Water Table, for the Kids




I decided to make a fun water table for my son’s first birthday. He loves water in the sink and the bathtub so instead of getting a boring old tiny pool, I went this route. I wanted fountains and sprayers and a self contained reservoir and pump so it wouldn’t need to be attached to the hose. I got all the goods at a local home-improvement store and got it together in about 2 hours.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials needed:
a plastic storage bin with a cool lid (I got a couple of these in a two-pack)
a 330 gph statuary pump (in the garden pond section)
3/4” x 5’ polyethylene plastic water pipe (the price tag said “3/4” x5’ NSF PE 160PSI STICK (PEP)”)
3/4” insert plug (in the same section as the pipe above)
3/4” 90D elbow insert
3/4” tee insert
3/4” ID vinyl tube (I got a 10’ piece)

and a few simple tools:
a hand saw
a power drill
various drill bits, one a bit bigger than the outer diameter of the pipe and a few smaller ones
a utility knife (or something else to cut the vinyl tubing)

Step 2: Drill Some Drainage Holes

Start by drilling drainage holes on the lid of the bin so that any water squirted out of the fountains will not pool on top but drain back into the reservoir. On this cool lid, I put about a 3/8” hole at every intersection of the molded texture, which happens to be the lowest point on the lid.

Step 3: Plumbing Structure

Next cut some 2” lengths of black pipe with your hand saw (or a power miter box saw) and assemble the three tee inserts and four 90D elbow inserts into the main plumbing structure.

I found that it took a bit of force to get the pipe onto the inserts. What helped was soaking the black pipe pieces in really hot water for 30 seconds right before putting them on the inserts. It helps to have a plan of action and a big bowl of hot water.

Step 4: Drill Holes for Fountain Parts

Lay the main plumbing structure on the lid to find the best location for the holes that will allow the vertical fountain pipes to come above the lid. Mark the spots with marker and drill them out with bit a little larger than the diameter of the black pipe.

Step 5: Fountain Parts

Take the remaining black pipe and cut it into six pieces, varying the length a bit. Four of those pieces get an insert plug and the remaining two get a 90D elbow insert, followed by two of the ones that got plugs. You should end up with the four vertical fountain pieces.

Step 6: Drill a Hole for the Power Cord

Drill a hole in the side of the bin, below the rim, for the pump’s power cord to pass through. Then make a vertical cut through the rim to that hole with your hand saw.

Step 7: Get the Pump in the Bin

Pass the power cord through the hole in the bin by cramming it down the cut you made. Place the pump at the bottom of the bin. Attach the plumbing assembly to the top of the pump with a small piece of vinyl tubing.

Step 8: Assembly

This is the tricky part: pass each of the vertical fountain pieces through the holes in the lid and attach them to the plumbing assembly while holding the lid on partially. Close the bin and adjust the positioning of everything so that the fountain parts are roughly vertical.

Step 9: Make Some Holes for the Water to Come Out

Drill small holes in the plug inserts that point up. Small is key here. If you make the holes too big before you test the water pressure, you could end up with not enough water pressure. You can’t re-drill a smaller hole, only a bigger one. So start small.
Drill some holes along the underside of the horizontal fountain pipes. Take it easy with the size and number of them; you can always add more later.

Step 10: Fill It Up and Test It.

Fill the reservoir with enough water to cover the pump by a couple of inches. You can pour or hose water right onto the lid. Plug the pump in to test the water pressure coming out of the fountains. If it’s too much, unplug the pump and increase the size of a hole or two and test it again. Keep this up until you get the perfect pressure for fun.

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58 Discussions


2 years ago

Amazing idea ! Thanks for sharing !


4 years ago on Introduction

awesome, but I wonder how safe it is if something goes worong with the pump. Would a Ground Fault Interrupter be enough to ensure safety ? Thanks

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

I would not use this without GFI, which should be sufficient protection.


2 years ago

Great project idea.

My one recommendation is for anything involving people and water, add a GFCI breaker. These are designed to detect a short to ground, including caused by exposure to water, and cut the breaker before anybody gets killed. Stand-alone ones that attach to the end of your extension cord are available for $10-$15 from the home depot and make for some cheap insurance.



2 years ago

any body have any mothers say anything about the electric part of the thing?


2 years ago

I'd go one step further and get a cheap solar powered pump from Amazon..... saves water & electric and it can run most of the day at no further cost. The pump is well worth the small price if you have children who really like to play in water!


3 years ago

How big are the boxes people are generally using for this?


3 years ago on Introduction

I love this project. I've made one and feel the 300 GPH pump is unnecessarily... strong. What size pumps are everyone using? Please add that info when you post your own Water Table, and if you've already posted yours, please add that info. I'm wondering if I might go down to around 100 GPH.


4 years ago on Introduction

I built this today... figured I'd earn my rights to Father's Day. I'm going to unveil it tomorrow in 1.0 stage for my 2 year old. A bit of a snag was that everything shot too hard/too far with the holes I drilled, so I kept going up one size (repeat about 4 times...) and then all the sudden one more hole increased and half of it didn't get enough pressure to fill the tallest tube.

Made some mods, bought a few new caps at Home Depot. Going to finish it up tomorrow morning.

I'm thinking of (but haven't yet figured out how) adding some kind of attached water wheel for the water to fall onto and spin.

Also some kind of shell/hood thing for one of the tubes that shoots water up to kind of fan it out in a curve.

2 replies

Thanks! :) Here is a picture of my 1.0 version. Going to modify it more, as I said.

I also noticed that everything liked to start leaning very easily (at least in my setup...) so when my son starts touching it too much it starts to lean the whole structure a ton. I think it has to do with the pump shifting so that the cut out lid holes force it to lean and teeter. I am working on a way to stabilize everything... I'll let you know what I find out, if I do. :)


Thanks everyone. I love that after four years, people still comment on this. I never would have imagined.


7 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the inspiration. I built a similar table for my almost two year old using yours as a guide.
I added a shallower tub to the top with a standpipe so that the she could splash in a few inches of water. The fountain pump feeds a slip fit pvc pipe fitting, so she (or I) can reconfigure the fountain.

today we added dish soap, that was fun.

3 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I made a bigger, lower version..



Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

i didn't notice any difference. It's a good idea to fill the reservoir with as much water as it will hold, because the foam will eat up a lot of the water. my pump almost ran dry. I wasn't too worried, because I've accidentally ran my pump for days at a time dry when it used to be a garden pump.

Today, I added an umbrella for shade.


5 years ago

Forgot to add the pictures...

14, 7:21 PM.jpg14, 7:21 PM.jpg

5 years ago

I set mine up so they could wash their trucks, grab a drink, and fill up squirt guns. I also used Pex tubing, being an HVAC tech has its advantages!! I plan on changing it as they grow to accommodate new activities.