An empty kids sandbox is no more fun or useful than an empty swimming pool! Choosing the right sand for your family’s sandbox will guarantee a summer full of creativity and hands-on learning for both you and the kids. But not just any sand will do if you want to provide a safe experience.
Whether you want to encourage tactile play or engineer-style building, sand offers a wealth of possibilities. You don’t even need toys to have a great time in a sandbox (though investing in some high-quality sand toys is never a bad idea)!
If we had to choose just one, BAHA Play Sand is easily one of the best sands out there for both sandboxes and water tables. It’s responsibly sourced from natural beaches in the Bahamas.
Below are our top picks. You can keep reading to discover even more safe and engaging play sands your kids are sure to love!
|Our Top Pick||Best Overall||Best For Safety Testing||Best Budget Option|
|Name||BAHA Sand||The Safe Sand Company White Playsand||Palmetto Play Sand|
|Key Features||An aragonite play sand sustainably sourced from tropical beaches in the Bahamas.||A high-quality play sand that is thoroughly tested for safety before being delivered to your front door.||This play sand offers a safe and engaging experience without costing a small fortune.|
Other brands we will cover in this article include:
- Classic Sand & Play Premium Grade Play Sand,
- Jurassic Mojave Beige Play Sand
- Pure Play Sand
- Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand
- Quikrete Premium Play Sand
- BE Good Company Natural Sand
- Coastal Bay Caribbean White Play Sand
Best Sand for Sandbox in 2023
Best Kids Sand Overall — BAHA Play Sand
An aragonite play sand sustainably sourced from tropical beaches in the Bahamas.
When selecting a play sand for your child’s sandbox or water table, safety is of the utmost importance. BAHA Play Sand goes one step further by offering a product that is also sustainably sourced.
All BAHA Play Sand is sourced from natural beaches in the Bahamas. It is free of quartz, silica, and doesn’t produce dust.
What truly makes this play sand unique is that it’s made from aragonite. Aragonite sand is smoother and rounder than other types of sand. It is commonly used as an aquarium substrate.
While this play sand is fine enough for molding, it is also easy to brush off when playtime is over. If you’re hesitant about adding an indoor sensory table to your household, this is a great alternative to quartz-based play sand.
Best Safety Testing — The Safe Sand Company White Playsand
A high-quality play sand that is thoroughly tested for safety before being delivered to your front door.
The only thing better than a children’s product that claims to be safe is one that backs up those claims with real data. When it comes to filling your family’s sandbox, The Safe Sand Company White Playsand is a prime example.
The Safe Sand Company offers parents maximum peace of mind by publishing a Material Safety Data Sheet for its play sand products. You can also access test results showing that this play sand is free of lead, asbestos, and crystalline silica dust.
Other key features of this play sand include its natural coloring — neither bleach nor dye is used — and minimal dust even when dry. We recommend this sand for both indoor and outdoor play.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you of this play sand’s quality, you’ll also be keen to hear that The Safe Sand Company White Playsand was named Product of the Year by Creative Child Awards and is Green America-certified.
Best Budget Option — Palmetto Play Sand
This play sand offers a safe and engaging experience without costing a small fortune.
Every sandbox owner knows how quickly a few bags of sand can add up. But Palmetto Play Sand is a budget-friendly way to fill your child’s sandbox without sacrificing peace of mind.
This is a high-quality play sand for both indoor and outdoor use. Every bag is carefully washed and screened to remove pebbles and debris. When wet, the sand is the perfect texture for molding and building.
This play sand has an attractive cream color reminiscent of a tropical beach resort. It produces minimal dust when dry and is free of additives.
Best Beach Play Sand — Classic Sand & Play Premium Grade Play Sand
A natural, non-toxic play sand that is sourced from Florida beaches.
Sand offers so much play potential on its own, you don’t always need to invest in fun colors or textures to provide an engaging experience. Take Classic Sand & Play Premium Grade Play Sand, for example, which lets you bring the natural charm of the beach to your backyard or playroom.
This play sand doesn’t just look like it came from a beach. One of our favorite things about this particular sand is that it’s actually sourced from real beaches in Florida. Before it ends up in your child’s sandbox or play table, however, it’s thoroughly grated and washed. Each bag of sand is entirely non-toxic and free of fillers.
Like any good play sand, this one is soft when dry and extremely pliable when wet. It’s ideal for crafting sandcastles and other tactile activities.
Best Desert Play Sand — Jurassic Mojave Beige Play Sand
A dust-free, colorfast sand that is sourced from North America’s own Mojave Desert.
When it comes to sourcing safe and pure play sand, Jurassic Mojave Beige Play Sand is one of our top choices. As the name implies, this sand is sourced from North America’s Mojave Desert.
Sand from the Mojave region is extremely popular in a number of industries. However, it also bears all of the qualities of a great play sand. The grains are naturally extra-fine and smooth for the best tactile experience possible. This play sand is specifically marketed as safe for allergy and asthma sufferers due to its low dust content.
