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

Content in the standard was modified on 04/27/2021 and 01/31/2023.

Only let children play at water tables if they are supervised and if the following conditions are met:

  • The water tables are filled with fresh, potable water immediately before a group of children begin a water table play. The water is changed when a new group begins water table play; or the table has freely flowing, fresh, potable water.
  • Children with open cuts or sores do not join in water table play.
  • Water tables are not used during an illness outbreak.
  • Water play tables, water toys, and equipment are cleaned and disinfected before a new group begins water play or at the end of the day. Water play tables should be included on cleaning and sanitizing schedules (see Appendix K for more information).  
  • Staff and children wash their hands before and after they use a water table.
  • Caregivers and teachers make sure that no child drinks water from the water table.
    • Avoid using bottles, cups, and glasses. These items encourage children to drink from them.
  • The floor and surface under and around the water table are dried during and after play.

As an alternative to a water table, use separate basins with fresh, potable water for each child. Supervise to make sure children only play with their own basin.

Separate basins of water on the table and floor need close supervision to prevent drowning¾even in shallow water (e.g., 1-2 inches). Wherever a suitable inlet and outlet of water can be arranged, you can have safe, communal water play with free-flowing, fresh, potable water. Attach a hose from the water source to the table, and also attach a hose from the table’s drain to a water drain or suitable run-off area.

To avoid splashing chemical solutions around the early care and education programs' environment, adding bleach to the water is not recommended.


Water play can help children learn problem-solving and thinking skills in different ways.1 However, illnesses can be spread through the use of water play tables if diseases are present within an early care and education program.2 It is important to clean and disinfect the water play tables regularly and practice proper, frequent handwashing.3


Many infants drown in shallow amounts of water such as in bathtubs and buckets. 4 Therefore, active supervision is crucial to preventing drowning accidents in early care and education programs.


Drying the floor and surface of the table during and after play are recommended to reduce the potential of slipping or falling.

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
Appendix J: Selection and Use of a Cleaning, Sanitizing or Disinfecting Product
Appendix K: Routine Schedule for Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
  1. Olowe PK. Water and sand play: more than just fun for pre-school children. Contemporary Journal of Research in Early Childhood Care and Education. 2020. Available at Reviewed July 26, 2022.

  2. Potts NL, Mandleco BL. Pediatric Nursing Care. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar; 2011.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Committee on Environmental Health. 2003. Child care centers. In: Etzel RA, ed. Pediatric Environmental Health. Elk Grove Village, IL: AAP.

  4. Denny, SA., Quan, L., Gilchrist, J., et. Al.  COUNCIL ON INJURY, VIOLENCE, AND POISON PREVENTION, Prevention of Drowning. Pediatrics August 2021; 148 (2): e2021052227. 10.1542/peds.2021-052227 Published August 2021. Reviewed January 10, 2022.


Content in the standard was modified on 04/27/2021 and 01/31/2023.