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The 10 Best Sandboxes for Kids That Promote Development

Inspire creative thinking and introduce STEM concepts with a standout sandbox for kids.
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By Emma O'Regan-Reidy, E-Commerce Editor
Updated April 19, 2023
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Image: Wayfair
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A sandbox is a classic toys for a reason. The outdoor play space offers endless opportunities for imaginative play for infants, tots and big kids alike. But they aren’t all fun and games—they also promote developmental benefits, such as tactical exploration and fine and gross motor skills. Ready to treat your little one to some fun in the sun? Below, shop our favorite sandboxes for kids—plus, check out some tips about the backyard plaything, straight from a pediatrician.

Benefits of a Sandbox for Kids

“Sand play is very beneficial in development,” says Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics in Atascocita, Texas. Some key benefits include motor skill enhancement, social and emotional awareness and language development. Another advantage? Playing in sandboxes can also nurture creativity and problem-solving while also introducing STEM concepts to little learners, adds Phillips-Walker. The unique consistency and texture of sand invites children to explore their surroundings with their senses. What’s more, sand can be played with in so many different ways, making it a timeless addition to any backyard.

Kids’ Sandbox Safety Tips

While playing with sand offers plenty of advantages, there are also some safety considerations to keep in mind. Phillips-Walker advises parents to only buy river or beach sand, and to avoid products made from crushed limestone, marble, crystalline silica or any other dusty material. Another tip? Make sure wet sand dries thoroughly before covering a sandbox so bacteria doesn’t form. To prevent potential scrapes and splinters, sandboxes should be regularly maintained. That said, parents should also opt for designs made from nontoxic wood or plastic, adds Phillips-Walker. Finally, four-legged family members shouldn’t play in the sandbox with your kiddo. Why? They may go to the bathroom in it, says Phillips-Walker, which would definitely put a damper on outdoor fun!

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What To Look For in a Sandbox for Kids

Sandboxes come in all shapes, styles and sizes, which can make it tough to narrow down your options. To find the perfect match for your family, consider the following features as you shop:

  • Sun protection. Your child’s delicate skin is extra sensitive to the sun. In addition to applying sunscreen regularly, opt for a sandbox with a canopy, or simply place it in a shaded area.
  • Coverage. Since sandboxes stay outside, they need to be able to withstand various weather conditions. Phillips-Walker suggests choosing one with a lid to keep sand dry and keep any critters out.
  • Durability. Whether you have your eye on a plastic or wooden sandbox, you’ll want to make sure it’s durable. Opt for high-quality materials and sturdy designs to ensure you can count on it for years to come, no matter the weather.
  • Size. Before purchasing a sandbox, consider the size of your backyard and how many kids will be using it. If you have multiple little ones, a large option would be best. Conversely, if only one child will be playing in it, go for a design better suited for solo play.
  • Accessories. Some sandboxes for toddlers and kids even come with sand toys and other fun accessories. This way, you won’t have to worry about purchasing separate playthings.

Best Sandboxes for Kids and Tots To Shop

From wooden sandboxes with canopies to boat-shaped designs, we’ve rounded up the best options on the market. Here, shop our top picks to find the best sandbox for your family.

Overall Best Sandbox

What We Love
  • Parents love how much sand it holds, and that it can accommodate several kids
  • Easy-to-assemble design made from durable materials
Things To Consider
  • Some reviewers say the cover doesn’t stay on as well as they hoped

This octagonal design has everything we’re looking for when it comes to the best sandbox for kids. Parents will love the straightforward assembly (no tools needed!), and kiddos will love socializing and playing in the sand in no time. The wooden sandbox is made from durable cedar and eco-friendly materials, resulting in a safe, sustainable choice for your backyard. Plus, it can be enjoyed by little ones between the ages of 18 months and 10 years.
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 28 lbs.
Measures: 84” x 78” x 9”
Holds: 800 lbs. of sand
Age rating: 18 months to 10 years old

