Sandboxes are a classic childhood toy that will have a kid playing for hours on end. But most sandboxes these days are hardly just a box. Many come in a variety of shapes, sizes, themes and even plenty of accessories that will have kids digging and exploring all day long.
Whether you go for an old favorite, like the classic green turtle, or looking for something a bit more imaginative like a pirate ship, we’ve got a sandbox for every child on this list. Some work better for toddlers, while others will last well into grammar school years.
We’ve chosen our top 10 favorites that kids are sure to love. But when buying a sandbox, there are a few important things to know including how to clean a sandbox, what type of sand to put in it and more. We’ll go over all that, so keep reading to find out everything you need to know before buying the best sandbox for kids.
IN A HURRY? HERE’S OUR TOP PICKS…
- IN A HURRY? HERE’S OUR TOP PICKS…
- What makes sand the perfect activity for kids
- Sandbox activities
- The importance of a clean sandbox
- Types of Sand
- Tips for keeping kids safe in the sandbox
- 10 Best Sandboxes for Kids
- 1. Step2 Play and Store Sandbox with Cover
- 2. Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table
- 3. Little Tikes Turtle Round Sandbox
- 4. Step2 Splash and Scoop Bay Sand and Water Table
- 5. KidKraft Pirate Sandbox
- 6. Costzon Kids Foldable Cabana Sandbox
- 7. Step2 Crabbie Sand Table
- 8. Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox
- 9. Frame It All Hexagon Sandbox
- 10. Tierra Garden Wooden Sandbox with Roof
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Bottom Line
What makes sand the perfect activity for kids
Playing with sand isn’t just about having fun. It is a great way for kids to learn too, especially toddlers and preschoolers. Dumping, digging, sifting and burying help kids work on their fine motor skills and proprioception. (Proprioception is how our brain unconsciously knows the position and movement of our body.)
Not only that, but playing in sand can also help kids learn how to problem, and if you add a friend or sibling to the mix, it allows them to hone in on their social skills and sometimes even, problem-solving skills. After all, sharing is hard work for little ones!
And of course, the sandbox can fuel kids imaginations. From building castles to sifting through sand to find treasure, sandboxes can allow kids to explore and create their own worlds.
Most kids are eager to dive in and explore sandboxes on their own. But if they are getting a little bored of just digging around, here are some ideas for activities to get their creative juices flowing.
- Treasure hunting. Bury some small toys and trinkets for kids to find. For little older kids, give them a checklist, so they can find them all.
- Bring out the cookware. Why not let kids cook up something in the sandbox? Give them some old pie containers, cookie cutters, rolling pins and other things you no longer use. Let them add water and see what they make!
- Build a sandcastle. No need to make a trip to the beach. Bring out the buckets and add water. Have a competition on who can make the biggest sandcastle.
- Construction site. Bring out the toy trucks and boxes so they can excavate the site.
- Paint the sand. Fill a spray bottle with water, food coloring and a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch. Shake well and let them make a masterpiece.
The importance of a clean sandbox
There’s no doubt that sandboxes are great fun and can help kids improve their fine motor skills, problem-solving skills and more. But there can be some pretty nasty stuff lurking in sandboxes. And we aren’t just talking about community sandboxes.
Sandboxes can be a breeding ground for germs, mold, yeast and even parasites (yuck). And like most things, while some germs are fine, as we are exposed to them daily, poorly maintained and contaminated sandboxes can pose health risks.
All that said, there are plenty of ways to keep a sandbox a clean, healthy environment for kids to play in.
Keep the sandbox covered. Not only will this prevent sand from getting wet and yucky, but it also prevents moisture from growing mold or your friendly neighborhood animals or pets from doing their business in the sandbox. If by some chance the sand does get wet, allow it to dry completely before putting a lid on it.
Sift through the sand regularly to remove any debris that has gotten in. You can even have kids join the fun by using their sand toys and making cleaning a “hunt.”
Check babies and toddlers diapers for any leaks. Prevent the sandbox from getting contaminated! If that happens, check out our FAQ on how to clean a sandbox.
Change the sand 1-2 times a year. Or at the very least, give the sand a good cleaning twice a year. Again, check out the FAQ to see how to disinfect a sandbox.
Use the right sand. This means choosing play-grade sand rather than just bagged sand from the hardware store. Play-grade sand has been cleaned and sifted through and is safer for kids than other sand.
Types of Sand
Like we just mentioned, don’t just grab a bag from the hardware store. You are going to need a specific type of sand to fill your child’s sandbox.
But which one do you choose? Let’s take a look at the different types of sand.
When you think of sand, this is probably what comes to mind. The difference between this sand and other sand is that it has been washed, dried and sifted through, giving your child clean sand to play in. Just like the sand at the beach, kids can add water and get to building a castle of their dreams!
