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Best Sandboxes

Updated December 2018
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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.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
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.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 96 Models Considered
  • 16 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 154 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.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    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.

    Shopping guide for best sandboxes

    Last Updated December 2018

    As simple as they may seem to adults, sandboxes are a veritable wonderland of exploration and open-ended play for children.

    A well-maintained backyard sandbox can provide hours upon hours of outdoor fun, all the while encouraging healthy development on a physical, mental, and emotional level.

    Deciding to purchase your very own sandbox can be exciting, but figuring out where to start isn't always easy. Should you opt for a large sandbox, or would a smaller one do? What about construction material; should you go with wood or plastic? And do you really need a sandbox with a built-in lid?

    If you're feeling buried under the pile of the endless sandbox options on the market, don't fret – we're here to help!

    Playing with sand isn't just fun; it's also beneficial to the development of little minds and bodies.

    We've sifted through countless sandboxes to find the best, and we’ve sought expert advice from our professional consultant, Aimee, to help you choose the sandbox that's right for you.

    So if you’re in a hurry to get that sandbox set up, jump straight to our recommendations to pick your favorite. Or, read on to find out more about what sets the best sandboxes apart from the rest.

    Aimee
    EXPERT CONSULTANT

    Aimee is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric out-patient at Central Pennsylvania Rehab Services at the Heart of Lancaster Hospital. She has been working in pediatrics for 18 years and is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company. Aimee has published 3 DVDs and 9 apps which have been featured on the Rachael Ray Show and iPhone Essentials Magazine. Also certified in newborn massage and instructing yoga to children with special needs, Aimee Ketchum lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters.


    Aimee  |  Pediatric Occupational Therapist

    Benefits of sandbox play

    More than just good, wholesome outdoor fun, playing in a sandbox has a number of surprising benefits as well. Whether playing alone or with others, sandboxes are a fantastic way for kids to learn more about themselves and the world around them. Before we dive into the details of choosing the perfect sandbox, let's take a look at some of the advantages of sandbox play.

    Muscle development

    Most children can happily spend hours at a time digging, pouring, and building. This often entails a considerable amount of lifting, pushing, and pulling, which engages a wide variety of upper-body muscles.

    A good sandbox cover is vital for the health and safety of the children who use it. This is one feature that parents should never be tempted to skimp on in favor of a lower price tag. Also, choosing a shady spot for your child’s sandbox will help keep both the sand and the box itself from becoming excessively hot.

    Fine motor skill development

    Using small sandbox toys such as mini shovels, trucks, and molds requires coordination, and it gives little ones the opportunity to practice their motor skills.

    Tactile development

    With it's uniquely pleasing texture, sand is an excellent medium for tactile exploration. It can be soft and almost fluid when dry, yet it can be hard when damp and packed. Shaded sand is cool to the touch, while sunbaked sand is warm.

    Social skill practice

    Even if they choose to play separately or work on their own “projects,” children in a sandbox can learn to share toys, mind each other's creations, and develop the ability to forgive when accidents happen.

    As much as your kids may love their four-legged friends, pets should never be allowed in the backyard sandbox.

    Teamwork experiences

    There's just something about a large body of sand that inspires children to collaborate. Whether it's building a castle, constructing a wall, or digging a hole, kids often learn that working together is not only fun, but it’s also more effective than working alone.

    Imaginative play

    Beyond being a treasure trove of sensory stimulation, a well-maintained backyard sandbox provides a safe place for young imaginations to run wild. Whether they're burying gold, building a castle, or digging a hole to China, children are sure to tap into their creativity and make full use of the wonderful flexibility of sand.

    EXPERT TIP

    Sand is great medium for sensory play, but it is messy, and parents should be prepared for the possibility that some sand may find its way into the house.


    Aimee  | Pediatric Occupational Therapist

    Types of sandboxes

    Sandboxes are typically made of either wood or plastic. Both can provide children with hours of fun and entertainment, and it will be up to parents to choose which of these materials best fulfills their personal requirements.

    Plastic sandboxes

    Plastic sandboxes tend to be lightweight and easier to move than wooden sandboxes. As an added bonus, they're easy to clean and require little maintenance. Often, all that's needed to keep the exterior of a plastic sandbox looking fresh is a good wipe with a damp cloth.

    On the downside, this type of box can become hot to the touch on sunny days, and bright colors may fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight.

