The best sandbox
What would summer be without building sand castles? But if you can't spend every day on the beach, a sandbox in the backyard is the next best thing. Children get a chance to develop their small and large motor skills while letting their imaginations run wild. Sandboxes come in all shapes and sizes, and some include a cover while others have built-in benches.
With all the choices out there, we've put together a helpful guide that includes our recommendations and our top pick: Badger Basket Cedar Convertible Sandbox. It has seating, sun protection, and a classy look to increase your backyard fun.
Considerations when choosing sandboxes
While you might be tempted to buy the largest sandbox you can find, your available space and the price of keeping the sandbox full of clean sand can govern the size that's right for your family. Keep in mind that some larger sandboxes provide seating for adults. That can be helpful if your children are still under the age of three. However, 25-pound bags of sand can cost anywhere from $15 to $25 or more, and it can take several buckets or boxes to fill the smallest sandbox.
Plastic: Parents love plastic because it's relatively lightweight, easy to clean, and low maintenance. However, it can get hot in the sun and fade over time.
Wood: Wooden sandboxes tend to be larger and more durable than plastic models. They stay cool in the heat and reduce the risk of exposure to chemicals. They may have benches and built-in canopies as well. On the downside, they have to be maintained, splinters are always a risk, and you need to keep an eye on the hardware to make sure loose screws don't make their way into the sand.
A cover protects the sand from weather, bugs, and other animals. There's nothing worse than finding out the neighbor's cat has been using the sandbox as a litter box. Models that include a cover fit better than those that require you purchase one separately.
A canopy provides shade and reduces the risk of sunburn. Models with a removable built-in canopy are even better because the canopy can be taken off during the winter months.
Children may not mind sitting in the sand but friends, babysitters, and parents might. Built-in seats give everyone a place in the sandbox.
Some sandboxes have chalkboards, storage benches, or sand and water compartments for added play options. These features add to the price but could significantly increase the amount of time your child spends playing in the sandbox.
Plastic sandboxes start around $50, with larger models topping out around $100. Wooden models start at $100 but can go well above $400 or more. Expect to pay more for larger models with extras like covers, benches, and canopies.
Q. Do sandboxes need to be cleaned regularly?
A. Yes. The best way to keep your sandbox clean is to keep it covered when not in use. Leaves and sticks won't blow into it, fewer bugs can make their way inside, and cats can't use it as a litter box. Covers keep the sand dry, which prevents mold and bacteria from growing. The next best thing you can do is occasionally rake the sand to remove any foreign objects (or objects you didn't know were there) like broken toys, sharp rocks, or sticks.
Q. Do I need a special kind of sand for the sandbox?
A. For safety's sake, use sand that's designated as "play sand." That way there won't be any surprises like glass or bugs that have traveled with you from the beach.
Sandboxes we recommend
Best of the best: Badger Basket Cedar Convertible Sandbox
Our take: This luxurious model provides seating and plenty of room to play with friends.
What we like: We love the cedar construction and canopy. Kids and parents alike love having some shade during the summer. We also like the built-in seating.
What we dislike: The hardware may tarnish over time.
Best bang for your buck: Step2 Play and Store Sandbox with Lid
Our take: A simple sandbox with molded seats on each corner. It skips bright-colored plastic for a natural look.
What we like: We love the basic design and size. It's also easy to assemble and includes a cover and seating.
What we dislike: The cover doesn't fit perfectly.
Our take: This wooden model provides lots of play space and seating. Its durable construction helps turn your backyard into a playground.
What we like: The reinforced wood panels are built to last. As far as play space, this one is hard to beat. We also like that there's some built-in seating.
What we dislike: It's big, so it eats up outdoor space. It doesn't have a canopy.
Stacey L. Nash is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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