Best Kid’s Sandbox – A Source of Endless Fun

Kids' Gear

Best Kid's Sandbox

Those of us living on the west and east coasts might take for granted some of what make our beaches so grand. No, we’re not talking about whales, fish, boats, or the sea itself (though they’re pretty cool)—we’re talking SAND!

Good ol’ fashioned, kids’ sandpit sand we used to play in during recess, the sand out of which we constructed castles, forts, caves, and giant piles to hide away brothers and sisters. The sand we trampled on as we played, squealing and gleeful on the playground and at the park.

But what might have escaped us as kids playing in the sand was how each tiny little grain was helping forge neural connections in our sensory cortex.

Benefits of playing with sand​

The sensory cortex plays a part in how the brain senses “touch” and “pain”, and during sand play, this kind of receptor activation and input provision was helping the nerves in our hands learn how to distinguish what they were feeling. Without lectures, without books, sand was teaching us about our worlds.​

So, what’s a great way to bring the wonders of the beach to your own home? A sandbox for kids to play, explore, and marvel at the wonders of this small, but powerful, sensory delight!

There are so many benefits of sandbox play for preschoolers, so we’ve rounded up reviews for you for the best kids’ sandbox, some initial questions for you to consider, the pros and cons to owning your very own (can anyone say "vacuum cleaner?"), and what you should look for when out shopping for yours.​

Before you buy​

Some initial questions to ask yourself as you venture out into the great marketplace known as the interwebs are:

How many kids will be using this sandbox?

More kids, think bigger boxes. Do you want something for your only child to entertain herself while you’re showering? Do you want something to entertain a gaggle of toddlers from Parent & Me classes during a birthday party? Heck, do you want both??

What's my budget for a sandbox?

Didn’t think those pesky little grains you track home from the beach could cost so much, did you? Of course, the bigger the box, the more sand you’ll need to fill it.

Not all sandboxes come with sand and toys included, as you’ll see below in our reviews.

Oh yeah, and speaking of toys, which ones do you have in mind? Do you want a carte blanche wooden frame that lets you and your little ones create your sandy world from the ground up, or do you want an all-included kit that nudges toward a creative narrative already?

How much space do I have?

Probably not much of a surprise, different spaces call for different sizes sandboxes. Big and spacious backyard? Go for a giant pirate ship of a sandboat (yep, that’s what it’s called!). You and your little one living the city life in a loft, where the only hint of a backyard is a potted plant on your balcony? Consider a tabletop version.

Before we break it down for you, take a look at the table below for an overview of our top picks.​

Quick comparison: Best kid's sandbox

Sandbox

Features we love

Rating

Buy it now

My Little Sandbox -
Big Builder

Best kid's sandbox

- Perfect for indoor play
- Comes with no-mess play mat
- Easy to clean up
- Excellent for
imaginative play

Outward Play Spot Square Backyard Sandbox Frame

Best kid's sandbox

- Sand stays in the standpit
- Includes weather-
proof tarp
- Assembly is easy
- Good bang for
your buck

KidKraft Pirate Sandboat

Best kid's sandbox

- Sturdy and easy to assemble
- Fantastic for imaginative play
- Canopy keeps kids out of the sun
- Suitable for
multiple kids

Step2 Play and Store Sandbox

Best kid's sandbox

- Comes with built-in molded seats
- Lid provides protection 
- No assembly
- Perfect size, fits
lots of sand

Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table

Best kid's sandbox

- Comes with toys
- Elevated design lets kids move around
- Lid has molded-in roadways and can be used for play too
- Digging toys are included
- Built to last 

Outward Play Explorer Boat Sandbox
with Canopy

Best kid's sandbox

- Comes with UV-protected canopy
- Comes partially assembled
- Durable, made with high-quality timber
- Comes with storage trays for toys

For all the details, read on and play on!

My Little Sandbox - Big Builder

A complete play set that includes construction and digging toys, this is appropriate for all boys and girls who enjoy imaginative building from the ground-up.

Tabletop kids’ sandboxes are rising in popularity due to their smaller, more manageable nature and the encouragement of pro-social skills with parents and peers.

