Most of us can remember building a sandcastle as a kid – it’s a formative childhood experience, along with sandy sandwiches on the beach and huddling behind a windbreaker. And with a sand pit in your garden, your kids can enjoy playing in the sand all summer long – who needs the beach?!
Why is playing in sand beneficial to children?
Playing in sand is fun for sure. But it’s also really helpful for a child’s development. Learning and play specialist, and founder of The Playful Expert, Gail Miles says, “Sand play is the perfect place for socialisation, discussion and collaboration with others.”
“Children are able to build their resilience too, which they will need as they grow and face problems in the future,” explains Miles. “Through playing in sand children are able to problem solve, learn to think logically, discover scientifically, develop their vocabulary and language, as well as learning about mathematical measurements and having the freedom to be creative.”
They can also enjoy the sensory experience of feeling the sand. Talking about if the sand is dry or wet, if it’s cool or hot is a great way to give context to textures and feelings. And more than all of that, it’s fun and provides you with quality time with your child. “It also promotes physical development, especially within the large muscles as they dig, transfer, carry and pour sand it strengthens their whole body,” Miles adds.
What are the different kinds of sand pits?
There are so many different kinds of sand pits out there, it would be hard to list them all. There are the simple plastic ones, which are often lidded. And there are vast sand pits that come in all kinds of shapes such as pirate galleons and trains.
As well as sand pits on the ground, there are in-ground sand pits and those that are on stands. The world is your oyster, and the most important thing is to find something that suits the space you have, and your child.
What should I think about when buying a sand pit?
First things first, think about size and space. Measure the space you’ve got for it to go in, and figure out how much of your garden space you’re willing to give over to the sand pit.
Once you have your size figured out, think about the material you want for your space. Plastic sand pits are durable and wipe clean, and often easier to move around the garden if you want to follow the sun or give grass a chance to recover. But you might want a more natural look that blends into your surroundings.
Look also at the base of your sandpit. Plastic sandpits won’t drain water out of the bottom, so you need to cover them otherwise things get a bit swampy. Many wooden sandpits are covered at the bottom with a piece of fabric, which allows water to drain out of the bottom if you forget to cover them.
Having said that, consult your child – you want them to engage with the sand pit, and hopefully play with it for years. Some sand pits are themed, some are more shallow, some have seats in them. Work out what will suit your child and how they like to play.
Lastly, in all likelihood, your sand pit will be outside in all weathers. So look for sand pits with covers and that are sturdily made. You don’t want the first gust of wind to come along and blow it over. Nor do you want wild animals make it a home, or worse.
Shop the best below.
TP wooden lidded sandpit
We liked this sandpit because it was simple yet effective. It took two people about 45 minutes to put together (take our advice and invest in an electric screwdriver or drill), and then felt really sturdy and durable. Certainly we had no qualms sticking it outside in all weathers.
The sand area is decent – you could happily fit three kids in there. The sides also provide bench-style seating for kids, and when not in use you can slide these sides up and put across the top of the sandpit as a cover. The light-wood – which is FSC approved – means it looks attractive in the garden, and while it’s not the most elaborate sandpit we tried, it gets the job done.Buy now £79.99, Amazon
Plum sandpit with canopy
We were definitely drawn to the aesthetic of this sandpit – the candy-stripe overhead canopy with scalloped trim makes this an Instagram-friendly option, if such a thing exists. But as well as stylish, it’s practical too.
The play area is generous, and deeper than many others we tried – yet our toddlers were fine climbing in and out by themselves. The side benches are great for kids who don’t want to sit directly in the sand while they play. The showerproof canopy also tilts and you can adjust the height – this is really helpful when the sun moves around the garden. Plus you can lower it completely and use it as a cover when the sandpit is not in use, but you will be left with two posts sticking up in the middle.Buy now £119.95, Amazon
Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox
Name us a more iconic sand pit than this Little Tikes Turtle. With deeply nostalgic vibes, this turtle still getting the job done. And it’s easy to see why he’s stood the test of time.
