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on March 15, 2010
Below I'm going to cut and paste my first review of this toy, one I posted almost 3 years ago. My five stars still hold true although I have had some leg weakness since then (but we've owned the toy 6 years now and I've got three bigger kids--7, 5, 3--leaning on it in every direction as well as an 80 lb. labrador retriever who has taken to standing in it to look over the fence, ahem...anyway). I am about to rescrew new holes in each leg and the table and fill the legs with stand to make it stable again but it is completely worth it given the joy it has brought my children. The water cover is still 100% effective and the toy still looks practically brand new. I have bought one more new umbrella since my last review. So, that's two new umbrellas and some leg maintenance in 6 years. Not bad. I'm determined to keep it because it is a great place for us to do lots of messy science experiments and activities, as listed below, that are best kept outdoors.

Old Review from May 2007:

First of all, we have had this toy for 3 years and it still looks like the first day it came out of the box (in the BLAZING Texas sun). Also, it has been moved around too many times to count and is still as strong as ever. It's durable. Plus, it really does keep water out and the cover stays put tightly even through the most violent and windy thunderstorms. The umbrella is awesome, although I did have to replace it once due to weathering. I soooooooo don't care. Read on...

I'm on my third child now and if there is one thing I'm sick of, it's the toy that's a one-trick pony. I'm really looking for more versatility in a toy. That said, let me tell you why we will keep this toy until the kids outgrow it even though we also have an 8x10 ft. sandbox in the back yard. Sure, it's a sand and water table but we've done it all:

(1) sand alone

(2) water alone

(3) potting soil/trowels/silk plants/plastic pots

(4) landscaping stones and small Tonka construction vehicles (aka "the quarry")--sometimes the small trucks even deliver to the Tonka Mighty and it goes on for hours

(5) bubble solution to use with the large wands and even the small and different wands (so that the kids aren't fighting over the tiny opening of a tiny bottle of bubbles that inevitably gets spilled all over the patio)

(6) a Mommy-made iceburg (colored blue) on the hottest summer day with dollar store penguins and polar bears--you can even shave the iceburg to make snow (I used a putty knife) and put crushed ice (if your refrigerator makes it) in the water to make it a happier habitat

(7) dishwater and play dishes with sponges and scrubbers to play clean-up without making a mess at the sink like they do inside

(8) aquarium gravel/toys/plants with pretend fish

(9) sand over buried "fossils" (pretend dinosaur bones found at the local dollar store) -- Put a small layer of sand on the bottom of the table, place bones all over that, add more sand to fill, then saturate all the sand with water and let it dry completely (left in sun, might take a day or two depending on temps). That way, they'll actually be able to kind of chisel the bones out instead of just easily moving the sand.

(10) sand sifters and dirt with various sizes of rocks that I spray painted gold -- super fun day!

(11) measuring spoons/cups/jugs that teach lessons about volume -- pair with bath color tablets to learn about color mixing!

(12) Did you know that Little People LOVE to go to the beach? (Off subject, they're also not opposed to a tumble in the dishwasher!)

(13) any number of arts and crafts activities that I would rather do outside than inside (making slime, papier mache, etc.)

(14) tin pans/muffin cups paired with dirt/sticks/water mud for mud pies

(15) sand castles, of course!

(16) dinosaurs and various animals add a tremendous amount of play value to your basic sand environment.

Well, that's all that I can remember doing in three years time as I sit here writing this review, although I'm sure there's more. As if all that isn't enough, this table is a great size. No elbowing for more space here. There's room for 6 kids. Yep, one on each end and two on each side. True story.

