My Favorite Beach Toys for Kids This Summer, Tested by Kids

Get ready to have fun in the sun with these top beach toys.
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Updated June 5, 2024
baby playing with toys on the beach
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While your dream beach day may be all about relaxation, a child’s ideal outing looks very different. Your little one will want to explore the terrain as much as possible by splashing, digging and building creations in the sand, which is why good beach toys are vital.

I’m a mom of four young kids, who lives at the beach. And I learned soon after having my first child how crucial it is to have the best beach toys on-hand whenever we hit the sand. But not all beach toys are created equal, and some are sturdier—and more fun—than others. Given how tough kids tend to be on beach shovels, sand pails and more, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to invest in quality pieces that will stand up to repeat use.

To find the best beach toys out there now, I had my four kids, who range in age from 2 to 10, test a slew of popular toys over several beach days. From there, we narrowed the field to the ones that held up to intense play sessions and had an undeniable fun factor. Ready to shop for standout toys with sunny summer vibes? Check out our favorites below.

How We Tested and Chose the Best Beach Toys for Kids

Image: Korin M.

Quality beach toys can make all the difference between a breezy day at the beach and an afternoon of tears, so it’s important to choose wisely. Here’s how we chose our top picks:

  • I tested 14 of the most popular kids beach toys on the market with my kids, who are 2, 4, 7 and 10 years old. Each toy went to the beach three different times and were used in a range of conditions, including a chillier day in dry sand and a hot summer day in wet and dry sand.
  • Because every child interacts with toys differently, I invited my children’s friends to use the toys at the beach as well. Each toy was evaluated for durability, ease of use, safety and fun. While I made my own observations as a parent, I also made sure to talk with each child about what they thought of the toys, and find out which were their favorites.
  • To see how these beach toys worked for a range of families, we did intensive market research, analyzing information from forums and message boards to see what parents thought of each toy. We also pored over user reviews to see where these toys excelled and to help suss out any potential pain points.

Editorial integrity is at the heart of everything we publish. Read about how The Bump develops and reviews all articles, including product reviews.

The Best Beach Toys for Kids

A glove that doubles as a puppet

HABA Dinosaur Sand Glove
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Multipurpose toy
  • Great for older kids
  • Thick construction
Things To Consider
  • May be too large for smaller hands
  • Slightly heavy

The HABA Dinosaur Sand Glove is a perfect option for dinosaur fans. Kids simply slip their hand inside and get to work. The glove can be used to dig up sand—the bottom of the jaws doubles as a shovel—or for pretend play. My son had a blast trying to scare his little sisters with it when he wasn’t shoveling.

The glove is made from thick ABS plastic, with nylon straps your child can use to grip the whole thing. It’s also impressively sturdy. This glove was tossed around and used to dig up rocks, along with sand, and it didn't scratch or dent. The plastic has a smooth, slightly slippery feel that allows sand to slide off, making this toy easy to clean. While it has nooks and crevices for the teeth, we didn't have any issues with sand getting stuck or water being trapped.

At about $20, this dinosaur glove is a great price considering it works as a shovel, figurine, hand puppet, and even bedroom decor—my son artfully displayed it in his room after one beach trip. Just keep in mind that this toy is rated for kids 3+ and it may be too heavy for younger children to operate. My 2-year-old was interested in it, but couldn’t really figure out how to use it other than burying it in the sand. This glove also has a wow factor that makes it perfect for summer birthday presents.

Weight: 9.6 oz. | Age rating: 3+ years

Our product tester says:
“The glove has a generous scoop at the bottom that can hold water or sand, and my kids got a kick out of seeing the sand seep out of the sides when they pretended that the dinosaur was hungry. I can see this being part of our toy arsenal for years.”