This is a specific brand of sand that is tons of fun and less messy than traditional sand. Kinetic sand has a special way it bonds together. It can be molded into shapes and is great for use in sand tables.
Another fun choice that is very similar to play sand with a few unique differences. It is a deep red color that is hand washed, dust free, dye free and eco-friendly.
The most important thing to know is that you want to make sure the sand has no dust. Inhaling dust can hurt little lungs. Also, the sand should be extra fine. Coarse builders sand would hurt little hands. Ouch!
Tips for keeping kids safe in the sandbox
So you now know how to maintain a safe, clean sandbox. And while maintaining a clean sandbox is crucial, there are a few additional things to remember when kids play in the sandbox.
- Teach children not to put their hands in their mouth (or to eat the sand).
- Have kids wash their hands and feet after playing in a sandbox.
- Supervise babies and toddlers while they play in the sand.
10 Best Sandboxes for Kids
Whether you are looking for something small for your toddler or a big ole sandbox that will last your child several years, we’ve got you covered. You’ll notice a few companies repeated on the list and for good reason. They know how to make fun, durable sandboxes that kids will want to spend hours playing in (and most of them are very easy to assemble and clean too!)
Without further ado, see which 10 sandboxes made the list and which one is right for you and your little explorer!
1. Step2 Play and Store Sandbox with Cover
- Four molded in seats provide a place for...
- Sandbox lid provides protection from...
- A fun sandbox with contemporary design...
- Sandbox holds 200 lbs. of sand, not...
- No assembly required, arrives ready for...
This sandbox is big enough for your child and 3 friends to play comfortably. It has four molded seats in each corner of the sandbox. The lid not only protects the sand from the elements but also acts as storage for all the sandbox toys (which are not included with this set).
The Step2 Play and Store holds up to 200 pounds of sand! (That’s a lot of sand.) And lucky for mom and dad, no assembly is required. Just fill with sand and it’s ready to play.
It’s a durable and sturdy sandbox, but unfortunately, the lid does not secure down and might blow off with a heavy wind. However, for parents who are looking for something that fits in with their backyard a little more than a giant brightly colored sandbox, the neutral color, and simple design makes this sandbox a nice addition to any lawn without being an eyesore.
- Large sandbox holds tons of sand.
- 4 friends can play comfortably in the box.
- The lid also acts as storage for sandbox toys.
- Great for all ages.
- The lid does not lock on to sandbox.
2. Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table
- Elevated design is perfect for toddlers
- Lid with elastic tie-downs keeps sand...
- Includes 2 shovels, 2 claw rakes, and a...
- Molded-in roadways on lid provide...
- Product Dimensions: 16.375”H x 36”W...
No need to jump in! Just stand up and dig in with this standing sand table. The height is perfect for toddlers and the table comes with 2 shovels, 2 claw rakes, and a bucket.
The lid to this sand table not only protects the sand from getting wet but also is another space to play on with its molded car track. The lid securely attaches via two elastic straps, which means wind won’t be blowing the lid off this table any time soon.
This table holds up to 40 pounds of sand and the thick sturdy legs provide a stable base to hold sand, or even dirt or water. And if you are looking for something a little less colorful, the natural color scheme works well in your backyard.
- The lid also is a car track.
- Comes with 5 accessories.
- Perfect height for toddlers to stand and play.
- Elastic ties keep the lid down even if it’s windy.
- The lid doesn’t provide a watertight seal. The rain was able to get in.
3. Little Tikes Turtle Round Sandbox
- Overall: 8.5" D x 29.25" W x 45" L;...
- Included colorful lid protects sand from...
- Design and modern styling blends in with...
- Sand and toys on the photo are not...
- Molded-in seats on either side give kids...
This classic sandbox is the go-to backyard sandbox. Its spacious size is great for your child and sibling or friend to climb on in and start playing. It has received a few updates in terms of looks but is still the classic sandbox that you may have even had when you were a kid!
The turtle legs act as seats for children to sit on as they play. The turtle shell lid does a good job of keeping out water, debris and protect it from any accidents with pets.
This sandbox holds up to 150 pounds of sand. Sand toys are not included with this set.
- Large, durable classic sandbox is a hit with all kids.
- Holds up to 150 pounds of sand.
- Lid protects sand from water and debris.
- Children can sit on legs while playing.
- The lid will not secure onto the sandbox.
4. Step2 Splash and Scoop Bay Sand and Water Table
- Large, dual-sided water table allows for...
- Combine the water tower and mountain...
- When playtime is over, use the easy...
- In the box: Water and sand table, cover,...
- Note from Step2: All Step2 water tables...
Trying to decide between a sandbox or water table? Why not get both? The Step 2 Splash and Scoop has the best of both worlds. This sand and water table has two separate lids that can be placed on each side so the water doesn’t get into the sand or vice versa.
