Best Sandbox Toys

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

28 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
149 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best sandbox toys

Last Updated September 2019

For kids, there's something magical about the gritty texture of sand as it passes through their fingers. Sandbox toys add to the fun by providing endless opportunities for them to create castles, moats, dinosaur digs, or a bakery in the backyard or at the beach.

And they’re great for your child’s development, too. Depending on the pieces that are included, sandbox toys can encourage both open- or close-ended play. They can help improve hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and even social skills.

Indeed, sandbox toys are an inexpensive way to provide children with countless hours of entertainment. But before you buy, you’ll want to consider the best way to store them, whether portability is important, and what type of play your child is most interested in.

To learn more about all the options available, keep reading our shopping guide. If you’re ready to buy, consider some of our top picks.

For children younger than two years old, sandboxes are all about the sensory experience. They may need little more than the sand, a bucket, and shovel to be content for hours.

Key considerations

Number of pieces

Sandbox toys get spread far and wide before children are through with them. Some sets include only a bucket and a shovel while others come with two or three dozen toys of all shapes and sizes. While the sets with lots of pieces may be calling your name, keep in mind that you'll have to keep track of and store all those pieces. Try to strike a balance between the number of pieces and your sanity.

Portability

Will your child be using the sandbox toys in a sandbox at home or out at the park or beach? If you'll be in your backyard, portability might not be an issue unless you need to store them somewhere other than the sandbox. However, if you want the option of taking them to the beach, sets that come with a carrying bag or tote are easy to grab on your way out the door and won’t slow you down too much when you have chairs, towels, umbrellas, and other things to carry.

Storage

How much space do you have? Buckets and shovels, spinners and dump trucks — they gobble space faster than you think. Decide where and how you’ll store the toys before you bring them home. Some sandboxes are large enough to store the toys inside while others will require you to store them in the garage. If you’re planning on taking the toys to the beach, sets that come with a plastic bin or bag are easy to store and can be tossed in the trunk of your car when it’s time to go.

EXPERT TIP

Keep your sandbox covered. There’s nothing that ruins sandbox play faster than finding a special “surprise” left by a neighboring cat or dog.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Types of toys

Different kinds of toys may encourage different types of play. Take a good look at how and what your child likes to do to help you narrow down your choices to a set that complements his or her interests.

  • Digging and sand manipulation: All some children need is a plain old shovel and bucket. These sets may also include a pick or hoe to really dig into the sand. There are a few ride-on toys that also fall into this category. These models usually take up more square footage but are hard to resist for their digging ability.
  • Water play: At the beach or if there's a hose in your yard, you can bet your kids will want to add water to their creations. Some sets include waterwheels, funnels, and other water-manipulation toys. Sets that have both water and digging toys provide an opportunity for play that builds critical-thinking and fine-motor skills and feeds the imagination.
  • Animals: For many children, playing with animal toys, such as figurines, allows them to create new worlds and dream up their own stories. Farm, ocean, and prehistoric sets are among the most popular animal-themed sandbox toys.
  • Vehicles: For the equipment-obsessed child, excavators, dump trucks, tractors, and combines are the natural choice for sand play. Vehicles come in both large and small sizes, so make your choice based on how portable you need them to be and how much space you have in your sandbox.

Materials

Plastic is by far the most common material used to make sandbox toys. Plastic’s ability to withstand water and sand makes it a great choice. It's also lightweight and portable. However, it breaks down faster than either wood or metal if left in the sun day after day, so be sure to put the toys away in the shade or in a garage or garden shed.

Wood and metal are the other two materials used to make sandbox toys, but they're far less common. Neither of them holds up to sand and water as well as plastic, but both do better in the sun. Metal toys are prone to rust, especially if they get a nick or scratch.

Colors

Something to think about with sandbox toys — the brighter the colors, the easier they are to find. When your son comes to you and tells you he thought it was a great idea to bury his favorite bucket, you’ll have a higher chance of finding it if it’s bright red.

Size

In general, sandbox toys aren't small like a Matchbox car. Even small buckets, shovels, picks, and rakes are bulky and can be awkward to store. And some are large enough that there's not enough room left for your child and a few friends in the sandbox. Take a close look at the specifications and make sure you have the space necessary for the toy. Keep in mind that one large toy may not take up too much space but a set of four or five of them may be overload.

Storage container

Anything that comes with its own storage bag or container gets a big old star in our book. Without one, you'll either have to buy one separately or find some other way to keep the toys contained.

The plastic used to make sandbox toys can be BPA-free or recycled.

Sandbox toys prices

Sandbox toys can usually be found between $10 to $30. Within this range, most are plastic with anywhere from three to more than 30 pieces. But there are also wood and metal sets, too. The majority of these sets are brightly colored and may have a theme. There are a few outliers in the $50 range that are typically either large, metal, or ride-on sandbox toys.

Tips

  • Get creative. Sandbox toys come in some excellent sets that can be enhanced by treasures found in your backyard. Kids love to pretend pinecones, sticks, or rocks are food or even other people. Create a sandbox space where your child can use their sandbox toys to the full potential of their imagination. Try providing a separate storage bucket for the natural materials they add from your yard.
  • Plastic sandbox toys degrade if left in the sun all day, every day. When not in use, be sure to store them in a covered area.
  • Label your sandbox toys with a Sharpie. This helps you keep track of your child’s toys and prevents confusion and tears if your child has been sharing with others at the park.
  • Did you know you can color sand with liquid watercolors? Mix the watercolors in a spray bottle, and your child can spray his castles and towers in green, blue, and red.
EXPERT TIP

Sandbox toys can double as pool toys. Buckets and waterwheels are perfect for poolside play, and plastic toys will float on the water, so you won’t be pulling them off the bottom of the pool.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other products we considered

The KKones Beach Toy Truck is a full set that includes a dump truck with a loading bucket. It also includes a watering can, sand molds, and a rake and shovel. It's a great all-round set that can move a lot of sand. The simple John Deere Sandbox Vehicle Set includes a dump truck and tractor. They're small enough to fit in sandboxes that are tight on space and have the bright colors of a well-known brand. The eco-friendly Green Toys Sand Play Set is made of recycled plastics. Though the set is simple, it's well-made, durable, and provides hours of fun.

Sandbox toys are usually lightweight, which means they can blow away in the wind. If you store them outside, they should be secured during storms.

FAQ

Q. Do I need to wash my kid’s sandbox toys?
A.
For the most part, all you’ll need to do is occasionally rinse the toys with moving parts. As long as the only place they’ll be used is in your sandbox, they won’t get much more than sand on them. Of course, if a cat decides to use your sandbox as a litter box, that’s another story. And if you take them to the beach, you’ll need to rinse off the saltwater, as it breaks down pretty much everything faster than freshwater.

Q. What kind of themes do sandbox toys come in?
A.
The themes are wide and varied just like kids’ interests. Common themes include:

  • Ocean
  • Construction
  • Farming
  • Kitchen/baking
  • Garden
  • Castle


Q. How durable are sandbox toys?
A.
Durability depends on a few factors, including the material of the toys, how the toys are stored, and your climate. If properly stored out of the sun, most sandbox toys can last for several years. Thicker plastics will last longer than thin ones, especially if your kids like to load test their toys.

 

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Stacey
    Stacey
    Writer

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