DIY Water Table or Sandbox Tutorial

diy water table

Lately I’ve been scouring Craigslist and the thrift stores in search of a water/sand table for my youngest with no luck. Looking at the retail prices, there was no way I was paying $60-$200 for one. Then yesterday while in Walmart I had an idea…

I found this Sterilite 41 quart storage box and asked my hubby to make a simple wood frame for it.  Good man that he is, he went to work.  Here’s what you’ll need if you’d like to complete this project:

  • Sterilite 41 quart storage box with lid (found in-store at my local Walmart).
  • 1″ x 3″ lumber.  We opted for cedar.
  • Saw
  • Screws or nails

He started by measuring the dimensions of the Sterilite box. Depending on the size of the box you purchases, your lengths may be different.  For ours, we needed the lengths shown above:

(3) 33 3/4″ pieces

  • two for top frame
  • one for support brace that goes underneath the length of the box

(4) 16 5/8 pieces

  • two for top frame
  • two for support brace

(4) 22″ pieces for legs

REMEMBER: These lengths will only work if you use the same box we did. Otherwise, measure your box just below the lip to get your lengths.

1) Make the frame.
2) Attach the legs.
4) Attach braces for extra support as shown below.

Super easy!  We paid $9 for the Sterilite box and $9 for the lumber.  Final price: $18!

It was such a huge hit with our little guy that we made a second one for sand.

The beauty part is that when playtime is over, you can put the lid on so everything inside stays clean!


  1. Deborah says

    So funny! I did the exact same thing (same container) yesterday! Great minds think alike 🙂 I had seen a few tutorials online using a cement-mixing bin, but I wanted one with a lid. Looks fun!

  2. Sommer says

    You’re my super hero!! LOL! I have been wanting a water table but like you I’ve refused to pay the high price. I’ve been using thesmaller sterlite boxes or large plastic bowls on the ground. I am so excited to try to make a base for the box. Btw, the sand box is also a great idea!

  3. says

    This. Is. AWESOME!!! We have three big dogs and can’t really have a sand box but this would be perfect. I’ve forwarded the link on to my hubby to see if he can build this too. I’ll definitely post a link on my blog back to this project. 🙂

  4. Jaimee says

    Thanks for this great idea. I saw this a while ago and finally made it a few weeks ago for my 15 month old – he loves it – plays multiple times every day! Love being able to do it yourself and save $$!

  5. jana says

    thank you! i just whipped this up in one afternoon with my little guy. (well, i still have to spray paint it…) he even “helped” me hammer!
    my only suggestion would be to make the legs more like 20″ perhaps. my lo is almost 2 but tall for his age and it’s a little too high for him…although i know he probably can’t climb in it at this level…just thought i’d mention it.

    • Rachel says

      I actually had my hubs make a step stool that was the length of the table, about 8″ depth, and 4″ high. My 2 year old is also a shorty, and because hubby added a 4″ table ledge on both sides, she couldn’t reach as well

  6. Rebecca says

    Great idea! Any way to do this if you don’t have access to wood building tools? I guess I can just put the container on the ground.

  7. Tarryn says

    Thanks so much for this DIY! just had my husband make two of these. one for our homeschool room and the other for a sand box/water play outside! Was so easy and I found the bins at Target for $10.

  8. Rachel says

    Thank you for this! I found one similar, but I love tht this one is recessed into the wood, and not just sitting on top of the table. My husband is making one similar as we speak.

  9. Joy says

    Awesome!! Going to do this next weekend. It’s the perfect birthday present 🙂
    One question…did you use screws or nails and how big?
    Thank you so much!!

  10. Rose says

    I made this today. I am so proud of myself! I had my local Ace hardware cut the wood for me, and then I worked on it during their nap and after bed, probably 2 hours all told. It looks so nice even with all the inevitable flaws 🙂

    I wanted something big and off the ground because my little one just dumps out the big tub of water I put down. This way she’ll at least have to scoop out the water, a slower process.

    I am worried about my little one year old getting mad about not being able to reach it, so thinking about making a smaller one for him. How did your husband figure out the measurements?

    Thanks for posting this! It’s like Christmas Eve right now. I can’t wait for her to see it!

  11. Ronda says

    Thanks for the idea. . I made it today and it looks great! I have a crafty heart so I sprayed painted it purple ( my daughters favorite color) and hand painted flowers on it! I even hooked up one of those umbrellas for beach chairs!! Looks awesome! Thanks again especially for the measurements. . That part came in handy allot! !

  12. cami says

    Thank you for the inspiration and for sharing the directions!! Just made one and it turned out really great!! 🙂

  13. Rebekah says

    Quick question: By chance, did you mislabel the measurements for the wood on the pictures? The picture you have of all the wood together; the middle pieces say 16 5/8″ and the smallest pieces read 22″. Are those supposed to be switched?