Tuesday, December 7, 2021

    The best sandboxes for kids

    The best sandboxes for kids

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    • Sandbox play helps improve fine motor skills as children dig, dump, and sift sand.
    • Playing in a sandbox with others promotes problem-solving and social skills.
    • We researched and tested large sandboxes for multiple kids, wooden sandboxes, indoor sandboxes, and sand and water tables to find the best ones you can buy.
    • The Step2 Naturally Playful Sandbox has space for four preschoolers, a protective lid, and can even be used as a small splash pool.

    Almost every child enjoys playing in the sand — digging, searching for buried treasure, building roads and sandcastles. The sandbox is where many kids make their first friends as they learn to share and play with others. But in addition to the fun, playing in sand helps children develop fine motor skills, fuels imagination, and encourages problem-solving.

    The advantage of sandboxes over simply playing in the dirt outside is that the box can be kept covered to prevent soiling from animal feces. The sand can also be changed regularly to keep the play environment as clean as possible. With just a few maintenance steps, your kids can have hours of safe play.

    Here are tips for maintaining a sandbox:

    • Keep the sandbox covered when not in use.
    • Allow the sand to dry thoroughly if it is wet from rain or playtime.
    • Regularly sift through the sand to remove debris.
    • Change the sand if soiled by a baby’s diaper.
    • Fill the box with play sand, not builder’s sand. Play sand has been cleaned and sifted.
    • Change the sand annually and wash and disinfect the sandbox.

    My grandson is 2 years old and we just built him a wooden swing set and fort. There was a perfect space next to the fort and slide for a sandbox. So I began the search for the perfect one for his backyard and, of course, one to keep at my house. I discovered that the choices have improved since I bought one for his dad and uncle many years ago. While shopping and testing different styles I took into consideration safety, materials, cost, and the fun factor for kids.

    Here are the best sandboxes you can buy:

    The best sandbox overall

    Step2 Natrually Playful Sandbox



    Target


    The moderately priced Step2 Naturally Playful Sandbox offers plenty of room for four small children to play and blends into most landscaping.

    While searching for sandboxes, I discovered the Step2 Naturally Playful Sandbox and purchased it for my grandson’s sand play in my backyard. At just approximately 44 inches by 39 inches by 15 inches, it is the perfect size for a toddler and smaller yards.

    The natural sandstone color plastic blends well with most landscaping. In fact, when my grandson outgrows it, I intend to drill a few holes in the bottom and use it as a raised planter.

    The sandbox holds 200 pounds of sand and has seating for small children up to 50 pounds. The lid is large enough that it can hold toys in the sand when it is covered. While the lid protects the sand from animals, it does have small holes for ventilation and the sand gets a bit wet during heavy rains. Remember to remove the lid and let the sand dry out before using the sandbox.

    My only complaint is that the lid does not have tie-downs so it can blow away in heavy winds.

    Pros: Comes fully assembled, natural stone color, cover features graphic sun design, seating for four, made in the US

    Cons: Cover does not feature tie-downs, small ventilation holes in cover allow rain to seep in


    $65.98 from Target

    The best large sandbox for multiple kids

    Sandlock Large Rectangular Sandbox with Cover



    Wayfair


    The generously sized Sandlock Rectangular Sandbox with Cover is 10-feet long and will accommodate up to six kids.

    I first saw this sandbox at a local community playground and kids were buzzing around it like honeybees at a hive. The large 5-foot by 10-foot size leaves plenty of room for kids to play both inside and along the outside edges of the box. There are four sturdy seats in the corners for kids who don’t like to sit in the sand.

    The green and tan sandbox is made of high-density recycled polyethylene that is rust and water-resistant. I tracked down the park director and he said it was very easy to assemble. Simply place the ground barrier in the location you choose and snap together the sides. The only tools you need are a hammer to drive down the stabilizing stakes and a wheelbarrow to bring in the 1,700 pounds of sand needed to fill the box.

    The sandbox comes with a ground barrier and a flexible, vented, tarp-like cover with handles that slip over the outer edges and is held securely with shock cords that slip into notches. The corner seats must be removed to put on the cover, but they pop on and off easily and can be stored in the sandbox. If placed in the center of the sandbox, the corners actually help create a slope in the cover to divert rain.

    Perfect for a group of kids, with a sand depth of around 10 inches, there is plenty of room for treasure hunting or setting up a construction site. Since the ground barrier is permeable, you can even add some water for sandcastle building. The company is a winner of the 2008 Teacher’s Choice Award from Learning Magazine. While more expensive than most sandboxes, the quality and size of the Sandlock make it a winner.

    Pros: Easy to assemble, accommodates 6 to 8 kids, cover tarp can be secured, made from recycled plastic.

    Cons: Seats must be removed to put on the cover, cover can hold rainwater if not sloped correctly. 


    $559.99 from Wayfair

    The best wooden sandbox

    Best sandboxes for kids in 2020: Step2, Little Tikes & more



    Walmart


    If you like the classic look of a wooden sandbox, the KidKraft Outdoor Sandbox with Canopy is a perfect choice for play and sun protection.

    The swing set and fort my son built was a KidKraft kit. He was pleased with the quality and ease of construction. The entire set was built in less than six hours with four adults taking plenty of breaks. So, when it was time to add a sandbox, the KidKraft Outdoor Sandbox with Canopy was a logical choice. 

