DIY Convertible Sand and Water Table With Beer Cooler Option

9 Materials
2 Days

Most days, I'm desperate to keep my three-year-old son quietly occupied while I wrangle my newborn or get work done. Sensory bins are a great option, but Evan's ability to keep rice confined to a plastic tub is spotty at best.

Most sensory bin activities involve making a mess – that's part of the fun!

Never heard of a sensory bin, you say? Allow me to share God's gift to moms everywhere...

The sensory bin concept is surprisingly simple: pour one kind of raw material in a bin, and let your kids manipulate it in 500 different ways. Sensory play engages their motor skills, ability to focus, and imagination. The only rule is to keep the contents of the Tupperware in the container. Here are just a few options:

  • bubble foam with a 2:1 ratio of water to bath soap, whipped to perfection
  • rice + measuring cups
  • a "car wash" for toy cars
  • a mud bath "demolition derby" for toy cars
  • sand + beach toys
  • play dough
  • science experiments (think vinegar + baking soda, salt + ice melt)

My DIY Sand and Water Table Design 🥚

I designed this table to hold two under-the-bed, 28 qt Tupperware containers. My son is tall; the final height measures 24 1/2 inches. I also added a beach umbrella to block out the sun since Georgia summers can get quite hot. The table is sealed with two coats of exterior paint, followed by a few pretty colored paints that I had in the garage.

The entire structure is made out of scrap wood and pocket hole joinery, making it an excellent option when you're stuck at home!

Checkout the video tutorial at the end of this post wherein you can see my son's reaction to the table reveal!

My advice would be to keep a few extra bins handy for after the kids go to bed, fill them with ice, and throw in a few brewskis to celebrate a well-earned break.


Convertible Sand and Water Table Plans

The good news is that I've taken out the guess work for measuring your table top trim. The plans below will accommodate two 28-qt bins perfectly. In case you own a few bins in a different size, here's how I calculated the fit.

Once you've made all of the cuts for your table top, secure the pieces to each other using pocket hole joinery. It's very important to use clamps during this process, as the pieces will have a tendency to "jump" while you're drilling in your pocket screws.

Here's what it should look like finished.

Next, assemble the carcass or leg framework. Secure the 1x4 apron to the legs with pocket hole joinery. To give the aprons a recessed look, I used a piece of scrap 1x4 as a spacer. Once again, clamps are your best friend.

Once your legs are screwed to your aprons, attach the entire framework to your table top using the remaining pocket holes.

Fill in any blemishes with wood filler. Sand, sand, sand until the entire piece is free of splinters. Especially where there are sharp corners.

If an umbrella is desired, drill a hole in the center piece using a drill and spade bit in the same diameter of your umbrella pole. I opted to seal the piece with two coats of exterior white paint. I realized just how thick this stuff is when I tried to wash it off my paint brush...what a gooey mess!

Want to save this build for later? Head on over to Top Shelf DIY to download the free printable plans!

As you can see, my son was happy with the final product.


Suggested materials:

  • (1) 2x4 @ 8'
  • (3) 1x4 @ 8'
  • (16) 1 1/4" pocket hole screws
See all materials

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Can you imagine a similar construct with a hinged lid over the top of it just to keep your drinks cool on one side and your clean picnic supplies on the other? Attach a Command loop hookon one end for a trash bag. That would save so many steps taking things outside for people to enjoy. And it would be a sneaky way to have it out there already before they arrive!

Join the conversation

5 of 8 comments
  • CJ
    on Apr 5, 2021

    What fun!


    An alternate idea for play time is Magic Matter! Mix cornstarch and water to make a thick paste, let set a bit and it becomes solid until the children dig and and try to pick it up then flows like a liquid! When it dries out just add more water, a little at a time.

  • Grandmasue10
    7 days ago

    Just a helpful tip: Crisco or any hydrogenated lard substitute , cleans paint brushes even if they've dried. I seldom cook with it, but keep it on hand for just such a reason. Applied to a greasy stain on clothing, followed with liquid detergent, scrubbed in by hand and then washed, it even gets crayon out.

    • CJ
      12 hours ago

      Oh thank you! I have a paint brush that needs this tip! I'm adding Crisco to my shopping list!

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