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Best Sandbox For Toddlers

Creative-Cedar-Designs-Octagon-Wooden-Cedar-Sandbox
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Lightweight design with water feature
  • Comes with a waterproof cover that doubles as a tote
  • Affordable price point
Things To Consider
  • Not suitable for children over 3 years old
  • Assembly required

Sand play is a great way to inspire creative thinking and problem-solving in tots. This sandbox for toddlers offers a safe, secure spot for your little one to explore at their own pace. What’s more, it features a canal that can be filled with water for even more sensory-driven fun. After playtime, use the waterproof cover—which doubles as a tote—to keep unwanted moisture and animals out.
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 6.8 lbs.
Measures: 35.5” x 35.5” x 4.8”
Holds: 200 lbs. of sand
Age rating: 18 to 36 months old

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Best Covered Sandbox For Kids

What We Love
  • Built-in seats easily convert into a cover
  • Equipped with a canopy for sun protection
  • Made from durable cedar
Things To Consider
  • Canopy collects rainwater easily, which may cause it to wear down over time
  • Assembly required

When it comes to covered sandboxes, there are often two options to choose from: Those with canopies or those with lids. However, with this design from Badger Basket, you can have the best of both worlds. The kids’ sandbox is made from sturdy cedar wood and features built-in bench seating. When playtime is done, simply fold the seats to create a secure lid over the sand. Another standout feature is the attached canopy, complete with weatherproof fabric to protect children from the sun as they play.
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 50 lbs.
Measures: 46.5” x 46.5” x 57”
Holds: 750 lbs. of sand
Age rating: 3 to 10 years old

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Best Plastic Sandbox For Kids

Step2-Naturally-Playful-Sandbox-II
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Nature-inspired design easily blends into backyards
  • Comes with several sand accessories and a lid
  • Can accommodate multiple kids
Things To Consider
  • Assembly required
  • Some reviewers say the lid isn’t as waterproof as they expected

Some of the best sandboxes with covers are those that are made from plastic. Case in point: This option from Step2. The sturdy design resembles natural stones, so it will seamlessly blend into your backyard’s aesthetic. Thanks to the provided sand toys, your little one will be able to explore cause and effect and build their fine motor skills as they play. At the end of the day, simply attach the lid to the sandbox for secure protection from weather and critters overnight.
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 27 lbs. Measures: 31.25” x 50.38” x 16” Holds: 200 lbs. of sand Age rating: 12 months to 10 years old

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Best Wooden Sandbox For Kids

What We Love
  • Features seating with backrests for up to four kids
  • Built-in wooden cover
Things To Consider
  • Some reviewers say they expected it to be sturdier
  • Assembly required

On the hunt for a sandbox for toddlers and kids that isn’t an eyesore? This pick is sure to check all of the boxes on your list. The large structure features built-in bench seating for up to four kiddos, resulting in a space that encourages social, open-ended play. When not in use, the seats fold down to convert into a cover that keeps moisture, debris and animals out. Other standout features include the durable cedar material and the bottomless design that allows for proper drainage.
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 41 lbs.
Measures: 49” x 47.25” x 8.5”
Age rating: 3 years old+

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Best Boat Sandbox For Kids

What We Love
  • Fun pirate ship-shaped sandbox with canopy
  • Storage under bench setting
  • Comes with a mesh cover
Things To Consider
  • Cover only fits over the front sandbox; it doesn’t extend to the back steering section
  • Assembly required

Ahoy! Your little one is sure to have heart eyes for this boat sandbox. The unique design sets the scene for endless adventures, and is large enough to fit several kids at a time. Details we love include the pirate-inspired artwork, the steering wheel and bench seating and the under-seat storage. The star of the show though has to be the canopy-covered sandbox at the front of the ship; good luck getting your child to play inside when this outdoor toy is on the scene!
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 53.2 lbs.
Measures: 78.5” x 44.25” x 59.5”
Age rating: 3 to 8 years old