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Sturdy pail

Spielstabil Large Sand Pail
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Generous size
  • Bright colors
  • Pour spout
Things To Consider
  • May not be large enough for older kids

Nothing frustrates kids at the beach more than a cracked, leaky beach pail. The Spielstabil Large Sand Pail is made from ABS plastic that’s strong enough to hold up to hard play without being so thick that it weighs kids down. The 2.5 liter bucket is 6.5 by 7.5 inches, making it a good choice for a range of beach-playing activities. I appreciate that the lip is thin, which makes it easy to pour from.
My 2-year-old was entertained for at least 30 minutes, splashing in water we put inside and putting sand in and out of it, and her bigger siblings also used it to create a castle. But Spielstabil buckets really shine in their durability. My toddler got mad at one of her siblings and threw the bucket at one point, and it didn't break or scratch, like other pails have in the past. My 7-year-old also accidentally dropped it on a rock when it was full of water and it didn't crack. The handle can come off (to hook the bucket onto something) if you want, but it will also stay secure as long as you want it to.

Weight: 9 oz. | Age rating: 3+ years

Our product tester says:
“Spielstabil is the only bucket brand I've found that can stand up to my kids' rough play. That alone makes it worth the investment. It's also a smartly designed bucket that's easy for kids to pour from, making it a good fit for a range of ages.”

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The cutest pretend baking set

Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Seaside Sidekicks Sand Baking Play Set
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Adorable theme
  • Multiple ways to use it
Things To Consider
  • Multiple parts can get lost

I’ve had several friends who’ve owned the Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Seaside Sidekicks Sand Baking Play Set, and I finally bought one for my daughter’s birthday a few years ago. It’s a family favorite toy thanks to its adorable design and high functionality.

The set features several components: an octopus whisk, a crab scooper, three measuring cups, a bucket with side handles and a turtle sand sifter that doubles as a lid. This sand toy is surprisingly versatile and can draw in a wide range of kids. My toddler and 4-year-old are particularly fascinated with cooking and love that they can "bake" in the sand with the kit. While my daughters did pretend play, my son used the turtle shell sand sifter to decorate his castle, and the bucket/mixing bowl to carry water back and forth from the ocean.

This toy is really durable. The parts are all made of plastic, but they're thick, so I didn't worry about them breaking. My only potential concern is the fact that there are multiple parts, which can get lost if you're not conscious enough to keep them all together—and we tend to lose things. However, all of the pieces smartly fit inside the turtle bucket, giving you a designated spot for everything. My daughters also squabbled over who got to play with what at first, but they quickly fell into a rhythm of sharing. Ultimately, you get a lot of entertainment out of this toy, and it has the level of quality you would expect from Melissa & Doug. If you can keep all the parts together, it would make a great hand-me-down for younger siblings.

Weight: 14.4 oz. | Age rating: 3+ years

Our product tester says:
“My 2- and 4-year-olds were the most excited about this toy and dove right in as soon as we got to the beach. My 2-year-old was entertained for 30 minutes straight—scooping, measuring, stirring and pouring.”

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A doll that can get sandy and wet

Sandy Beach Doll
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Waterproof and sandproof
  • Matching accessories for kids
  • Can be filled with water and sand
Things To Consider
  • Expensive

The Sandy Beach Doll is a slightly different take on a beach toy. Designed to be used in sand and water, you fill the 14-inch plastic doll up with both. Finally, a doll you can let your kid bring to the beach without having to stress about it getting gunked up!

The Sandy Beach Doll comes adorably packaged, with a sturdy, clear plastic bag you can reuse at the beach. The doll also comes with matching sunglasses for your child and the doll, which my daughters were thrilled with. There's also a yellow spade that you can use to fill your doll up with sand or water, and my kids used it later to work in the sand on other projects.

The elephant in the room is that adults may find this doll creepy. I polled 10 adults, and every single one made a reference to Chucky from Child’s Play. But my daughters are smitten. I've never seen them get this excited about a beach toy, and their friends were equally excited to play with the doll. It could be because it's a doll that they can use at the beach—which is a rarity—or there may be something about the design itself. But whatever it is, they’re in love. My daughters play with this doll at the beach, pool and even in the tub.