    While adding a little water to sand play can be fun and educational, it's important to dry it properly to prevent the possibility mold growth.

    Wooden sandboxes

    Whether large or small, wooden sandboxes are designed to be robust, and with the right care, they can last for many years. Sizeable wooden sandboxes often feature built-in seats that are not only convenient for little ones, but may appeal to parents as well.

    Wooden sandboxes are also eco-friendly. They won't leach chemicals, and they are unlikely to to become dangerously hot when exposed to direct sunlight.

    However, the wood does require a certain level of maintenance, and parents will need to perform frequent checks for splinters and loose or rusty screws.

    EXPERT TIP

    A sandbox canopy is a nice feature that gives children added protection from the sun.


    Aimee  | Pediatric Occupational Therapist

    What to think about when choosing a sandbox

    When selecting a sandbox for home use, don't forget to give the following factors some careful thought before making your purchase.

    What size sandbox is right for you?

    Sandboxes come in a wide variety of sizes, and choosing one that comfortably fits your space while still meeting your family's playtime needs is key. Large sandboxes are often designed to accommodate adults as well –  an important feature for those with younger children who require close supervision. However, if you have limited space, or if you need a sandbox for just one child, a smaller option may be more practical.

    Don't forget to consider the volume of sand you'll need to fill your sandbox. Bigger models require a considerable amount of sand, and parents are sometimes taken aback by just how much the extra bags of play sand can end up costing.

    If you have a larger sandbox, buying play sand in bulk and having it delivered may be more economical than purchasing several individual 50-pound bags.

    Do you want a sandbox with a cover?

    We believe that covering your sandbox is absolutely essential for keeping your sand dry and neighborhood animals out. Sandboxes are every bit as irresistible to cats as they are to children, but for entirely different reasons. To keep your sandbox from becoming a giant litter box, opt for one with a built-in cover or one that comes with a custom-made lid to ensure a secure fit.

    Are there specific sandbox features that appeal to you?

    While children certainly don't require a host of added bells and whistles to enjoy a sandbox, there are a handful of features that can help make playtime happier and safer.

    • A canopy stretched over the sandbox will help protect kids’ sensitive skin from direct sunlight. It will also help keep the sand cool and safe to play with.

    • Built-in seats or covers that convert to benches are comfortable and convenient, especially for adults who might otherwise avoid participating in sandbox play.

    • Some sandboxes come with fun extras like chalkboards or sand and water compartments for added entertainment.

    EXPERT TIP

    It is important that the cover fits properly to keep bugs and spiders out. Also keep an eye out for bits and pieces of broken toys, as these can easily cut little feet or hands.


    Aimee  | Pediatric Occupational Therapist

    Sandbox prices

    A sandbox doesn't have to break the bank. Simple plastic varieties can be found for as little as $50, while larger plastic models with lids can reach up to $100.

    Wooden sandboxes tend to cost a bit more, with prices typically ranging between $100 and $300+.

    If you want a sandbox with some extra-special features, such as a larger size, convertible benches, or a canopy, you’ll likely pay more than you would for a basic sandbox.

    Adding toys to your child’s sandbox is a fun way to add a new dimension to playtime. Dump trucks, buckets, and spades are classics, but don't be afraid to get creative.

    FAQ

    Q. At what age can babies safely play in a sandbox?

    A. There's really no set “minimum age” for sandbox play. As long as little ones are closely supervised during playtime, parents can introduce their babies to a sandbox as soon as they feel they're ready. That said, by the ages of between 12 and 18 months, most children will be able to more fully appreciate playing in a sandbox, and explaining why it's not a great idea to eat sand may be a little easier, too.

    Q. What can I do to keep my sandbox clean?

    A. First and foremost, ensure that your sandbox is securely covered when not in use to prevent animals and bugs from taking up residence … or using it as a toilet. A good cover will also help keep sand dry. Wet sand can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Should your sand happen to get wet, spread it out and allow it to dry in direct sunlight before covering. Run a rake through the sand often, keeping an eye out for clumps, foreign objects, or sharp pieces of broken toys.

    Q. How often do I need to replace the sand?

    A. Vigilance and proper care will greatly increase the shelf life of your sand. However, for health and safety reasons, it's best to change your sand at least once a year. As tempting as it may be to fill your sandbox with beach sand or other freely available forms of filler, the health risks simply aren't worth it. Only use sand that's clearly labeled as “play sand.”

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Erica
      Erica
      Writer
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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