Do you miss sipping iced tea and reading a magazine or chatting with friends? It can happen again while your toddler plays happily and safely. I LOVE this toy. Can you tell?
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on May 1, 2004
This sand box is amazing. Considering that the others are the same price, this is, without a doubt, the one to purchase. The leak-proof top, the toys, the natural look of the toy and the shade umbrella all make this unique.
Things to know:
1) do NOT cut the black cord on the outside of the box. This holds the top on and makes it resistant to rain getting into the toy. This is not evident when you purchase it, as the instruction manual is inside the box. (thank you other reviewer for this tip!)
2) The umbrella is a true navy, not black as it appears in the picture
3) get over your dreams of a perfect sand and water table, with the sand in one area and the water in the other. My son loves the sand and throws it all around our deck. He mixes the water in the sand area and vise versa. Let it go, as hard as it is.
4) the sand area holds 40 lbs. of sand. An average bag is 50 lbs (around $5) But get a second bag anyway (see #3)
Have FUN!
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on June 4, 2004
(original review: June 5) We purchased this table for our 3 year old daughter and she loves it. It was a smash with all the kids at her birthday party, not so much with the parents of the sand coated kids. My main reason for wanting a table was to prevent killing the grass underneath as a traditional sandbox would. I chose this one because it has an umbrella (which is very stable and adjustable) and because it has a hard cover. The cover attaches very securely thus keeping additional water, bugs, worms, leaves and various other things out...including my daughter, which comes in handy. My daughter is very pleased with the sand/water combo, rather I should say, the sand "in" the water combo. :o) Having a sandbox at her waist level seems to be very convenient for her. She scoots back and forth most of the time but can sit on a little chair and play too. I intend to bring it into the basement in the winter and fill it with rice (uncooked of course) so she can enjoy it year round. The drawback is the legs. They are attached with screws that can easily tear out and are not enough to keep the legs stable. Ours have not torn because I am very watchful of the position of the legs and prop them back up whenever I see them go askew. Other than that, I would highly recommend this table.

(Update: Sept 13) We've had this table for months now and I wanted to make some additional comments. The table is diffucult to move by yourself but I have my 3 yr old help me, she can easily carry the water side as long as there is no water in it. We have also taken this to a couple of family functions to keep my daughter from digging in the dirt or the flower beds, etc. It's quite portable without the water and as long as you make sure the legs are straight and it isn't free floating before you drive off. Another thing that I didn't think of was that because the kids stand to play with the sand, they don't get any sand up the legs of their shorts or in their underpants. Also, the umbrella shades more if you put it very low, just a few inches above your child's head.
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One question you need to ask is do you want one side sand and one side water, or do you want two sides with mud? You should decide otherwise your kids will decide for you.

Seriously though, we have a 1, 3, and 5 year old and all three enjoy this. I'd say that ~8 years might be the upper limit at which point kids might start to get bored...

UPDATE: I'd still stick with ~8 years as the upper limit, ours are now 3, 5, and 8 and it's clearly the younger two that enjoy this the most. We're not on about our 5th year with this....

I'd recommend not filling the sand side up all the way as the kids enjoy it just as much with only an inch or less of sand. Also you end up buying sand less often this way - it seems universal that they DO NOT want to keep the sand on the table.

Note that there is a water drain ONLY on the "wet" side so you may have to bail the "sand" side out when they start moving the water around.

It came with a few boats, bridges, etc. Naturally, Hot Wheels and other toys will end up here. Consider adding a few empty yogurt cups, plastic utensils, etc to the mix. It's amazing how much fun and unstructured play they can have with these.

The umbrella is a nice touch as our deck is very sunny. If you don't need it for this toy you can still use it elsewhere as it's basically a beach umbrella with a shorter stick. The original umbrella is in a matching color, though if you need a replacement it seems Dollar stores sell one that is identical except for color. UPDATE: We bought another umbrella at Harbor Freight - same style except it tilts for better sun protection.

My one complaint is that the top tends to collect water. It's designed to drain, but the top will sag, particularly because kids like to sit and stand on top. I put an empty yogurt container over the umbrella hole before I put the lid on and it helps prop up the top enough for (most of) the water to run out.

UPDATE: After ~5 years outside it had collected some algae and mildew on the lid and sides, but a quick blast of the pressure washer this spring cleaned it up and now it looks as good as new!

Otherwise very sturdy just like all Step 2 products.

If you've found this review to be helpful or have questions/comments, please let me know!
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on February 22, 2006
Wow- What a wonderful table! I did acres of research on all the different options before buying this one for our youngest child's first birthday present. I'm so glad we bought this one- we couldn't be happier with it. Here are the things we like about this table.

1. Great size. This table is large enough that multiple children can play with it together (some of the ones on the market are really small). BUT, it's not so large it can't be used inside. We've put it in the kitchen on several occasions for the children to play with during nasty weather days.

2. It is heavy and sturdy. My kids have climbed all over it and haven't been able to tip it over. But, it's not so heavy that I can't lift it on my own. I lifted it over the child safety gate (with the sand in it) to carry it out of the kitchen and back to the deck.