This doll comes in girl (Sandy) and boy (Sailor) versions, and is made from sturdy plastic. While it will likely crack or break if, say, your child smashes it against a rock, it's still surprisingly sturdy. It's even more robust when it's filled with sand and water. I could see us losing the sunglasses at some point, but the doll itself is hard to misplace. The only real drawback of the Sandy Beach Doll is the price. At $60, it’s far from the cheapest beach toy you’ll find. However, the excitement my kids have gotten from it make it worth it in my book.

Weight: 16 oz. | Age rating: 3+ years

Our product tester says:
“We joked about this doll in our house, and my 10-year-old even hid it in his brother's bed to try to scare him. But my daughters—who are the target demographic—are obsessed. Little kids really seem to love it.”

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Beach shovels for the whole family

Matty's Toy Stop 31" Heavy Duty Wooden Kids Sand Shovels
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Durable
  • Multiple shovels for siblings and friends
  • Works for a range of ages
Things To Consider
  • Expensive

My kids love to dig, and will usually work together to try to create elaborate holes when we’re at the beach. We went through a few brands before I discovered the Matty's Toy Stop 31" Heavy Duty Wooden Kids Sand Shovels a few years ago. I have several of these shovels from four years ago and the only reason I’ve ever had to throw one out was because our dog got ahold of it.

My kids love these shovels. The bright colors are a definite draw, but the shovel spades are a great size for doing a range of things in the sand, including digging big holes and dumping sand into buckets for castles. While they're technically rated for age 3+, my toddler enjoyed playing with a shovel with her older siblings, even if she couldn’t dig as much as they did with it. As a mom of several kids, I like that all of my children—and sometimes their friends—will have their own shovel to play with during a beach day, which minimizes fighting.
The shovels are made of a mix of wood and heavy-duty plastic, and they don’t splinter over time. Another nice perk of the wood handle is that you can write your child's name or last name on it with a permanent marker, making sure no one else tries to claim your toy at the beach. The only drawback of these shovels is the cost. At $47.95, these shovels are not cheap, even if you do get five. However, the durability and fun factor makes these the best shovels out there.

Weight: 8 oz. | Age rating: 3+ years

Our product tester says:
“These are the strongest kids' shovels I've ever seen—I've never had a handle break or piece fall off. They also don't splinter. The only issue I've had is that our dog likes to grab them and chew them. Otherwise, they hold up to daily handling in the summer by kids with no issue.”

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A sweet watering can

Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Camo Chameleon Watering Can
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Fun design
  • Strong construction
  • Wide spout won’t clog with sand
Things To Consider
  • Parents may need to keep filling it up
  • Can get heavy for smaller children

The second Melissa & Doug beach toy to make our list is the brand’s Sunny Patch Camo Chameleon Watering Can. It’s an adorable and smartly designed watering can that kids of all ages can love, featuring a chameleon perched on a branch.

My 2-year-old clapped when she saw this watering can. She loved the chameleon design and started petting it as soon as she got her hands on it. She had a great time pouring water and sand out of it and would have happily kept doing it all day. She could mostly play with the can herself, although she wanted my help regularly filling it up. This toy is made from an incredibly sturdy and thick plastic, from the handle to the spout.

The watering can looks difficult to break, and it's survived several play sessions with my kids, as well as my toddler thunking it into my 7-year-old when he tried to steal it away. (So be aware: the thick plastic can be used as a weapon against siblings if your kids tend to fight over who gets to play with a toy first.) I’ve had watering cans with filters and spouts that clogged with sand, which wasn’t an issue with this toy thanks to its wide spout and filter-less end—it’s one of the more high-quality options you can find without going to a “real” adult watering can.

Weight: 10.4 oz. | Age rating: 3+ years

Our product tester says:
“I especially appreciate the wider spout that doesn’t have a filter at the end. That makes it a good fit for pouring out sandy water without the risk of getting clogged.”

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An attention-grabbing beach ball

Minnidip Cue the Confetti Beach Ball
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Eye-catching design
  • Easy to grip
  • Sturdy
Things To Consider
  • Pricey for a beach ball
  • Takes time to blow up

There are tons of beach balls out there, but the Minnidip Confetti Beach Ball has special glitter discs inside that make it a huge crowd-pleaser with kids. This ball is more than just good looks, though: It’s also surprisingly tough.