This set comes with plenty of accessories for extra fun play including a water tower, slide, shark scoop, rake and more. There is a drain hole and plug to easily drain the water table.
The sand table part can hold about 3 pounds of sand and the water table part can hold 3 gallons of water. This affordable sand and water table is the right height for most toddlers.
- Both for sand and water.
- Comes with a water tower and 6 other accessories.
- Perfect choice for summertime fun.
- Easy to drain water. Simply pull the plug.
- Can get a bit messy.
5. KidKraft Pirate Sandbox
- Convenient storage space
- Shady canopy
- Large enough for multiple children to...
- Fun pirate-themed artwork
- Includes a mesh cover that snaps on over...
Your little pirate and his mateys will enjoy this colorful pirate-themed sandbox. You’ll love that the canopy protects your little ones on a sunny day. This large sandbox is made of wood and is big enough for multiple kids to play in.
The back of the boat has seating for about 3 kids and has a red steering wheel to complete the pirate ship look. The side of the ship features fun artwork and no pirate ship is complete without a pirate flag.
This sandbox is sturdy but will require some assembly. Also, note that the bottom of the sandbox portion is nonexistent. Some have recommended adding plywood or some sort of covering if you don’t want to put the sand directly on the ground. This sandbox also comes with a cover for the sand to protect it, but note that the cover won’t protect it from the rain.
- Pirate-theme kids will love.
- Fits multiple kids comfortably.
- The canopy provides protection from the sun.
- Durable wood construction.
- Comes with cover for sandbox portion of the ship.
- No “floor” in sandbox part.
- Does require assembly.
6. Costzon Kids Foldable Cabana Sandbox
- PREMINUM QUALITY - Constructed by heavy...
- TWO BENCHES AND ONE CANOPY - Equipped...
- FULLY ADJUSTABLE SAND DEPTH - You kids...
- NEAT AND TIDY - You can keep sand neat...
- Weight Capacity of Each Bench: 200 lbs,...
This is another spacious sandbox with seating for everyone as well as a large canopy that covers the whole sandbox, making it another great choice to protect kids from the sun. This sandbox has no bottom to allow water to drain naturally if it gets wet.
When kids are done playing, simply fold the benches over the sandbox to protect the sand. While it won’t provide enough protection from rain, the cover will protect the sand from debris and animals.
This one is better suited for kids 3 years and older and the depth of sand is fully customizable. Each bench can hold up to 200 pounds.
- Canopy covers the entire sandbox.
- Large sandbox with plenty of seating.
- Benches fold flat to cover sandbox.
- Comes with black fabric to put under the box.
- Holds a ton of sand.
- Wood may wear down being exposed to the elements.
7. Step2 Crabbie Sand Table
- Removable shell lids helps keep sand...
- Sand tables features the iconic Step2...
- Includes 4-piece accessory set for sand...
- Holds up to 25 lbs. (11.34 kg) of sand
This is another great sandbox that brings the sand to their level, crabbie-style. The Step2 Crabbie sand table keeps it simple with its spacious sand area for kids to play. This table also comes with accessories and tool holders on the claws of the crab.
Its shell is the cover and provides good protection from most elements including rain, but a warning – a strong wind might carry it off since it doesn’t secure down. It holds up to 25 pounds of sand and comes with 2 shovels and 2 flowerpots.
Because of its shorter height, this sandbox is good for toddlers, but toddlers may outgrow this sand table pretty quickly.
- Fun crabbie design kids will love.
- Allows toddler to play standing up.
- Comes with 4 accessories.
- Shell lid protects sand.
- The lid does not fully close and could get knocked off with a strong wind.
- A little short.
8. Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox
- Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox For kids...
- Excavator really works to pick up sand...
- Holds 100 pounds of sand (not included)
- Accessories include: One (1) dump truck,...
- Dimensions: 28.5 inches long x 51 inches...
This is the ultimate sandbox for little boys and girls who plan on doing some serious sand construction. Kids can use the excavator to dig and lift sand and the lid also acts like a truck ramp when not used as a lid.
This set comes with plenty of accessories including a truck, a rake, a shovel, a sifter, a sand cup, and 2 Little Tikes characters. This sandbox holds 100 pounds of sand, but the box itself is pretty small measuring 28.5-inches long and 51-inches wide. Because of its small size its perfect for toddlers.
- The excavator lets kids dig and move sand.
- Comes with lots of fun accessories
- Lid works as an extension of the sandbox – a truck ramp.
- Perfect for toddlers.
- Sandbox is a little small.
9. Frame It All Hexagon Sandbox
- Eco-friendly timbers are made from...
- Allows endless design options. You can...
- Low maintenance - timbers will not rot,...
- Composite boards are made from 38%...
