Welcome to my two-week SUMMER HOLIDAY SPECIAL!
It’s been sweltering hot, almost too hot to venture outside with the kids for more than 10 unbearable minutes at a time. It’s also school holidays and there are children to entertain. What to do, what to do? Let’s consider some options.
a) Move to Antartica (tempting)
b) Stay indoors in air-conditioning 24-7 (pretty much EXACTLY what we’ve been doing – except the kids and I are all going stir crazy and need to get OUT!)
c) Have some fun with water play.
Let’s go with (c), shall we?
This week I’ll be celebrating one of the classics of early childhood – the sand and water play table. This simple set-up provides endless hours of outdoor fun. Our last (teensy tiny) play table eventually disintegrated after years of hard use and being left outside in all weather (my bad), so I’ve been looking around for a new one for, oh, about a year.
I knew this time I wanted something bigger. Something that could accommodate three kids at once, with enough play area that we could be a bit more flexible with how we used it. Something like this:
…. EXCEPT, the price tag on this baby is a cool $220. (Australian price.) Um… seriously? I eyed it off for months, but I just couldn’t justify spending that much on something that’s essentially a tub on legs.
Besides, I wanted to be able to mix things up a bit. Even though this was the biggest play table I could find online (apart from some marketed to childcare centres, which were even more expensive – up around the $500 mark), it still wouldn’t have been conducive to many of the activities I wanted to use it for. The water end, for instance, has fixed bridges and channels, which is restrictive. The sand end doesn’t look as it it’d be easy to empty out if I wanted to replace the sand with other sensory materials.
At this point I started brainstorming. Tub on legs. Tub on legs….
Bing! Lightbulb moment.
I started digging around on some secondhand sites online, and turned up this $40 solid wood coffee table:
And pulled out a plastic under-bed storage tub I already had:
Ta-da! Tub + table = sand and water play table. The short legs of the coffee table make it the perfect height for little kids.
My next step was to paint this sucker to make it a little brighter and more attractive. Totally optional, but fun!
I started with two coats of primer:
Followed by some crazy colours – a sample pot of each was more than enough, with loads left over:
Certain colours in the spectrum are very transparent, meaning you need to apply a few coats to get good coverage. Orange and green are two such colours. Shown below after one coat:
It took me three coats before I had reasonably good coverage for those oranges and greens. I just slapped ’em on, not worrying about cutting in neatly around the turned legs, because I had plans to later cover the join:
This saved me loads of time. Onto the last step – a band of black to cover my messy paintwork and create a dramatic contrast between the colours. I think it looks like a bit like a licorice allsort.
Finally, it was time to add a bit of interest to the top of the table. And what better way than with polka-dots?!
I already had this awesome polka-dot stencil I’d purchased from Cutting Edge Stencils, which I used on my daughter’s nursery walls. You can find the stencil here. I taped it in place with a bit of painter’s tape.
The stencil sits quite loosely on the surface, but don’t freak out, that’s totally okay.
You’ll need to use a small foam roller for this job. Best tip to minimise bleeding under the stencil? Load up your roller with a small amount of paint, then roll off all the excess on paper towel. Don’t skip this step!!
It’s best to roll over one area a few times to build up the colour gradually, than to have too much paint on the roller and end up with messy bleeding underneath. You can see how gradually the colour builds up in the pic below – the first layer is very faint:
You just keep rolling over the same spot without moving the stencil, until you’ve built up the colour to the opacity you want. This technique gives nice crisp edges on your stencil.
You can lift one end of the stencil carefully as you go to check your progress. Once you’ve used the entire stencil, you’ll need to reposition it to finish the job. Use the last row of the pattern to line up (register) your stencil in the correct position, then fix it with a bit more painter’s tape. The paint dries quickly, so for a simple pattern like this, you don’t need to wait before shifting the stencil.
Voila! The final paintwork complete, all cheery and bright. (Just ignore the hideous fluorescent lighting in the garage, this project was done at night with kids in bed!)
Aaaaaand, another view of those nice crisp polka dots.
But wait, there’s more. This table will be used for WATER play – so it’s destined to be drenched on a frequent basis for some years to come. Therefore, we needed some pretty decent waterproofing.
Enter marine-grade polyurethane. Three coats. Might have been overkill (after all, it’s a cheap table, so a bit of water damage wouldn’t be the end of the world), but to be honest it was so much fun slapping on that stuff like syrup and seeing the table go all glossy and glassy smooth. It was so much less painstaking than painting on the colours, where I had to be semi-neat about it. With the polyurethane, the main task was to work quickly to get on an even coat before it dried, and resist the urge to rework areas – it settles fairly flat and smooth if you leave it alone, but reworking partly-dried poly will result in a mess.
Here’s the gorgeous glossy result:
The kids, who’d been observing my progress on the table with interest, noticed the difference from this final step straight away. Jaxon asked, “Mummy, did you put plastic all over the table?!” Nope – next best thing! Water beads up on this baby like raindrops on a duck’s back.
You can see how perfectly the dimensions of the storage tub work with the coffee table. Because the tub is easily removed, I decided to keep one with sand in it permanently. When it’s not in use I put the lid on and roll it aside. I then have another empty tub for use with water play and other sensory materials. Total flexibility!
Plus the tub is big enough to incorporate sand AND water together if desired, by placing a smaller tub inside as an insert.
We’ve had so much fun playing with this DIY sand and water play table in all different creative ways, and I can’t wait to share some of the activities we’ve done together. This week for our SUMMER HOLIDAY SPECIAL, I’ll be sharing a different activity each day using our sand and water play table!
If you don’t have time to completely renovate a coffee table to this extent, you don’t have to miss out on the fun activities coming up. All you really need is an underbed storage tub, and something to put it on to bring it up to kiddy-level. An old coffee table or plastic play table is good, but you could also use something as simple as a couple of upended crates.
For now, though, I’ll leave you with our very first play-table experience: good old-fashioned sand play.
A Pinteresting note: All images in my blog can be pinned to Pinterest for your convenience and future reference – use the Pin-It button at the bottom of each post, or simply hover over an image until the Pin button appears. The image above has been optimized for Pinterest, and I’d appreciate you spreading the word by pinning this to your boards if you’re a fellow Pinterest lover! I value your support!
Also, if you know any mums who would appreciate some summer holiday inspiration, I’d love it if you would point them this way. I have a week of sand and water play ideas coming up, and next week will be a DINOSAUR WEEK special with heaps of easy and creative dino-loving ideas!
After that I’ll be returning to my usual more even mix of decorating posts and kids’ activities, so if you’re following along for the design aspect, please bear with us for this kid-focused two-week summer holiday special.
Your input: Do you enjoy sand and water play with your kids? How do you set up this type of activity? Tempted to DIY an old coffee table you have lying around…?