3. I like the versatility of the table. You can use sand on one side and water on the other as intended. But, I've put in dried beans or dried rice instead of the water or just a tiny bit of water with some leftover spaghetti noodles and that was fun too. It's nice to do on nasty winter days when the kids can't go outside and are bored with playing inside. I just carry this into the kitchen and it gives them something a little new to do.

4. The umbrella is a nice feature- provides that little bit of shade so that they can play comfortably.

5. GREAT COVER- it really does stay put! We've had some strong winds and it's never come off. Also, it usually is out on our deck and the cover has never leaked, even during the worst rain storms. The sand is always perfectly dry.

The ONE and only Con (and it's a minor one): I wish that the umbrella would tilt so that I could move it around to block the shade. Other than that, this is the perfect table!
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on May 23, 2007
First of all, we have had this toy for 3 years and it still looks like the first day it came out of the box (in the BLAZING Texas sun). Also, it has been moved around too many times to count and is still as strong as ever. It's durable. Plus, it really does keep water out and the cover stays put tightly even through the most violent and windy thunderstorms. The umbrella is awesome, although I did have to replace it once due to weathering. I soooooooo don't care. Read on...

I'm on my third child now and if there is one thing I'm sick of, it's the toy that's a one-trick pony. I'm really looking for more versatility in a toy. That said, let me tell you why we will keep this toy until the kids outgrow it even though we also have an 8x10 ft. sandbox in the back yard. Sure, it's a sand and water table but we've done it all: (1) sand alone (2) water alone (3) potting soil/trowels/silk plants/plastic pots (4) landscaping stones and small tonka construction vehicles (aka "the quarry)--sometimes the small trucks even deliver to the Tonka Mighty and it goes on for hours (5) bubble solution to use with the large wands and even the small and different wands (so that the kids aren't fighting over the tiny opening of a tiny bottle of bubbles that inevitably gets spilled all over the patio) (6) a Mommy-made iceburg (colored blue) on the hottest summer day with dollar store penguins and polar bears--you can even shave the iceburg to make snow (I used a putty knife) and put crushed ice (if your refrigerator makes it) in the water to make it a happier habitat (7) dishwater and play dishes with sponges and scrubbers to play clean-up without making a mess at the sink like they do inside (8) aquarium gravel/toys/plants with pretend fish (9) sand over buried "fossils" (pretend dinosaur bones found at the local dollar store) (10) sand sifters and dirt with various sizes of rocks that I spray painted gold -- super fun day! (11) measuring spoons/cups/jugs that teach lessons about volume -- pair with bath color tablets to learn about color mixing! (12) Did you know that Little People LOVE to go to the beach? (Off subject, they're also not opposed to a tumble in the dishwasher!) (13) any number of arts and crafts activities that I would rather do outside than inside (making slime, papier mache, etc.) (14) tin pans/muffin cups paired with dirt/sticks/water mud for mud pies (15) sand castles, of course! (16) dinosaurs and various animals add a tremendous amount of play value to your basic sand environment.

Well, that's all that I can remember doing in three years time as I sit here writing this review, although I'm sure there's more. As if all that isn't enough, this table is a great size. No elbowing for more space here. There's room for 6 kids. Yep, one on each end and two on each side. True story.

Do you miss sipping iced tea and reading a magazine or chatting with friends? It can happen again while your toddler plays happily and safely. I LOVE this toy. Can you tell?
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on September 23, 2004
Being VERY picky about my purchases, I researched and debated pros and cons of all the sandboxes available,and am very pleased with this one except for the weak legs, which may pose a safety problem as it could collapse on a child. This is a shame because this table is fantastic! Kids play for hours!

This one gets 5 stars for the following:

*Umbrella is a bonus--but take it down if the wind kicks up

*Lid strong & secure keeps kids&cats out. DO NOT cut black ties

*Size and design of the table enables 4-6 kids to play

*Drain works well--drain daily to avoid mosquitos

*Price is reasonable--look for sales and coupons

*Looks nice on the porch, not cheezey looking like most

I found that a sand table is better than sand box because:

**more kids can play together--4-6 can fit and not kick sand

**no sand in the shoes or pants = less sand waste, less mess

**water section adds to the fun--drain it if you want less mess

**only requires half a small bag of kiddie sand

**keep on porch to easily sweep up and re-use spilled sand

**smaller toys = less cost and more use of fine motor skills

I hope the company will fix the problem with the legs on the new models and do a recall with a solution for those of us that own the table already so that no children get hurt. I closely monitor mine right now, but have to fix the legs at least once a day.
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on April 2, 2011
I bought this water and sand table from Amazon because it was cheaper online than at any of my local retailers. It arrived quickly and in perfect condition. My husband put the table together with a drill and it was easy as pie to assemble.