Bring the fun of the playground into your own home, and encourage imaginative play while stimulating sensorimotor skills in your little builder!​

Best kid's sandbox

Technical specs

  • Wooden frame: 10” x 10” x 2”
  • No-mess play mat: 20” x 20”
  • Weight: 3.6 lbs
  • Extras: Ultra-fine sand included, along with construction vehicle, mini boulders, bag of gravel, safety cones, digging shovel, grooming rake, construction crew, and builder blocks.
  • Recommended age: 4-7 years
  • Awards: “Dr. Toy” Top Toy Winner

Pros

  • Indoor, tabletop model suitable for rainy days and small spaces​
  • Encourages sensorimotor play and executive functioning
  • Box is made of solid wood and toys are life-like

Cons

  • Additional “My Little Sandbox” toys sold separately​
  • Sand is real, and therefore, might spill outside the box
  • Small parts might present a choking hazard to smaller children and siblings

Our favorite feature

The included toy sets are pretty awesome. Each “My Little Sandbox” comes with a complete set of items that helps stimulate pretend play and a cohesive narrative structure to encourage imagination.


Outward Play Spot Square Backyard Sandbox Frame

A square-shaped wooden frame brings the fun of the beaches and playgrounds to your own home!

It includes an all-purpose, weather-proofed tarp and inner lining to keep sand inside the box and prevent weed growth from underneath. The high-quality wood has been treated with high-temp dying and stained with a rot- and damage-resistant finish.​

Best kid's sandbox

Technical specs

  • Wooden frame35” x 35” x 5”
  • Weight: 6 lbs.
  • Extras: Internal sheet to guard against weed growth and an exterior tarp to protect against the elements
  • Recommended age: 36 months-10 years

Pros

  • Large, solid wooden frame is perfect for hours of outdoor, backyard play​
  • Encourages sensorimotor play, executive functioning, and social skills
  • Internal sheet protects against weeds and protective tarp guards against weather

Cons

  • Everything sold separately—sand, toys, etc.—only the frame is included​
  • Too large for smaller, indoor, or apartment-like environments

Our favorite feature

We love the “blank slate!” This is a large, wooden frame that can be filled with whatever your child fancies! Multi-colored sand, toys of any kind—the choices are infinite! And because it’s an outdoor set, cleanup is not nearly as big an issue as indoor, tabletop sandboxes.


KidKraft Pirate Sandboat

Remember Peter Pan and Captain Hook? Ever dreamed of flying up toward the second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning?

Now, you and your child can, in her very own Pirate Sandboat! Large enough for multiple children, this sandbox is built around the concept of a pirate ship, complete with steering wheel, parrot detail, shaded canopy “sail,” and pirate flag.

Constructed of sturdy wood, you can sail the high seas of adventure in this grand sandbox sandboat for hours on end!

Best kid's sandbox

Technical specs

  • Sandboat dimensions: 75.7” x 43.8” x 58.7”
  • Weight: 53.4 lbs.
  • Recommended age: 36 months-15 years

Pros

  • Incredible modeled sandbox encourages hours of swashbuckling fun​
  • Large enough for multiple children, with multiple surfaces to run and jump and develop fine and gross motor skills
  • Box is made of solid wood and is stained with weather-resistant paint

Cons

  • Suitable for larger, backyard spaces​
  • No tarp/protection against the elements included in the packaging
  • Toys all sold separately

Our favorite feature

Our favorite feature? Obviously the boat itself!​ Need we say more?? Having a pirate boat in our own backyard would have been a dream come true. Encourage hours of play and adventure, all while developing their cerebral cortex with social, gross motor, and imaginative skills, tying stories in to some of the world’s most classic adventure literature. One of the grandest examples of educational toys out there!


Step2 Play and Store Sandbox

A sandpit with four molded-in seats for children to sit while playing, this sandbox comes with a lid for storage and protection from the elements and curious little animals.

