Best Kids' Sand Playsets

Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for Best kids' sand playsets

At a time when a large number of kids are glued to electronics, many parents are looking for hands-on toys that will engage their children. However, it can be hard to guess what will catch a child’s interest and hold their attention.

As toys go, you can’t get much more hands-on than kinetic sand. This moldable substance has an intriguing grainy texture reminiscent of sand. That’s because it’s made from 98% sand — as well as 2% silicon — which makes it stick to itself but not to your hands or other surfaces. It comes in many colors and is purported to be less messy than other toys meant for molding and shaping.

Kinetic sand is the best-known brand of play sand, but there are other brands, which can vary slightly in texture and consistency, as well as the types of play sets offered. Keep reading to learn more about what’s available, and when you’re done, check out our recommendations for the best play sand sets on the market.

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Play sand is generally intended for elementary children, but many middle schoolers and high schoolers are mesmerized by the stuff. Parents report they’ll sit and sculpt even when their younger kids are done.

Key considerations

Child’s interests

A child’s age and interests factor greatly into the set that will keep them entertained. Preschoolers may be enthralled with a small quantity of play sand and a few simple beach-themed tools. Kindergarteners may enjoy play sets that involve themed action figures. Older elementary students will likely appreciate the challenge offered by intricately detailed molding and building sets.

Keeping a child’s likes and dislikes in mind can help you choose a set they’ll love. Play sand sets range from classic sand castles to safaris, bakeries, and fossil digs. The possibilities are endless, so you should be able to find one that suits their personality.


While all play sand brands are similar, different brands have different variations. Kinetic Sand — the original brand — holds its shape well but is not so hard that it discourages younger children. Some brands, like Magic Space Sand and CoolSand, are thicker and more appropriate for older children with stronger hands and more developed motor skills. They also hold their shape better for detailed building projects enjoyed by older children. Others are softer and more malleable for younger, less-coordinated children. Softer play sand mixtures may require more supervision to avoid messes on furniture and carpets, but young children should generally be supervised more closely using materials like these anyway.

Amount of sand

Make sure you pay attention to how much play sand is actually included in the kit. Some kits only contain a few ounces, which is appropriate for preschoolers, but a handful of larger kits with fun building molds don’t include enough sand to fill all the molds. Most kits should have at least a pound of play sand in order for play, and multiple children need two to three pounds to really explore. If the kit your child loves comes with a meager amount of sand, additional sand is easy to purchase.



The tools that come with the play sand make or break the set. At the very least, all sets should come with a play container or small plastic shovels for dumping and digging. Sand castle sets should include several molds to construct walls, towers, and turrets. Dinosaur or fossil sets should include themed play elements like animals, footprints, and bone imprint molds. Bakery kits should feature cake and cookie molds and themed accessories.

Play space

Having a dedicated play space helps to keep any messes contained. Some play sand sets come with trays or containers designed for play. Others don’t, so you need to find a surface that’s big enough for the sand, the play tools, and however many children will be playing. Trays or boxes with higher walls are better at keeping sand contained, but they may be difficult for younger children to access. Some people use a dry sand or water table. This is an especially attractive option if you live in a climate where outdoor conditions are not optimal for year-round play.


Playtime is the focus, but the sand needs to go somewhere when kids are done. Some sets come with containers suited for both play and storage. These sets are usually smaller and accommodate one or two children. In some cases, you may be able to keep the play sand in its original storage pouch. If not, look for a container with a relatively well-fitted lid. Play sand is less likely to dry out than other sensory play substances, so you don’t need an airtight seal, but a secure lid also prevents messes if the container is tipped or spilled.


The play sand found in many kits is the same color as sand you find on the beach. Other kits feature fun hues like green, purple, or blue. Colorful sand may be especially fun with kits that feature animal or dessert molds. Consider the child’s favorite colors when picking the set. Colored play sand from some manufacturers occasionally stains hands or clothing, so it’s wise to test dark-colored sand before turning your kids loose.

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Did you know?
Unlike other play substances, play sand does not stain your hands or get stuck under fingernails.

Kinetic sand prices

Inexpensive: You can find basic play sand sets priced as low as $10 to $15. Sets in this price range may include anything from a few ounces of sand to two pounds of sand. The sand may be natural in color or come in a few colors and may include small tools for play.

Mid-range: Mid-range play sand sets will likely cost around $20. Many sets have fun themes and come with a handful of theme-related tools. You will likely see more color choices and themes than in less-expensive sets.

Expensive: The best play sand sets may cost as much as $30. At this price, sets should include at least two pounds of sand and added features like a play container or multiple tools. The sand in these sets may be thicker than less expensive sets, and it may be available in several colors.


  • If your play sand dries out, add a few drops of water to it. Knead it until the water is completely soaked up. The texture should return to normal relatively quickly.

  • Concerned about play sand getting everywhere? Instead of cookie sheets or pie pans, let your kids play with it in a sandbox or water table.

  • If your play sand is too wet, spread it out in a thin layer to allow it to dry. It should be back to normal and ready to use within a few hours.

  • Kids can build their fine motor skills and strengthen their hands by cutting through play sand with a plastic knife.

Other products we considered

Many sets offer beach-themed toys, but this one goes a little deeper. The CoolSand 3D Sandbox Sea Creatures Edition comes with several ocean-themed molds and animal figures. The set includes a pound of blue play sand in keeping with the set’s underwater theme.

In a market flush with dinosaurs and starfish, we love this Kinetic Sand Bake Shoppe playset. It comes with 16 bakery-themed tools, including a rolling pin, spatula, cupcake molds, and cookie shapers. It comes with a total of one pound of sand in two colors perfect for sculpting sweet treats.

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Play sand is frequently used in therapy for children who need sensory input to help with anxiety.


Q. How do you remove play sand from your carpet?

A. Play sand is actually easier to clean up than other play substances like slime or clay. The best way to clean it up is to create a large ball of the sand and dab at the pieces that have fallen. Vacuum up any sand that the ball can’t catch. You may have different results with different brands — some are thicker and dryer; others are thinner and more pliable. Even though play sand is relatively easy to clean up, it’s still best to play over hard surfaces that don’t have fibers in which sand could get caught.

Q. How is play sand used in therapy for children?

A. Actually, it is used in a number of ways. Its unique texture can help children with sensory processing challenges. They can use it to get sensory input in a safe, non-disruptive way. Children can build with it to hone their fine motor skills or shape and cut it to build hand strength. Focusing on building can improve hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination. If you think your child could benefit from therapeutic use of play sand, be sure to talk to their pediatrician or therapist for tips.

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