Looking for something inconspicuous? This is a straightforward, very large sandbox that can be converted into a garden or flower bed or even edging for existing flower beds after kids are done using it as a sandbox. The dimensions are a whopping 7’ x 8’ x 11’!
No frills or extras with this sandbox, but that’s not a bad thing. The composite board that the frame is made of is durable, won’t warp and is made from 38% recycled plastics and 82% sustainable wood. The composite board will maintain its color and won’t splinter or crack when exposed to the elements.
It also can come apart for you to expand it and add more boards for an even bigger sandbox. It doesn’t come with a cover, so we suggest buying a tarp to keep the sand clean and dry. In the event it does become wet, the water will naturally drain into the ground since there is no bottom.
- Very spacious. Can hold lots of sand!
- Can be used as edging or flower bed when kids are done with it.
- Made from recyclable and sustainable materials.
- Easy to put together.
- Can add to it and reconfigure the shape.
- No cover, no seating, no accessories. Very simple.
10. Tierra Garden Wooden Sandbox with Roof
- Sits on the ground (no bottom floor) so...
- Assembly required; Dimensions: outside -...
- Easily retractable roof keeps out lawn...
- Vinyl awning has highest possible UV...
- Durable carbon neutral wood is protected...
The Tierra Garden Wooden Sandbox is another shady choice to protect kids from the sun. The vinyl roof lowers and acts as a lid too. It’s got plenty of space (56″ x 56″) to hold up to an amazing 400 pounds of sand.
The roof, which is raised and lowered by a crank, has a UV rating of 90, which is the highest rating you can get. This sandbox is also eco-friendly because the entire sandbox is recyclable. The frame around the sandbox acts as seating so kids and all their friends have a spot.
Although the lid does a great job of keeping out debris and animals from the sand, some users reported that the pulley system did wear out sooner than expected. Go easy on the crank and this sandbox will last your kid a long time.
- The roof provides max UV protection and also acts as a lid.
- The frame around sandbox acts as seating.
- Sandbox is completely recyclable.
- Holds up to 400 pounds of sand.
- The roof pulley system may wear prematurely.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How young can my child start playing in a sandbox?
A: While there is no set age, once children are able to not eat the sand, that’s a good time to introduce sand play.
Q: Can I put something other than sand in a sandbox?
A: For most sandboxes, absolutely! There are plenty of other fun options that can change a sandbox into another interactive activity. Water, dirt and even rocks, depending on the child’s age, can be great ways to transform a sandbox into something.
But keep in mind that rocks and water can pose certain risks and if you choose to go that route, make sure that young children are supervised while playing.
Q: My cat pooped in the sandbox. Yuck! How do I clean it?
A: If you forgot to cover your child’s sandbox or your sneaky beloved pet (or neighborhood cat) might have left an undesirable gift for you in the sandbox, there’s no doubt it will need to be cleaned right away. Any time the sandbox has been contaminated by pets or even a leaky diaper it’s time to disinfect it.
First, remove the cat feces from the sandbox. Next, mix equal parts bleach and water (ex. 1 gallon of water and 1 gallon of bleach). Spray down the sand with the mixture (making sure to get the sides of the sandbox as well. Turn the sand so that the sand on the bottom is at the top and spray that again. Repeat until all the sand and sandbox is coated with the bleach and water mixture.
Let the wet sand sit for about 30 minutes. Next, turn the sand using a shovel or rake, exposing the sand to the sun, so that the sand can dry. Allow the sand to fully dry before letting your child play in it.
In the future, be sure to cover the sandbox with the lid or a tarp.
Q: Which one should I choose? Sandbox or Sand table?
A: Sand play, in general, is a ton of fun. But here are things to consider when trying to choose between a sandbox and a sand table.
Sand tables are great for parents who don’t have a lot of space in their backyards or are looking for something that can be easily moved around. Sand tables are also versatile and can be filled with other materials besides sand including dirty, water or rocks. Sand tables are usually best for toddlers and kids will outgrow them faster than a sandbox.
When it comes to true sand play that requires digging and building sand castles and if you have space in your backyard, a sandbox is the way to go. Sandboxes last much longer than sand tables since they are usually much bigger. For most sandboxes though, you will want to choose the right spot. After filling it with sand, it’s hard to move it to another spot.
Giving your child a sandbox is a great way for them to have fun and learn by playing! Let kids imaginations go wild with the Step2 Play and Store sandbox that is spacious, has seating for four and won’t stick out like a sore thumb in your garden. (Some have even repurposed it as a raised bed for a garden after their kids outgrow it.)
For the small tots, bring the sandbox to them with the Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table. It’s the right height for toddlers and has plenty of space for them to dig, sift and explore the sand. But no matter which sandbox or sand table you choose from this list, you’re sure to find the best sandbox for kids.