Written by Terry Smith

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UK’s best garden sand pits for children aged 2 to 11: Little Tikes, Chad Valley, KidKraft

This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 6:44 am

Who doesn’t remember playing in a sand pit when they were young? I can still clearly recall the shape and colour of the one from my early primary school days, and that was longer ago than I care to admit. In fact, I remember that we had to do different activities each afternoon and was always over the moon on the days we got picked to play in the sand pit. So that’s exactly what I thought best when I bought my Niece their first sandpit, and I have to say they really got some good use out of it. I didn’t go for the most expensive, I wen’t for the best and most robust, stuff always gets wrecked in the garden with kids, but with that said I still think the one we personally bought and used is the best sand pit for toddlers:

Chad Valley Sand Pit – Tested by myself and my Niece Darcey and she confirms it’s the best for toddlers 😉

TOP TIP: From years of being a father, watching the kids with a sand pit has been a pleasure. However, in the heat ofthe day they don’t want to come in so be sure to have suncream on hand or a shade sail for cover or their skin will burn. I know from personal experience.

As you can see they absolutely love it but there are a few pitfalls. I’d highly recommend a read on my things to consider before buying a garden sand pit section. From cats to covers to burnt skin to broken sand pits I have run through what you can expect in your time owning a sand pit – I know all too well from experience both the positives and the negatives! So let’s take a look at the best sand pits overview:

Best sand pit – my personal picks from testing with my niece:

Best overall: Chad Valley Sand Pit – can be used as a paddling pool too ideal for 1 to 6 year olds. [personally tested and proven]

Alternative to the top pick: Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox – Nice choice if you want a cover to keep cats out and great for toddlers [personally tested and proven]

Best sand pit raised off the ground: Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table – ideal if you want a raised platform

Dino Sand Kit 3lbs Dinosaur Motion Sand With Sandbox Moulds Tools Creative Toys for Boys Girls Ages 3+ Amazing for kids aged 3 to 11 and especially kids into dinosaurs and fossils. An absolute dream! [personally tested and proven]

Best sand pit with a sun cover: Gaspo 310016 – wooden sandbox Mickey 140 x 140 cm with a roof that can be lowered roof/crank roof – Good choice if you want some sun cover – saves the need for a shade sail.

Best of the best sand pits: KidKraft 128 Pirate Sandboat Wooden Outdoor Garden Sandbox for Children – if you can afford it the kids will absolutely love it.

Budget pick: Kenlaimi Construction Moving Sand Kit Play Sand for Kids – Construction Vehicle Playset – currently unavailable but if you’re willing to wait this is a steal

Other options worth considering:

Plum Store It Wooden Sand Pit

Sand and Water Fold-away Play Table

If you’re looking to make the garden more kid friendly, a nice sandbox accompany a playhouse, climbing frame, garden swimming pool, and a slide brilliantly.

Best garden sand pit

By having the best sand pit in your garden, you’re essentially bringing the beach to you kids right there at home. They can get creative and build sand castles, or just enjoy making a mess! 
Playing in sand pits helps young children develop motor and social skills in a really fun way. They are low maintenance (apart from topping up the sand) and kids never seem to get bored with them.

There are all kinds of different sand pits these days, from small table top sand pits, to large models, complete with their own theme and able to accommodate multiple kids playing inside at the same time.
In this article we take a closer look at a number of the most popular sand pits in the UK to find out which are the best among them. We have tried to review a fairly large selection of them so there is something for everyone’s tastes and budget.

They advertise the Chad Valley as a pool before a sandpit. After personally testing this I can tell you that works even more in the sand pit’s advantage as the plastic was far more durable and far less flimsy when compared to some of the cheaper sand pits available. When You look at the cost, it seems up there for a basic sand pit but when you finally get your hands on it, the first thing I realised, and you will too, is that the Chad Valley sand it is properly robust and actually very good value. And that’ll be even more surprising when you pick it up for the first time because it is really light – moving it is no problem at all.

Chad Valley Sand Pit – hours of fun

In terms of age range this is absolutely ideal for 1 to 6 year olds, probably best suited to 2-3 year olds, the age of my younger Niece. The older one is 7 and she still enjoyed playing with her sister but I feel it’s too small for her. They played nicely together for hours.