My 16 month old daughter just LOVES this table. I put only water in it, on both sides. I knew I wanted to do that when I purchased it because I did not want mud and was looking for a water table. She plays on both sides equally. It comes with two boats and two gardening pots, but I added beach toys, a mechanical fish, a watering pot and I am going to add measuring cups.

I love the umbrella! This is an excellent feature of this product. One reviewer complained that it didn't keep out the sun, but I found it did a great job. Of course, it depends on the time of day. I was able to lower the umbrella so low that my little girl was completely covered the first time she played with it. The second time the sun was at a different angle, but I had put sunscreen on her and the only part of her that was in the sun was her legs. No sunburn at all.

This toy can definitely be used for educational play. There are so many water toys out there you can use with the table to teach measurement and basic physics ideas.

As several reviewers have noted, the table can leak at the legs. We have found a couple leaks, but they are so slow, there is no reason to worry about them. The leaks are minimal and haven't interfered with the play of the table because there is enough water for the entire time of play.

Update: My daughter is now 2 and still enjoying this table. It has held together--this thing is durable! Only the cover has faded a bit, but that's not an issue as the play is inside the table. I still am so glad we purchased this table.
review image review image
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on May 4, 2004
I have to start out by saying I'm one of those parents that researches everything before a major purchase, so that I get the best value on the best product. Well, let me tell you, I am SO GLAD I did the research and found this PERFECT activity center! I was all ready to purchase the Little Tykes center - based more on the concept than anything else, until I read the reviews! The opinion of "real people" that use the products matters to me much more than what the company selling the product claims. I was looking for exactly everything this table has to offer - separate sand & water sections, built off the ground and for a toddler's height (though it can also be used directly on the ground, without the legs, and work perfectly), little "extras" included (like the shovel, boats, pots, etc.), a sturdy cover that I wouldn't have to worry about every time it was windy or rained, a sturdy table that wouldn't cave to a toddler's abuse. Boy, this table had it all, PLUS, it has an umbrella! I didn't even know I was looking for that until I saw it was an option - then I thought, "Why didn't anyone else think of this?". My 21 mo. old daughter has more fun with this toy than anything else she's ever had - no question! We've had it for 2 weeks now and, weather permitting, we've played in it every chance we could. (I just can't resist the sand either!) We recently had a pretty severe storm with very heavy rains - for several hours straight - and high winds. I kept checking outside to see if the table was still there - it didn't even budge. As soon as the rain ended, I just had to see inside - I opened the lid expecting at least a little puddle somewhere, but not a drop! What else can I say? It doesn't leak - at all, the lid stays on great, very easy to set up, cute roadways around the water area & down to the sand, not "rainbow" colored . . . I can't even think of any faults, except the toddler nature to mix the sand & water, but that's not the table's fault! In fact, that is a good "educational" part of this table. The only thing they might be able to improve is to have a place for the umbrella when the lid is put on - right on/under the table itself. Kudos to the engineers that developed this table. A VERY valuable purchase!
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on June 1, 2004
I purchased this table a bit over a week ago and we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!! I have twin 2 1/2 year olds and they can't get enough of it. We are using is as a water table only so I drain the one side and then just tip it up to dump the other, no problem. I love the umbrella to reduce their sun exposure. The nice stone color is great too, it blends in with the house rather than the red/blue/green of other molded plastic toys.
A couple things other people had concerns about that I found helpful to know-
Don't cut the black cords holding the lid on, these are elastic and just pull off so you can put the lid on tightly between uses. The instructions are inside so some people have cut it.
Someone mentioned not being anywhere to store the umbrella?!? I just put in back into the table before I put the lid on like it was when I purchased it.
As for the legs not being sturdy I think some people have over loaded with sand (only holds 40 lbs) and the other thing is when you install the screws keep turning until the plastic on the legs doesn't buckle in but is pulling back tight against the table frame.
Enjoy, we sure love it!
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