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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. Child development experts praise sand play as a great way for children to learn through their senses, as well as start to understand early math concepts like volume, as they fill and empty buckets of different sizes.
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
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. The sandbox measures about 46 x 46 inches, so kids will have plenty of space to spread out. To fill it, you'll need about 500 pounds of sand.
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 measures 45 x 45 inches, and it's made of redwood, a dense, durable material. 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.
Best for Toddlers: Starplay Hippo Pool/Sandpit with Cover
Toddlers will be immediately drawn to this adorable smiling hippo, which 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!) It's on the smaller side, measuring 39 x 28 inches, and holds more than 15 gallons of either sand or water.
It 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 four. 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.
Best with Cover: Best Choice Products Wooden Outdoor Sandbox with Foldable Bench Seats
At 47 by 49 inches, 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, and you'll need at least 300 pounds of sand to fill it up. 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.
Best with Canopy: KidKraft Activity Sandbox with Canopy
Measuring a whopping 64 by 60 inches, this sandbox has plenty of space for imaginative play. 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, and you'll need about 200 pounds of sand to fill the box. 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.
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) measures 13 feet by 6 feet, and 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.
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.
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 two 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 nine 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.
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 five feet by five 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.
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.