There’s some risk involved with using a beach ball at the actual beach—it can blow away or get roughed up by the sand and break—but the Minnidip Confetti Beach Ball did a great job of repeatedly standing up to rough play by my kids. My 4-year-old jumped on it and rolled around with it directly on the sand and it didn't pop or lose air.

This ball does come deflated, and it takes some lung power to get it ready to play with. However, it has a one-way valve, so I didn't have to stress about air leaking back out between breaths. My kids all scrambled to play with the ball, but they eventually found a rhythm kicking and hitting it around together. My 2-year-old and 4-year-old loved the interior confetti, while my 7-year-old was just excited that it was a large ball he could punch around. We also took it to our neighborhood pool, where it quickly became the center of attention. This beach ball is priced as low as $10, but it looks more expensive. I would have paid that for a one-time use given how much joy it gave my kids. I'll be purchasing this for birthday presents in the future.

Weight: 9.6 oz. | Age rating: 6+ years

Our product tester says:
“Everyone wanted to hold it, kick it, and dance around with it. Of all of the toys, my kids were the most excited about this ball.”

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Multi-purpose boat

Green Toys My First Tugboat
Image: Korin M.
What We Love
  • Multipurpose toy
  • Simple for little hands to grip
  • Easy to use
Things To Consider
  • Packaging takes some time to remove
  • Wet sand can build up in boat’s underside

The Green Toys My First Tugboat toy is a multipurpose that’s a great option for families who want to limit how many toys they tote to the beach. This features a toy boat kids can push around, with a hidden scooper underneath. We first got this toy when my now-7-year-old was just a few months old and it’s still a toy that gets regular use in our beach gear.

My 2-year-old and 4-year-old were the most excited about the boat. My toddler loved scooping water out of her bucket and onto the sand or sand back into the bucket—as long as she was scooping, she was happy. Once she got tired of doing that, she used some figurines on top for pretend play. My older kids used this more as a sand scooper, which caused wet sand to build up in the bottom section. You can remove the top layer of the tugboat to clean out the underside if needed, but a quick rinse in the ocean got everything out fairly easily.

As a mom, I appreciate that the boat is free of BPA, PVC and phthalates. And another nice perk: It can be tossed in the dishwasher when it needs a more intense cleaning. The only annoyance I had was with the packaging, which needed to be wrestled away from the boat at first. But given that we’ve had ours for more than six years now, I’d say it was worth the effort.

Weight: 7.8 oz. | Age rating: 6+ months

Our product tester says:
“This also works great in the bath, making it a good fit for families that want extra mileage out of their beach toys.”

Buy Now

A truck that can be pushed around the sand

CAT Construction Toys CAT Dump Truck
Image: Korin
What We Love
  • Rolls over sand
  • Working parts
  • Won’t rust
Things To Consider
  • May be heavy for younger kids to push
  • Not a huge truck

Finding trucks that can actually roll on the sand—as opposed to being dragged through it—is surprisingly hard. The CAT Dump Truck has big, rugged wheels that actually grip the sand, allowing it to cruise along when it’s pushed.

My kids, and my son in particular, were excited to use this truck. It has a working back that can be filled with sand or water and then dumped, and there's a built-in handle to make the process easy. The CAT truck, which looks like those massive trucks you might see at construction sites, is made from thick plastic, making it a toy that seems like it could stand up to several season's worth of use. There are also no parts that seem like they would break off easily.

Just a heads up: You might want to take this out of the package before you hit the beach. Of all of the toys we tested, this was the hardest to set free. It wasn't anything I couldn't do—it just took me about five minutes to finally get the truck out of the packaging. This truck has different nooks and crannies, but it brushes off easily after a play session. After it spent some quality time in wet sand, I simply rinsed it in the ocean. And because it's made of plastic, so there’s no need to worry about rust. The truck is smaller than ones we’ve used in the past, but it’s also a great size for kids to grip.

