (for visual learners like me). Also check out Ana's Getting Started Guide if you are new to DIY.

SWT little squat

We’ve had the sand and water table for a month now, and the girls have been outside playing with it almost every day. It is a joy to sit and watch my toddler splash, laugh, explore different textures, problem solve, develop gross and fine motor skills and practice sharing.

SWT little hands

My preschooler is engrossed in her pretend play – building cities, race tracks, ocean scenes, and gourmet dinners, playing “Jonah” over and over again, practicing pouring, and learning about the properties of soil and water.

I love watching them play together.

SWT two play

I love that we are spending more time outside.

SWT side view

I love building sand castles when no one is looking

I love that clean up is simple – I pick up the water bin out of the frame to dump on the flowers every couple of days, the sand and water toys go in a basket, the lids go on the bins, we sweep the sand and we’re done.

SWT all done

I love this simple, perfect toy. And I hope you and yours enjoy it, too.

The Lettered Cottage

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