Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.2 Play Area/Playground Equipment

6.2.4 Specific Play Equipment Water Play Tables

Communal, unsupervised water play tables should be prohibited. Communal water tables should be permitted if children are supervised and the following conditions apply:

  1. The water tables should be filled with fresh potable water immediately before designated children begin a water play activity at the table, and changed when a new group begins a water play activity at the table even if all the child-users are from a single group in the space where the water table is located; or, the table should be supplied with freely flowing fresh potable water during the play activity;
  2. The basin and toys should be washed and sanitized at the end of the day;
  3. If the basin and toys are used by another classroom, the basin and toys should be washed and sanitized prior to use;
  4. Only children without cuts, scratches, and sores on their hands should be permitted to use a communal water play table;
  5. Children should wash their hands before and after they use a communal water play table;
  6. Caregivers/teachers should ensure that no child drinks water from the water table;
  7. Floor/surface under and around the water table should be dried during and after play;
  8. Avoid use of bottles, cups, and glasses in water play, as these items encourage children to drink from them.

As an alternative to a communal water table, separate basins with fresh potable water for each child to engage in water play should be permitted. If separate basins of water are used and placed on the floor, close supervision is crucial to prevent drowning.

Contamination of hands, toys, and equipment in the room in which play tables are located seems to play a role in the transmission of diseases in child care settings (1,2). Proper handwashing, supervision of children, and cleaning and sanitizing of the water table will help prevent the transmission of disease (3).

Children have drowned in very shallow water (4).

A designated group of children is defined as the children in a classroom in a center or the children in a family child care setting.

To avoid splashing chemical solutions around the child care environment, the addition of bleach to the water is not recommended.

Keeping the floor/surface dry with towels and/or wiping up water on the floor during and after play is recommended to reduce the potential for children and staff slipping/falling.

Another way to use water play tables is to use the table to hold a personal basin of potable water for each child who is engaged in water play. With this approach, supervision must be provided to be sure children confine their play to their own basin. Wherever a suitable inlet and outlet of water can be arranged, safe communal water play can involve free-flowing potable water by attaching a hose to the table that connects to the water source and attaching a hose to the table’s drain that connects to a water drain or suitable run-off area.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Situations that Require Hand Hygiene Cleaning and Sanitizing Toys Water in Containers
  1. Churchill, R. B., L. K. Pickering. 1997. Infection control challenges in child-care centers. Infect Dis Clin North Am 11:347-65.
  2. Van, R., A. L. Morrow, R. R. Reves, L. K. Pickering. 1991. Environmental contamination in child day-care centers. Am J Epidemiol 133:460-70.
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Committee on Environmental Health. 2003. Child care centers. In Pediatric environmental health, ed. R. A. Etzel. Elk Grove Village, IL: AAP.
  4. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 2009. CPSC warns of in-home drowning dangers with bathtubs, bath seats, buckets. Release #10-008.