Spring is upon us and so is better weather. My kids have been cooped up indoors and now all they want to do is play outside. When I was able to get my hands on an old water table that someone wanted to get rid of (for free!), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to upcycle it. I decided to create a Dinosaur World for my prehistoric loving children.
The idea sparked from my son who is always making enclosures for his dinosaurs. Twigs, sticks, wood scraps, you name it. The dinosaurs go into the bath with him. He asks to bring them to swimming class and lines them up on our landscaping rocks outside. I was so excited to surprise him with this idea of mine . . . now I want to share it with you too! Let’s dive into the Cretaceous Period!
Not quite a fossil, but close enough.
This is what the water table looked like before. I made sure to clean it well with soap and water. Then I allowed it to dry in the sun. Because it was already pretty worn and sun damaged, I didn’t feel the need to sand it. If yours is in better shape, you might want to use fine sand paper to give the plastic some texture for paint to hold.
Time for paint!
I knew I wanted to paint the table black so that the colors of my son’s dinosaurs and foliage would pop! You can really do any color, but I imagine that earth tones would definitely give off those dino vibes. I also wanted the water to look SO blue you would think it was the actual ocean. I decided which area I wanted to use for water and covered it with painters tape.
We had some left over Krylon Gloss Black spray paint from a different project that we used. I’m not sure how well it will hold up over time, but I am prepared to repaint next year. If you want something that will hold better, check the spray paint labels for something that works on plastic. The area where we plan to keep the table is under a shaded, covered patio, so it is mostly protected from the elements.
Gather your supplies.
I used a few things around my house such as rocks from my backyard landscaping and play sand from our sandbox. The other supplies were purchased from Michael’s. When I envision a dinosaur world, I imagine lots of plants and textures. Check around your house or yard for things that would work to set the scene.
To keep the rocks in place, I hot glued a large flat rock to create a wall. Then I hot glued tiny little rocks around it so it looked more “natural” in the rocky environment. Another idea I had that didn’t come to fruition was building or buying a volcano to put in this small area and somehow creating lava that flows into the water. You could also turn this into a “nesting” area for all of the flying dinosaur creatures to lay their eggs.
Now for the best part . . . decorating!
Fill all of the little compartments with sand, water, and/or rocks. You could even use soil or dirt. Lava rocks, kinetic sand, dried brown beans, or fish tank rocks would also make cool features. I did not glue the foliage pieces, just set them all around the table, because I wanted my kids to have the ability to move, shape, and create as they please! A hole was made in the table by the previous owners, so I purchase a long hanging plant to put in it and drape around the sides.
I love that this little world provides sensory and imaginative play. Both my 16-month-old daughter and my 3-year-old son have spent numerous hours playing with it. Just make sure you keep an eye on the little ones . . . my daughter was feeding the dinosaurs rock snacks and almost tried one herself!
Some parents might be wondering how to keep the materials separate . . . don’t! Let this be a place that your child can explore without boundaries. Allow them to have control over their tiny creatures and watch their creativity soar.
If dinosaurs are not your child’s “thing,” you can definitely make zoo animal enclosures, a sea-scape, or even a fluffy unicorn land! People have turned their old water tables into fairy gardens or actual veggie gardens for tiny hands. The possibilities are endless.
When you’re ready to make your own Dinosaur Oasis, you can use this supplies list below or just wing it!
- Water Table (preferably an old one that you can upcycle)
- Spray Paint
- Hot glue gun (optional)
- Rocks of various shapes, sizes, and colors
- Play sand
- Artificial plants (succulents look great and prehistoric) – check the dollar store!
- Smooth glass gems to add pizzazz and that “wow” factor
- Moss of various textures and colors
- Dinosaurs (can’t forget these!)
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