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Looking for a way to occupy your kids outside? If you have a bit of space and the willingness to do some annual maintenance like replacing sand and sealing the wood, a backyard sandbox is a worthy investment.
Before buying consider the size of your outdoor space, age of your child, and maintenance. Some sandboxes require more sand and more upkeep than others. Also, keep in mind additional add-ons like overall design, cover or canopy, or if it is compatible with water. Keeping all of these qualities in mind will ensure you find the right outdoor sandbox for your child and budget.
If you're ready to add a sandbox to your backyard, here are the best options available today.
Best Overall: Gorilla Playsets Square Interlocking Sandbox with Cover and Umbrella
Who else recommends it? Best Products also picked the Gorilla Playsets Interlocking Sandbox.
This attractive square sandbox has interlocking pieces that make it easy to assemble, and it comes with both an umbrella (which can be set up in any corner) as well as a vinyl cover that will keep animals from making themselves at home. It's made of cedar, which is naturally resistant to weather damage. Note that the sandbox doesn't have a bottom, so you should be prepared to add a layer of landscape fabric below it, to keep weeds and insects from interrupting your kids' playtime.
The edges of the sandbox are broad and flat, so little ones can sit comfortably as they play. Assembly is required, and you'll get all the hardware you need, including metal brackets to protect the corners and stakes to help stabilize the sandbox.
Easy to assemble
Includes cover and umbrella
Best Budget: Homeware Red Hemlock Sandbox with Canopy
It can be tricky to find a solid wood sandbox at this price, but this one fits the bill and even comes with an adjustable canopy. It's made of redwood, a dense, durable material and the edges of the sandbox are wide enough for little ones to sit on.
The canopy can also be completely lowered to fit over the sand, although you may want to add an additional tarp or sandbox cover for complete rain protection. Assembly is required, and as with other sandboxes of this style, there is no bottom, so you'll need to add your own protective layer of landscape fabric or other material.
Canopy slides down to cover the sand
Easy to put together
Not as high quality as other options
Best for Toddlers: Starplay Hippo Pool/Sandpit with Cover
This adorable smiling hippo would make a perfect gift for toddlers and can be used as either a wading pool or a sandbox. (Some parents find that their children are even happy to play inside it when it's empty)!
The sandbox weighs only seven pounds empty, so it's easy to set up and move around, and because of the size, it's best up to about age 4. It comes with a plastic cover, but note that it may blow off on windy days (there isn't a latching mechanism), so some families use bungee cords to keep it closed when it's not in use.
Perfect for young kids
Lid slides off easily
Best with Cover: Best Choice Products Wooden Outdoor Sandbox with Foldable Bench Seats
This sandbox has a small footprint but gives kids a little more space to spread out. Although the bottom is open, it comes with landscape fabric for lining, so it's ready to set up as soon as you open the box. The ingenious design features two benches—with back support!—that folds down to double as a cover for the sandbox. (Note that the weight limit for each bench is 200 pounds.)
The box is made from heat-treated red cedar, so it is sturdy and meant to last. Note that there is a small gap once the benches are folded down, so you may want to add a tarp or cover for extra protection.
Includes sand screen
Includes seating for little ones
Can be difficult to assemble
Best with Canopy: KidKraft Activity Sandbox with Canopy
This sandbox has plenty of space for imaginative play for kids and parents together. It also comes with two plastic bins that can be used to store toys or water. The company includes a plastic liner for putting underneath to avoid big messes. KidKraft uses Sanmu wood, which is plywood supplied from China, and it has been reinforced to guard against warping.
The striped canopy evokes a poolside cabana and will add a little elegance to your kids' play area, and the cover will help protect the sand from the elements. You'll need to assemble the sandbox yourself, but most people found it easy and straightforward.
Included storage space
Not weather resistant
Best Splurge: Cabin Field Sandbox Boat Amish Playset
Part boat, part play structure, and part sandbox, this custom-built creation is any child's backyard dream come true. Cabinfield has relationships with many different Amish craftspeople, who are known for their high-quality woodworking pieces. This boat (more of an ark, really) is a great large option and even comes with a nautical-style steering wheel. You can also opt to upgrade the siding from pine to cedar, and add features such as mounted binoculars and a telescope.
Note that this piece can't be delivered by FedEx or UPS; instead, Cabinfield works with motor freight shipping companies, and you will likely need to have assistance on hand to get it from the truck to your yard.