With regards to the strength – I would personally only drag this if full of sand, lifting it as we tried will bend it a bit and we didn’t want to risk breaking it – this is pretty much the same as it’s direct competitor the Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox so not like a design fault or anything, it is what it is. The construction of the rim is very good – they have bolstered this section and means when you or your older children are playing, when they lean over, they won’t break the rim – something I have unfortunately done on a cheaper version before!

We put in a few bags of play sand. This was nice and soft. Don’t forget to buy spades and buckets too.

Having a sand pit that doubles as a paddling pool was great. We took full advantage when the sun warmed up. The best thing I think about this sand pit is the fact that two years later my sister still has it and I expect they are going to get another couple of years no problem.

All in all, the Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox looks much nicer for the money but I prefer this, I wouldn’t blame you for taking the Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox when all is compared though as that offers more and the cover is a big deal, especially for those with unwanted guests in the garden – cat’s are a real problem and you need to keep your sand covered.

2. Dino Sand Kit 3lbs Dinosaur Motion Sand With Sandbox Moulds Tools Creative Toys for Boys Girls Ages 3+

If you’ve got kids over 3 years old, and you want a fun way to let their creativity develop, Kiddos land’s Dino sand box could be just the thing for you.

This compact and portable sand pit comes with everything your kids could need to have a wonderful sand based playtime, including 3lbs of sand. Whilst this isn’t a pit, I just couldn’t ignore it as my son loves dinosaurs. This is the best comparison and direct competitor to the Kenlaimi which is by far the best budget pick.

You do get a fold up sand box which is exactly like a pit though. Here’s a look at some of the tools and inclusions close up:

Dino Sand Kit – you get loads of cool stuff for a kid that wants to be a palaeontologist

This is a dinosaur themed sand pit kit, and so Kiddos Land have thrown in a few ‘dino’ accessories. Included in the box are 12 colourful, plastic dinosaur toys, 10 small dinosaur moulds, and one large dinosaur skeleton mould. In addition to these, you’ll also get 6 miniature plants, 5 plastic knives, 1 mini trowel, a sand roller, and a cleaning tool. All this for between 20-25 pounds is a good deal.

This isn’t your ordinary kind of sand though. The ‘magic sand’ that comes as part of this kit has been specially formulated to give it a plasticity that makes it a kind of half way between sand and plasticine. This makes it much easier for children to shape it and even lets them engrave patterns into it without it falling apart instantly. However I find the advertising pictures to be very misleading – there isn’t nearly that much sand – don’t get me wrong it’s a fantastic kit but we need truth – here’s a look at how much sand you really get:

Dino Sand Kit – multiple bags of sand – this is more realistic look at what you actually get from personally owning this.

This magic sand compound is completely safe, non-toxic, and eco-friendly. It doesn’t stick to your hands, and best of all, it makes it’s really easy to clean up.

The sand pit itself measures 29 x 19 x 15.5 cm and is made of oxford cloth, so can be easily folded down into something you can carry in one hand. The material is flexible, yet strong and durable at the same time.

This is an ideal sand pit for when there is a lack of space, can be used indoors without any fuss, and if your child because a bit attached to his or her new favourite toy, it is easy enough to take it with you on your travels.

There is no cover for this sand box, but any waterproof plastic sheet should do the trick and they’re not hard to find or expensive.

This kit contains many small plastic pieces and so it isn’t suitable for toddlers, but children over the age of three will love it and get hours and hors of fun out of it.

This 5 star rated, best-selling sand box is definitely one of the best out there for toddlers, combining great looks with a practical design to match. I would say this is the best garden sand pit in my opinion. When I first reviewed this was a couple of years ago. When you look at the product now it has aged really well. Here’s a look at two years on:

Little tikes Turtle Sandbox – two years after first bought

Now before I continue with the review I want to talk about what I have found from owning this. The quality of plastic has ben superb. After we cleaned this up it looked pretty good and this can easily do another couple of summers but it wasn’t without fault and I’ll get to that after this picture:

Little tikes Turtle Sandbox – still in good condition inside

My kids are not like my sister’s Niece’s – they are heavy on their toys and many of them break. I am glad to say that after two years of what can only be described as abuse, this has held up really well with exception of the lid cracking where one of them literally jumped on it – obviously not designed for that and in no way a fault of the product. You will be hard pressed to find a sand pit at this money that can take this much of a beating when compared:

Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox – couple of crack from my kids jumping on the roof cover

Your little one will love this sand pits smiling turtle design, with its large patterned shell on top. But the true fun begins once they remove that shell and find a good sized area to play in.