The turtle sandbox is made from moulded plastic and is sturdy. It has two seats on the outside of the box, so it doesn’t cut into the sand storage volume. It’s green, which while looking inviting to kids it isn’t garish in your garden, blending in nicely to the surroundings.
Our little testers were very happy with this sandbox – their little legs could easily clear the sides and they could climb in and out on their own. There was just enough space for two toddlers to play happily side by side in there.
We also enjoyed filling the lid/shell with water and extending the play further. With no construction involved in putting this fella together, it is brilliant in its simplicity and still gets a big tick from us after all these years.Buy now £50, Argos
Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table
This sandpit is the perfect height for smaller toddlers. As it’s raised, it lets them really get stuck in and brings the action up close for them – it meant our testers played for longer. And it also made for less overspill as sand didn’t migrate out of the designated area so much. That’s a win-win for us.
It was incredibly easy to put together, and feels sturdy and durable. It’s about 42cm tall – which is hip height for younger toddlers. Having said that, our older testers still got stuck into this sand pit with gusto too, so it does have a decent amount of longevity to it. We really liked the hard cover that fits on top, and the elasticated straps make sure it stays put.Buy now £113.80, ManoMano
Big Game Hunters Garden Games Picnic Table Sandpit
Big Game Hunters
We were thoroughly impressed with this multifunctional sand pit table. It looks like a mini picnic table – with plenty of space for four kids to sit at – but the top comes off to reveal a sand box underneath.
We liked that kids sat down to play with this sand pit. It also has really decent capacity – with enough sand and space for children to work side by side without too many rows breaking out. It is handy that you can put the sturdy lid on to keep the sand clean, and use the table as a, well, table. This makes it great for picnics or doing arts and crafts outside too
It also comes with some lovely sand toys and a drawstring tarpaulin that fits over the table, meaning it’s defended against the occasionally brutal British summer weather.Buy now £90.95, Amazon
Simplay3 Caterpillar Sand/Play box
Our kids were immediately drawn to this caterpillar’s friendly little face. The long, thin design means it’s great for two kids to play side by side. This sandpit is of a style that suits sitting outside the box and reaching in to play – which does help stop the mess somewhat.
It has a decent capacity, with plenty of depth – we found this great when we wanted to play buried treasure-style games as there was plenty of space to properly dig into the sand.
This caterpillar is also designed as a storage box, meaning it’s useful all year round to store garden toys in when it’s not being used as a sand pit. A sturdy lid fits neatly over the top when not in use, and can be flipped over to fill with water if you like.Buy now £95, Amazon
TP Ahoy wooden playboat
Easily the most extra sandpit we tried, our little testers loved went wild for this. It has two play modes. The top deck slides over the sandbox, creating a smaller pirate ship to play on. But slide it back and there’s a modest sandpit in the middle section of the boat.
Our co-testers loved burying treasure and playing pirates, and there’s plenty to keep them entertained. With a chalkboard for drawing pirate treasure maps, a steering wheel and a plastic sink for water play.
As an adult we loved it too – the canopy provided good shelter from the sun (although there’s not a vast amount of head room for older kids on the top deck when the canopy is up), and the top of the front of the boat lifts off to provide some storage. It slides into a smaller size so it doesn’t need to dominate the garden too much.
It felt durable but for the construction, set aside plenty of time when kids aren’t about or you’ll be continually pestered about when it’ll be ready…Buy now £185.99, Amazon
Teamson Kids Large outdoor wooden sand pit
We couldn’t argue with the value for money of this sand pit. It has a height-adjustable canopy, so it doubles up as a cover – although restricts the head height for adults somewhat. The play area is plenty for up to three toddlers to have enough space to really spread out. And there’s loads of seating around the edges, which have been rounded off to prevent bumps. The coloured wood is a nice touch if you’re after the durability of wood but want something a bit more fun for kids.Buy now £89.99, ManoMano
We felt like all the sandpits mentioned up here were excellent, but for us the TP lidded sandpit just inched it as the best for a straight-up, traditional sandpit. It’s sturdy and built to last. We also loved the Plum sandpit for the sun protection it gave, and it looked great in our garden.