Holding up to 200 pounds of sand, this sandbox might be the most complete “sandbox starter set” out there—minus the sand, of course!​

Best kid's sandbox

Technical specs

  • Plastic sandbox dimensions: 28” x 42” x 11”
  • Weight: 13 lbs.
  • Extras: Storage lid that fits right over the sandbox, providing protection and immediate storage of sand and toys
  • Recommended age: 24 months-8 years

Pros

  • Seats suitable for smaller children and those with some motor deficiencies​
  • Sturdy plastic is lightweight and can be used as a pool in warmer months
  • Included lid, molded to fit, provides storage and protection

Cons

  • Molded-in seats don’t encourage much movement for neurotypically active children​
  • Plastic not certifiably BPA-free and might warp in very hot conditions

Our favorite feature

We love the molded-in seats! Having worked with many children who have motor difficulties, they provide a better option than traditional sandpits without support for those with low kinesthetic strength and tone.​


Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table

An elevated play table is perfect for toddlers and wandering kiddos that love moving and exploring during play.

An included lid with tie-downs that also has molded-in roadways provides instant protection and coverage.

Best of all, it’s small enough for indoors, but perfect to be used outdoors with multiple children at once. A versatile, middle-sized sand table!

Best kid's sandbox

Technical specs

  • Plastic sand table dimensions: 16.4” x 36” x 26”
  • Weight: 16.5 lbs.
  • Extras: Bucket, 2 shovels, and 2 claw rakes
  • Recommended age: 24 months and up

Pros

  • Indoor, tabletop model suitable for rainy days and small spaces, but big enough to easily transition outside​
  • Encourages core strength development and ambulatory exploration
  • Lid has molded-in roadways that double as another play surface

Cons

  • Holds a maximum of 40 pounds of sand​
  • Height might discourage proper posture for children as they grow taller than the table itself
  • Plastic not certifiably BPA-free

Our favorite feature

The raised table design is simply awesome. For those ambulatory toddlers that kick up their heels as they play, this is perfect! Encouraging a standing, active engagement in the tabletop sand table by its raised design, this discourages sedentary sand play.

Of course, this must be taken into consideration if your child has any motor or ambulatory issues, can’t stand for very long periods of time, has low core strength and kinesthetic tone, or simply grows too tall for the height of the table to the point that it discourages proper posture by demanding he bend down to continue playing.​


Outward Play Explorer Boat Sandbox with Canopy

A ship-shaped sandbox complete with a canopy to keep kids protected and shaded, this model provides built-in seats and a storage compartment in the angled prow. Included internal sheets provide drainage solutions and protection from weed growth. Sail away for hours of adventurous fun in this colorful, enticing sandbox.​

Best kid's sandbox

Technical specs

  • Wooden sandbox dimensions: 55.1” x 53.4” x 40.5”
  • Weight: 39 lbs.
  • Recommended age: 36 months-10 years

Pros

  • Canopy is UV-protected for safe outdoor play​
  • Encourages sensorimotor play and executive functioning with molded ship shape
  • Box is made of solid wood and storage is included, along with plastic tarp

Cons

  • Wood frame can cause splinters
  • Sand and toys sold separately​

Our favorite feature

We think it's great that this option comes with a UV-protected canopy that extends the width of the sandbox, which makes for happy kids and happy skin! Adding to the sandbox’s feature as a ship, the canopy acts like a sail while kids steer, explore, and as always, build those sensory connections.​


So, sand. What’s the big deal, anyway?

Well, hopefully, you’ve had a chance to see for yourself just how powerful a toy this can be, providing opportunities for tactile sensation play, social skills, and imaginative play. (Other toys which give kids a chance to develop other important skills include marble runs, remote control cars and trains.)

Another advantage is that these get kids outside into the fresh air


Best of all, this is something that children of all ability levels can enjoy, with certain sandboxes better suited to fit their needs than others. There’s a reason playgrounds were always outfitted with sand, although perhaps the reason eluded us as kids, simply providing a surface for our feet to trample as we jumped from swings to slides.

But after years of research, these tiny grains are regaining their popularity in education, in play, and in sensory stimulation, bringing the power of these small but mighty grains at the beaches and playgrounds into our own backyards and homes.

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