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Best Small Sandbox For Kids

 Simplay3-Caterpillar-Sandbox
Image: Wayfair
What We Love
  • Can be used inside or out
  • Double as a toy storage container
  • Playful caterpillar design
  • No assembly required
Things To Consider
  • Small design may not be suitable for older kids

Kids’ sandboxes don’t have to take up a ton of space. Take this compact option, for instance. The caterpillar-shaped design has an elongated shape, making it easy for multiple kids to kneel around it and play together. When it isn’t filled with sand, it can even be used as a playful toy storage solution. Best of all, no assembly is required.
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 15 lbs.
Measures: 14.25'' x 20'' x 44''
Holds: 160 lbs. of sand
Age rating: 12 months to 8 years old

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Best Indoor Sandbox For Kids

Step2-Naturally-Playful-Sand-Table
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Can be used in or outdoors
  • Secure lid to keep sand dry
  • Comes with several toys
Things To Consider
  • Some reviewers say assembly wasn’t as simple as anticipated

This next sandbox for kids can be used year-round, inside or out. The elevated design is ideal for tots and leaves less room for potential messes when set up in your living space. Just fill it up with sand, and watch your kiddo’s face light up as they scoop, build and mold it. This kids’ sandbox also comes with two shovels, two claw rakes and a bucket, plus a secure lid to keep everything dry and in place. Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 16.07 lbs.
Measures: 25.98” x 35.98” x 16.42”
Holds: 40 lbs. of sand
Age rating: 2 to 10 years old

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Best Sandbox For Multiple Kids

What We Love
  • Large design encourages social play
  • Includes built-in corner seating
  • Made from weatherproof wood
  • Comes with a mesh cover
Things To Consider
  • Some reviewers say they expected the cover to be of higher quality
  • Corner seats are intended for children; they can’t accommodate adults
  • Assembly required

Looking for something that can accommodate multiple kiddos? This wooden sandbox will have you covered. The large design is perfect for social play, and even features four built-in seating corners. What’s more, it’s made from non-toxic, weatherproof wood so you can count on it for many years of backyard fun to come. Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 33 lbs.
Measures: 8.46'' x 60'' x 60''
Holds: 750 lbs. of sand
Age rating: 2 to 8 years old

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Best Sandbox With Water Feature

What We Love
  • Can be filled with sand or water
  • Comes with an umbrella and lid for weather protection
  • Includes several toys to promote imaginative play
Things To Consider
  • Assembly required

What’s better than a kids’ sandbox? A sand and water table, of course! Your little one will have a ball scooping, splashing and combining the two elements with this option—plus, several sand and water toys are included to further promote social, open-ended play. For added protection from the sun, this table comes with an umbrella. Better yet, it can be enjoyed by kiddos between the ages of 18 months and 10 years.
Specs at a glance:
Weighs: 21.75 lbs.
Measures: 42.52” x 24.02” x 22.99”
Holds: 3 gallons of water
Age rating: 18 months to 10 years old

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How We Chose the Best Sandboxes for Kids

We get it—parenting requires a lot of gear, and it can be hard to find the best fit for your family. To streamline your decision-making process, our goal is to do the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through online retailers. We do this by considering a list of criteria when sourcing products, including ease of use, quality and durability, value, style and, last but definitely not least, safety. This way you can count on getting the best bang for your buck, while also having a dependable product that’ll meet your family’s needs.

To decide which products are the best options on the market, we leverage our familiarity with leading toy brands to make sure items are from reliable manufacturers. We read user reviews to get the lowdown on how these products work for families, and typically don’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating. And since many of us are also parents, we rely on our writers’ and editors’ experience using these products with their own families.

To make sure we’re highlighting products that are safe and effective, we chatted with a pediatrician to understand essential features and safety considerations to keep top of mind when you’re shopping.

Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.

About the experts:

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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