To prevent sand getting in places you don’t want it, Little tikes have designed the front flippers of the turtle to double up as seats, so your child can have their feet in the sand without having to sit in it.

They also have the option to sit along the sides of the sand pit, as the plastic used in its construction is very thick and strong and more than capable of holding a toddlers weight.

And while we are on the topic of holding weight, I though I’d mention that the Little Tikes Turtle sand pit can hold up to 68kg of sand, so even if your little monkeys throw a few handfuls here and there, there’ll still be plenty left to play with.

When playtime is over, or it starts to rain, replacing the turtle’s shell will act as an excellent rain cover and also stop debris blowing in, but it doesn’t clip on so you’ll have to find a way to secure it.
I’ve nothing bad to say about the Little Tikes Turtle sandbox, it’s durable, practical, and kid’s love it. Without a doubt one of the best kid’s sand pits out there.

Made in the USA and Canada out of strong polyethylene plastic, the Naturally Playful Sand table by Step2 is sand pit you can rely on for years to come.

This sand it arrives in very few parts, and only needs you to insert the legs into the main sand pit to complete assembly. This, however, takes quite a bit of force but with a bit of help from my wife we got them all in, and once inserted the table was rock solid and sturdy.

You can fill the Naturally Playful sand pit with just over 18kg of sand, and its 91.4 x 66 x 41.6 cm dimensions mean that your child, children, and their friends can enjoy playing together.

The fact that this product stands off the floor means that it can be used on days when the ground is cold or damp and you don’t want your children sitting on the floor. It is a great height for toddlers but might be too low for older children though, then again, they could still enjoy it if they sat on a low stool.

Step2 have included a sand bucket, two claw rakes, and two shovels in the box. They’re all made out of thick plastic, but these were made in China and not North America like the main table, so take that as you will. To me, they felt fairly durable though, and these toys are easily replaced anyway.

To keep stray cats from leaving little stinky ‘gifts’ in the sand pit, there is a thick plastic cover that fastens down using elasticated strings. It’s a little fiddly at first, but you soon get the hang of it. I don’t know how waterproof it would be as we didn’t get to test it, but putting a second tarpaulin cover would probably be a good idea in the rain.

The top of the lid has been carved so that it has a pattern resembling a road and roundabout for your kids to play with their toy cars on too.

All in all, a solid and durable toddlers sand pit, made from high quality materials.

5. Gaspo 310016 - wooden sandbox Mickey 140 x 140 cm with a roof that can be lowered roof/crank roof

The Gaspo wooden sand pit aims to offer a solution to two of the biggest problems with these products, and does so in an innovative, yet still practical way.

The problems I’m referring to are: 
1. Keeping the sand pit clean and stopping ran from getting in.
2. Stopping your children from getting too much sun while they play in the sand pit.

How Gaspo have decided to tackle this, is to give their sand pit a height adjustable roof that can provide lots of shade and shelter from the sun and act as a lid to seal the contents of the pit away from the less pleasant weather.

The adjustment of the roof is done via a crank system and for the most part it worked well when raising it. However, to lower it down to the bottom I needed someone to help by applying a little downward pressure on it while I worked the crank.

This square shaped sand pit measures 140 x 140cm, giving your kids lots of room to play with their siblings or friends, and wide edges of the pit can be used as seats if they don’t want to sit in the sand.

With the majority of this product is made from good quality pine wood, it has a nice, natural, clean cut, look that would go well with any other garden furniture or ornaments and is certainly no eyesore. 
The pine has the added effect of making this sand pit fairly sturdy as long as you assemble the parts properly which is no huge task. I will note that you will need to buy a plastic membrane to go in the pit separately as there wasn’t one included in the box. 
Another thing to be aware of is that that this is fairly large as sand pits go, so be prepared to buy a lot of sand to fill it.

