Note: I think this could be a perfect gift for a four or five year old, too. I don't have experience with kids that age using this exact table. However, tables like this are found in preschools and kindergartens, and I can imagine that my son will still be interested in digging, pouring, scooping, and smoothing at age five! We prefer this sensory table far above the sensory bins we've been using, which are just plastic under the bed sized storage containers.
My mom bought the kids a sand and water table from Kohl's using Kohl's cash, a sale, and a stackable % off coupon. It was quite a good deal. She brought it up here as an early birthday gift for DHH, and since them we've used it a few times each week. Its a really great gift if you are getting something two or more young children will play at the same time.
We have used the table for gravel (too coarse... had to get rid of that) and for water play. I think it will be a good sand and water table because the water may slop over into the sand and make for good castle construction. Sometimes we add ping pong balls, bowls, and boats. Sometimes DHH adds a little bubbles to the water using a hand pump we have for an air mattress. He really gets a kick out of shooting water into the table and blowing objects across the "pond". EK prefers to throw objects into the water table, so I have a collection of little people play figures for her to throw in, fish out, and throw in again.
The water does get very hot in the summer if we leave it out through the afternoon. Sometimes we add ice cubes, which solves the temperature problem and adds a nice sensory experience. Sometimes we drain it and add more water with the garden hose... but you can guess that it ends up being a hose-play day instead of water table play day.
I wanted to add something solid to the table that would be cool to the touch. However, we didn't have any play sand. We did have a ten pound tote of colored rice, and since the rice is over a year old, I didn't mind that it could get messed up or ruined by being in the table outside. I thought that the cover that is provided with the table would leak and therefore ruin the rice. However, when I added rice to the table it didn't rain for three weeks. We had two pop up showers, and I am surprised to report that the rice stayed dry and the cover sealed properly.
Here are some photos of the kids playing with the table full of rice. You'll notice that DHH was thrilled to use this angel food cake pan (that I was planning to declutter and put into storage, but its since become a favorite TOY at my house). You'll also notice that EK was thrilled to use a short, dull knife (I think its for spreading jam or soft cheese? I found it at a yard sale and bought for the kids to use for practical life activities). She had never noticed this knife before, and was using it to pry ping pong balls from the center umbrella hole. She also used it to make lines in the rice.
We stayed outside and played in the rice for as long as the shade permitted. This table keeps the kids attention for a very long period of time, and if I have some music playing through my iPhone and external speaker AND its less than 90 degrees outside, we can stay out there for a full morning's worth of play.