Get your toddler out in the fresh air for hours of digging, building and scooping fun in a sandpit.
Most youngsters love playing with sand. Whether it’s dry enough to slip through their fingers, or squishy and squelchy to build a sandcastle with, sand is a wonderfully sensory material to touch. It stretches the imagination too, as it can be whatever she wants it to be.
Playing in a sandpit is also a great social activity: even children who are too young to actively play together will happily scoop, shovel and sift alongside each other. There aren’t many other toys that will entertain kids of all ages as well as a sandpit, so it will encourage sibling co-operation. There are a few things to consider before buying one…
What size sandpit will work for you?
Because it’s fun to play together in a sandpit, it needs to be large enough for at least two children to play in at the same time. And your child will still be playing in it when she’s five or six, so it needs to be big enough for two big kids to play in too. Factor in the cost of filling it with play sand – this washed, non-staining sand is more expensive than builders’ sand.
How big is your garden?
A sandpit needs to fit in with your garden, rather than being too big. If you aren’t sure if the one you like will suit, mark out its footprint with chalk or string in your garden.
Where will you position a sandpit?
Deciding on where in the garden you’ll put your sandpit before you buy it will help you choose the right model. Children are happy to spend a lot of time in a sandpit, so it needs to be in a spot where you can keep an eye on them. Positioning it in a place that gets plenty of shade in the summer is also a good idea. Sand can get very dusty if left to dry out, so you need to make it easy to sprinkle water on regularly to keep dust levels down, to ensure your child doesn’t inhale the particles.
Will you leave a sandpit out all year round?
Some families leave the sandpit out all year, in which case it needs to be durable enough to withstand bad weather, but the size or weight isn’t really an issue. Others prefer to pack it away for the winter, in which case it needs to be fairly portable.
Do you want a ground-level or raised sandpit?
A ground-level sandpit offers the most scope for imaginative play, as your child will be able to sit in it. It will give her more sensory pleasure too – that lovely feeling of sand between your toes. But this means it’s inevitable that some sand will find its way back into your house. A raised table is a less messy alternative, and if you have pets, then they won’t climb in as often either. However, the fixed height of the table will mean it’s at the perfect level for play for a shorter time period.
How else could your toddler use a sandpit?
Think about how your child will use the sandpit in other ways. For example, if it has a lid, then will that make a good surface for playing with cars? Or are the sides substantial enough for your youngster to use as a bench?
Should you a choose wood or plastic sandpit?
Wood often looks better in the garden than plastic, but it requires more maintenance to keep it solid and looking good. Plastic sandpits can lose their colour and crack, so look for one with a guarantee against this.
Are you good at DIY?
Some sandpits are fiddly to assemble, so if you don’t have the patience for this, pick one that’s pre-made or simple to put together.
We've tested six toddler sandpits - click through below to read our reviews in full.