This isn’t a perfect product, and the roof can be a bit fiddly to operate at times, but it is still a really good kid’s sand pit for your garden. It looks great, and once you get use to the roof mechanism, you’ll be happy with it as it will keep out animals, debris, and the weather.

Ahoy there! 
As if sand pits weren’t enough fun, Kidkraft have added a whole other dimension to your kid’s playtime by giving their product a pirate ship theme. Before we get going here’s a look at this – wonderful sand pit:

 

When I first saw the photo of what this pirate ship sand pit was supposed to look like, I thought putting the pieces together was going to be a right pain, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong. With the help of a friend we had this thing up and ready to be used in about 2 hours. So, not bad really.

Once fully assembled the Kidkraft sand pit measured 199 x 112 x 151cm, so be sure that you have plenty of space in your garden if you’re considering buying this model.

The quality of the wooden components is actually pretty good, with thick planks used for the benches and other important parts. I wasn’t so fussed about the plastic edges that go over the sides though as I felt they had too much play in them, and I would replace the mesh cover that comes with the sand pit with a better one. 
To keep the sun out of your child’s faces while they play, there is a canopy shade that resembles a ship’s sale. This is plastic, as are the poles supporting it, but they all feel much better quality than the red pieces that cover the edges that we just mentioned.

the best thing about this sand pit is the shape and overall look. It really does resemble a pirate ship, complete with a turning steering wheel, angled front end, flagpole and flag, and other little touches like pictures of parrots and skull and cross bones. All of this is sure to excite the imagination of any child.

There are some other nice little touches that I liked, such as the hidden storage places under the bench seats where you can keep toys like plastic swords or pirate hats, or maybe even fake treasure.

I am happy with the build quality of the vast majority of the sand pit, but just felt a little let down by the poor cover and a couple of plastic parts, having said that, these small flaws can’t take away from this being a great sand pit that kids absolutely love to play with.

If you decide this is out of the price range then here is a really good video to build one that I am certain the kids will love and will cost a fraction:

It’s really not difficult to build one that isn’t quite so grand either:

Make your own pirate sandpit easily

This is another ‘magic sand’ type of kit like the Kiddos Land Dinosaur themed sand pit, only this time the focus is on construction.
While Kiddos Land called theirs ‘magic sand’ Kenlaimi have named theirs ‘moving sand’, but for all intents and purposes it’s pretty much the same thing.
that means that the sand is non sticky, doesn’t dry out, and is much easier to mould and build structures with than regular sand.
This 20.8 x 24 x 8.9cm foldable, and portable sand pit comes with a whole host of accessories designed to keep your kids playing away for hours upon hours.

In addition to the 2lbs of special sand, your child also gets a selection of mini construction truck toys such as a bulldozer and dumper truck. There’s even a pull back and go truck that is was definitely a winner with my nephew when he came to play with this set.
Now, when I say these toys are ‘mini’ I mean it, so don’t be expecting normal sized toy cars and accessories or you’ll be disappointed.

Then there are 10 toy road signs and 2 small plastic coconut trees as well as selection of moulds in various shapes and sizes. One thing I liked about the ‘castle’ shaped moulds was that they left a brick style pattern on them , which I thought was a nice little touch and made the sad castles look pretty cool.
Your little construction workers will have their own set of tools to play with too, such as a spade, roller, and different sized plastic knives for engraving and carving their sand sculptures.

One thing I will mention, is that the 2lbs of moving sand that you get with the kit isn’t really enough, and I would recommend buying some more if you’re interested in this product, but that goes for the Dinosaur themed sand box we reviewed earlier too.

Ok, I’m going to start with the only real negative aspect of this otherwise great kid’s sand pit: putting it together. I don’t know if it was just the one that we got, but quite a few of the holes just didn’t align properly, and so we had to get out the trusty Hand drill and make the necessary modifications ourselves. Since I first reviewed this, someone kindly put a video together showing how to put up a similar model – I would highly recommend taking a look to see what difficulty level you’re up against:

Now, this wasn’t the hardest thing in the world to do, and for the low price you do kind of expect something like this, but it was annoying and so I’ve marked down this product a point for it.
Apart from that though, this sand pit offers the buyer a great product at a very reasonable price.
Often with cheaper wooden sand pits, the wood is low quality and splinters easily, which is obviously a big no-no for a child’s play area.