Weight: 1.4 lbs. | Age rating: 2+ years

Our product tester says:
“My son and his friends loved filling the back with sand and dumping it out at different locations. They were also impressed that the wheels could move over the sand.”

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All-in-one sand set

What We Love
  • Small parts are perfect for little hands
  • Easy to organize
  • Fun colors
Things To Consider
  • Lid can be tricky to secure
  • Parts can get lost

Many sand toys for kids seem to have a bigger is better mentality, but that can make it tricky for younger kids to use. This set from Nothing But Fun has petite molds and toys that were the perfect fit for my younger kids and their small hands.

My daughters regularly ask me to help them build sand castles and flip molds with our usual beach toys. Because of the small size with this set, my daughters didn't need my help at all. They happily played together and separately, creating their own castle. The design of the set is an organizer’s dream: The molds fit within the bucket and the lid has special slots for the shovel and rake, giving everything its own spot. The bucket itself is also a larger castle mold, which my older kids quickly whisked away, but it can be used to hold water, too.

The Splash & Dig Beach Bucket Sand Playset is a perfect fit for parents who don’t want to tote a lot of toys to the beach—a particularly great feature if you’re on vacation. My daughters have used the watering can and sand sifter in the tub, too, giving you double-duty from the same toys. The only downside is that the lid can sometimes be tricky to secure—you just need to press down slightly hard to get it in place. This is a more expensive castle-building set than some, but you get a lot for your money. While my 7- and 10-year-old were less interested in it thanks to the smaller molds, my younger daughters were big fans.

Weight: 10.2 oz. | Age rating: 2+ years

Our product tester says:
“My daughters seemed empowered by the small size and really enjoyed being able to use this on their own.”

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Benefits of Beach Toys

Beach toys are all about fun and games, but they can also offer opportunities for kids of all ages to build on an array of developmental skills. For babies, playing with beach toys can improve motor skills, build hand-eye coordination and strengthen muscles, says Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics in Atascocita, Texas. For example, using a small shovel and touching sand will nurture fine motor skills and sensory exploration.

When your child reaches toddlerhood, beach sand toys can encourage open-ended, independent play. Plus, they can help kids build on their blossoming social skills by prompting them to problem solve, share and communicate—and that’s not all. Phillips-Walker adds that beach toys can introduce little ones to mathematic and scientific concepts, like volume and weight, from an early age. Moreover, playing with sand can enhance a toddler’s sense of touch, while also teaching them about pressure and temperature.

What To Look for in Beach Toys for Kids

Beach toys come in all shapes, sizes and colors, meaning there will always be a perfect option for even the pickiest of kiddos. But there are a few standards you should consider when shopping for a new plaything for your little one. Keep the following tips in mind to find the most stimulating (and safest!) beach toy for your child:

  • Durability. It’s no secret that sand toys (just like outdoor toys) need to be able to withstand a lot of wear and tear. Phillips-Walker suggests picking playthings made out of durable materials when adding to your beach toy collection. What’s more, Phillips-Walker advises parents to avoid options that have electronic components.
  • Avoid small parts. For younger children, beach toys with small parts could pose a choking hazard. But you may want to steer clear of them even when shopping for older kids. This is because they can easily get lost in the sand or left behind when the beach day is over.
  • Toys for all ages. Beach days provide ample opportunity for family fun. Choose toys that can be used by a variety of ages so the whole crew can get involved.
  • Portability. Lastly, opt for beach toys that are simple to transport, suggests Philips-Walker. Some even come in handy buckets that small hands can easily carry to lighten your load. Pro tip: You could even pick a beach toy set that comes in a mesh bag, so that sand easily pours out of it.

About the writer

Korin Miller is a journalist with experience writing dozens of health and shopping features for The Bump. Korin specializes in commerce, wellness and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Women’s Health, Forbes, WSJ, SELF, Prevention and more. Korin is a mom to four kids, ranging in age from 2 to 10 years old. She has a master’s degree from American University and lives by the beach.


Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, is a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics in Atascocita, Texas. She earned her medical degree from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens.

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