    We liked the natural look of the wood and the accompanying canopy to protect kids from the sun. Measuring approximately 5 feet by 4 feet, it is the perfect size for two to four kids.

    The sandbox features two seats that also act as storage for toys. My favorite part is the two plastic bins that slip into openings. These can hold water for playtime but are easily removable for filling and emptying. The navy and white striped canopy adds a classic flair.

    The directions were clear and assembly was simple. We built the basic box first, added the permeable ground barrier, the sand (about 100 50-pound bags), and finished it off with the canopy.

    When not in use, there is a mesh cover to hold the sand in place and keep animals out. If you prefer a solid rainproof cover, an inexpensive tarp works well.

    Pros: Covered storage bins for toys, canopy for sun protection, removable bins for water play, easy to assemble, great customer service if needed

    Cons: Wood is not exceptionally fine, repeated mistakes in assembly can split the wood, mesh cover is not rainproof


    $179.99 from Walmart

    The best indoor sandbox

    My Little Sandbox Pirate's treasure



    Be Good Company


    My Little Sandbox Pirate’s Treasure offers hours of imaginative sandbox fun when the weather won’t cooperate.

    As I was researching the best sandboxes, I came across the line of My Little Sandbox indoor sandboxes. After sorting through the choices of mermaids, construction, outer space, doggie day camp, princess dreams, and fairy magic, I chose Pirate’s Treasure for its unique blue sand and sea theme.

    Recommended for ages 4 and older, it’s a little too advanced for a toddler. The 10-inches-square box comes with a 20-inches-square plastic playmat to help catch all of the loose sand. It comes with a sailing ship, palm trees, two pirates, treasure chest, and X to mark the spot, booty bucket, digging shovel, grooming rake, crocodile, monkey, and parrot. Who couldn’t have fun with all that?

    This sandbox reminds me of the desk Zen gardens to help reduce tension. It is fun to rake and play in the fine, blue sand. It was hard for me to box it back up and save it until my grandson is a bit older. 

    Pros: Playmat to help catch loose sand, lots of toys included, perfect for indoor sand play

    Cons: Small parts are choking hazards for children under age 3, sand can scatter during adventurous play


    $24.99 from Walmart

    The best budget sandbox

    Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox



    Walmart


    The Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox is a great starter sandbox for very young children and comes with lots of extras.

    If you are looking for a compact first sandbox for a toddler, the Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox is a perfect choice. While it is small (kids will not fit inside the box to sit in the sand), the added accessories more than compensate for its size of 28 inches by 51 inches.

    The sandbox lid doubles as a truck ramp during play. The sandbox and accessories are made of bright durable plastic. It comes with both a male and female construction worker figure, sand cup, sifter, shovel, rake, and dump truck. A working excavator is attached to the side of the box.

    While too small for sitting in the sand, two or three kids can easily play together by sitting outside of the sandbox. The lid attaches securely to keep the sand clean, and dry and molded holders on the outside of the base keep tools corralled. 

    I chose this as a birthday gift, and it was a big hit. Just one or two bags of play sand will fill it up. Because the party was inside, the clever mom filled it with ping-pong balls for play. There are so many accessories that the child was kept busy for hours scooping and dumping them in the truck.

    Pros: Many accessories, small footprint, safe for very young children, sturdy cover

    Cons: Recommended for children ages 2 to 5, no drainage plug, cover does not lock securely and can blow away


    $58.49 from Walmart

    The best water and sand table

    Step2 Water and Sand Table



    Target


    Perfect for small spaces, the Step2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table with Umbrella promotes hours of water and sand play.

    Before I bought my grandson a larger sandbox to have at my house, I bought him the Step2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table with Umbrella. Even though it can be used for a combination of sand and water, he likes the water so much we keep both sides filled with water. If we do decide to fill one side with sand, it will hold around 50 pounds of sand.

    When I purchased it about six months ago, I chose the blue theme to match my patio. Now I see I could have chosen a green and sandstone theme to match his new sandbox. I am glad that the table has an umbrella to offer some shade when it is moved out in the yard next to the sandbox. The umbrella is simple to remove if you are using the table under shelter.

    When the table came, it was easy to set up and only weighed about 20 pounds. After assembling the legs, it measures about 42.5 inches long by 24 inches wide and 23 inches tall. Each section of the molded plastic table has a drain plug for easy cleaning.

    The tabletop has a bin for sand play, a molded roadway separating the sand and water, and a sailing course for boats. Even the lid has molded roadways for play and shock cords for holding it safely in the notched attachment area. While I added some extras, the set came with two boats, bridge pieces for the sailing course, a cup, and a rake and shovel. 

    My little guy loves it and will play for hours. It was perfect when he was 18 months because he could hold onto the sides as he worked his way around the table. I can easily see this holding his attention until ages 4 or 5 by adding different water toys. I like that it has a secure cover, is easy to clean, and doesn’t take up a lot of space when not in use.

    Pros: Comes with extra toys, easy to clean, umbrella for sun protection, cover ties down securely

    Cons: Holes are not predrilled for screws to assemble legs, screws can rust when exposed to water


    $66.98 from Target

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