The FSC certified wood on this Plum Store sand pit is much better than expected, with a nice smooth finish and even rounded corners for safety purposes.

The pit comes with a free ground sheet and protective cover that are not the best I’ve ever seen, but aren’t terrible as long as you make a few adjustments yourself like fixing the cover sheet down some kind of clips or fasteners.

At 102 long and 96cm wide, there’s more than enough room for 2-3 children to play inside without feeling cramped, and the 15cm high sides should be enough to keep the sand inside the pit where it should be and not all over your lawn.

At one end of this square sand pit is a large bench seat that doubles up as a toy storage area. The bench is brightly coloured and matches the corner pieces of the pit and it works well. The space under the bench is a decent size and will allow for quite a few balls, plastic spades, and other toys to be kept in there.

The Plum Store wooden sand pit is a decent product that is let down slightly by a few silly little things that could be easily rectified by the company. They have done well to give a low budget sand pit such good quality wood, but have scrimped on the cover material and quality control of the pre-drilled holes.
All been said though, it is a decent sand pit for the price.

For around the same price as the Plum Store wooden sand pit you have the option of going for this sand and water fold away table that is a wonderful gift for toddlers.

This is great for when free space is an issue as the table folds down to a really compact shape and size making it really easy to store away.

The folding sides also have another purpose. They can be used as shelves to store toys, or even to be filled with water, although they didn’t seem to be the strongest things in the world so I would not overfill them.

This free standing sand pit comes with 6 different accessories that have been designed to be interchangeable so your child can have fun arranging and rearranging as he or she sees fit. Some of these accessories are interactive too like the one that can be tilted to pour sand, or the one that lets water run through holes in the bottom.

They’re simple things, but that’s the kind of thing that children love.
This is a completely plastic construction that is an absolute doddle to set up and disassemble if needed. The legs can be removed in seconds when it’s time to pack the toy away, and most of the main parts are held together by plastic screws.

It is very lightweight when empty, weighing not much over two and a half kilograms, but once filled with sand it becomes a lot more stable.
As mentioned, when folded, the Mookie sand and water table is very compact, but once unfolded it actually gives you a fairly large area to play with measuring 96.5 x 41.5 x 58 cm.

Because of the plastic parts, this sand pit isn’t recommended for children under the age of 18 months, and might be too small and lightweight for older kids who tend to play rougher. However, it is an ideal, and incredibly fun sand pit for toddlers who will love the colours and accessories.

Things to consider before buying a garden sand pit – best guide

On the lookout for the best sand pit for your kids? The most important thing to remember is a bucket and spade to build sand castles:

Well, here are a few things to keep in mind when searching through the vast number of models available:

Size and shape

There are hundreds of different sand pits out there, each with their own dimensions and shapes. The first thing you need to know, is how much space can you spare in your garden for your sand pit? Buying a huge one if you’ve only git a small garden is not a good idea.

Likewise, you don’t want a tiny and pit if you intend to let multiple children play in there at the same time.
If you are buying a sand pit for a toddler, you need to be aware of the shape of the sand pit too. Does it have sharp edges and corners or rounded ones? Are the sides high enough to keep the child from falling out? These and many other questions should be contemplated before buying.

Weather protection

If your child is going to be playing outside in the sand pit for long periods of time, you will need to make sure there is some kind of shade available. Whether that is from an independent source like a tree or whether you want to buy a sand pit with a canopy is completely up to you, but it is something to keep in mind.

Also, to stop rain getting in the sand pit, you should either choose a model with a good cover that can be fixed down, or invest in a separate waterproof cover.

Material

Durability is always high on the agenda when I’m looking for any kind of product, and sand pits are no different.

Wooden sand pits can last for years of the wood is good quality, and you take care of it with a little maintenance every now and then. Just a coat of wood stain or something similar will do, and it will prolong the life of the sand pit for quite a long time.

Plastic sand pits tend to be cheaper, and also not as durable, but there are some that are constructed out of high grade plastics like polyethylene which are very strong and sturdy. Cheap plastic products are usually not that great though and the thin plastic used can break easily. Then again, the same can be said for cheap wood which can splinter and hurt your child and that’s why it’s always best to pay a little extra for your kid’s sand pit.


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message: info@gardentoolbox.co.uk

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