Great option for large spaces
Best with Water: Crate & Kids Sand and Water Table
When covered with its acacia wood top, no one would even guess that this attractive table is for kids' play. The interior has two sides (one bin for water and one for sand), each measuring about 21 by 19 inches. They also have multiple drain plugs to make the emptying process go smoothly.
To protect the table, it's best to keep it inside during the winter months. The base is made from powder-coated iron, which will develop a gray patina over time. The height of the legs can be adjusted slightly, and the tabletop works well for snacktime or other kinds of creative play, such as cars, puzzles, or Legos.
Doubles as a table
Has water element
Best Elevated: ChildBrite See-All Sand and Water Activity Center
ChildBrite activity tables are popular at preschools, and it's easy to see why. This one, which can be used for either sand or water, has locking casters, so it can be easily moved around and then positioned into place. The clear bin also allows children to see what's happening from different angles. There's plenty of storage space at the bottom, as well as two snap-on caddies that keep toys within easy reach.
Parents will also appreciate the small footprint: It's just over 2 feet high and measures 21 x 21 inches. (This also means that it's ideal for one or two kids max, not a crowd.) The tub itself is 9 inches deep, and there's a drain at the bottom. Although it has been weatherproofed, you may wish to store it indoors during the colder months to prevent damage.
Perfect for sand or water
Clear bins for easy viewing
Included storage space
Not suitable for older kids
The Gorilla Playsets Square Interlocking Sandbox (view at Amazon) won big points for its high-quality cedarwood, ease of assembly, and included extras such as an umbrella and tough vinyl cover. For a lower price, the Homeware Red Hemlock Sandbox (view at Amazon) is a solid option, and some parents might prefer the adjustable canopy, which shades the entire area and doubles as a cover, although it's not completely watertight.
What to Look for in a Sandbox
If you have space and you're planning to keep the sandbox for several years (or you host lots of playdates), consider getting a sandbox that's on the larger side, such as 5 x 5 feet. When you're ordering the sandbox, remember that you'll also need to add sand—there are online calculators to help you figure it out, but if you're unsure, contact the manufacturer.
Most sandboxes are square, but some of the smaller, animal-themed ones tend to be round. There are also more unusual options such as octagons. If you're choosing a wooden sandbox, look carefully at the perimeter and make sure it has enough space for a child to sit on—otherwise, they'll need to be constantly choosing whether to sit directly in the sand or on the outside.
Most sandboxes are made from wood, and redwood and cedar are popular choices since they tend to be dense, durable, and weather-resistant. But wooden sandboxes tend to be left outside year-round, so you'll still want to give yours a coat of clear sealant at the end of every summer. If your sandbox only came with a wooden lid, consider covering the whole thing with a tarp for additional protection. Plastic sandpits are lightweight, affordable, and easy to disinfect, and many can also double as wading pools. You may want to store a plastic sandbox indoors (or at least inside a storage shed) when it gets cold to protect it from cracking.
What is the best type of sand to use in a sandbox?
Play sand, which is finer and less coarse, is ideal for sandboxes because it is specifically designed for kids' use. Most play sand is nontoxic and all-natural. In terms of color, opt for white or tan so any unnatural objects can easily be found and removed.
What do you put under sand in a sandbox?
There are a few things you can use to line the bottom of a sandbox. One is landscape fabric, which allows water to drain through and keeps weed from growing within the box. For something sturdier, you can opt for wood, which will keep all of the sand inside, but may be difficult to empty and refill or drain if water gets inside.
How often should you change sand in a sandbox?
Sand can last a long time in a sandbox without changing. Replacing the sand once a year would be adequate to keep the sandbox clean and safe for kids. However, this frequency can differ depending how often children use the sandbox or if the sand is affected by weather or other means.
What age is appropriate for a sandbox?
Children as young as toddlers can begin to enjoy sandbox play. The best sandboxes for the littlest members of your family are those that are shallow and easy to clean and maintain. Check the manufacturer's recommended age range for any sandbox you’re considering. Fill the sandbox with play sand, natural river sand, or beach sand, and make sure the product does not contain any silica. It’s also important to keep the sandbox covered to prevent bacteria and contamination from animals entering the sandbox.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Lexi Dwyer, who is a parenting and lifestyle writer for The Spruce. Throughout her career, she has covered everything from patio tables, outdoor toys, and inflatable hot tubs to the best bathroom cleaners. Additional reporting was done by Julia Fields a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.