Unlike dyed sands, this product’s natural color won’t fade even with prolonged sun exposure. Of course, it’s also important to note that this sand is extremely moldable when mixed with water.
On top of being high-quality sand overall, we think this product offers a fun opportunity to teach young children about where natural resources like sand come from. You may just unlock your child’s inner geologist while learning about the Mojave Desert and its most interesting landmarks!
Best Play Sand for Small Projects — Pure Play Sand
An additive-free play sand sold in small bags for indoor sensory tables and craft projects.
You don’t always need 50+ pounds of sand to get the job done. While large bags are excellent for filling backyard sandboxes, Pure Play Sand offers high-quality sand in much smaller volumes.
This sand is carefully grated and washed for the safest play experience possible. It’s also free of additives such as dyes. When wet, Pure Play Sand is ideal for building and molding. However, it gets a bit dusty when completely dry.
We love using this sand — you can purchase 2-, 5-, and 20-pound bags — for indoor sensory tables and various arts and crafts projects. It’s great to be able to incorporate sand play without committing to the cost, storage space, or mess of a standard-sized bag!
Though this product is packaged in Utah, we weren’t able to confirm the source of the sand itself.
Best Non-Quartz Play Sand — Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand
A beautiful play sand made from feldspar rock and carefully tested to meet safety standards.
The vast majority of sand on earth is made primarily of quartz. Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand, however, is made from feldspar rock.
Feldspar is touted as a safer alternative to quartz because it contains less crystallized silica. (Note that feldspar rock is not 100% silica-free.) For parents and caregivers who are wary of exposing children to silica dust in traditional play sand, this product is a great option.
Mineral content aside, there’s plenty to like about this sand. It has a beautiful white color and a great texture that is well-suited to molding. You may notice black specks in this sand but rest assured they are entirely natural and safe.
Another big selling point is that all Sandtastik products are safety-tested at the Duke University School of Medicine and certified by the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) prior to distribution.
Best for Outdoor Sandboxes — Quikrete Premium Play Sand
High-quality play sand from a home improvement brand you already trust.
We don’t recommend using all-purpose sand to fill your child’s sandbox or sensory table. But you may be surprised how many home improvement brands also sell specialty play sand. Quikrete Premium Play Sand is a high-quality option from a trusted brand you’re sure to recognize.
This play sand goes through extra processing to remove pebbles and other debris. It also undergoes careful washing and drying to eliminate organic material, bacteria, and mold found in natural sand.
If you compare this with other Quikrete products, you’ll notice that the sand grains are significantly smoother and smaller. This creates the soft tactile feel and moldability expected of a premium play sand.
Best Colored Play Sand — BE Good Company Natural Sand
An ultra-fine, sanitized play sand that comes in a variety of fun colors.
If you’re sourcing sand for a small craft project or sensory toy, BE Good Company Natural Sand is another good option.
This play sand is grated for an extra-fine texture that both feels great and offers maximal moldability. It’s also fully sanitized to remove bacteria and other contaminants prior to packaging.
This is one of the best play sands that is available in multiple colors. You can purchase the same quality of sand in black, blue, red, and purple. Our only complaint is that you can’t purchase more than 1.5 pounds of sand at a time.
Best All-White Sand — Coastal Bay Caribbean White Play Sand
An all-natural play sand with a beautiful all-white color.
While there’s nothing wrong with sand’s natural color, it can be fun to explore other options. Some colors, like white, can even make it easier to spot debris in your child’s sandbox. If you have a large sandbox or play area to fill, we highly recommend Coastal Bay Caribbean White Play Sand.
This is an all-natural sand with a clean and attractive finish. All bags are carefully washed and screened to remove debris and ensure a consistent grain size.
Why Some Sandbox Sand May Not Be Safe
According to a case study done by Upstate Medical University some commonly used sand for children’s sandboxes may contain tremolite – which is a form of asbestos fibers. Obviously, anything ‘asbestos’ is not something you want anywhere near your kids, let alone finding it in the sand that your kids touch and, potentially, inhale and put in their mouths!
What is even scarier is that these ingredients, according to the study, are usually found in the sand you buy from your local hardware store or even the big box retailers.
BUT – crystalline silica is not an item that parents should be overly concerned with – it is a mineral that is found in many of nature’s natural elements. This item is actually the same silica that you would find on your beaches. The concern with silica is that if it is too fine or too “dusty” it can be inhaled and that is what is concerning.
But even with inhaling of it – in small amounts, it is rarely harmful.
The finer the sand you get the increased risk of your child inhaling the dust that it produces, this is where the danger lies for your child. If you do prefer regular old sand, then make sure you are buying sand that has a larger grain size which typically will have less sand.
Another option is to mildly wet the sand to keep it from becoming too dusty which will prevent your child from inhaling as much as they would if it were dry sand. Of course, this comes with other issues like bacteria or bugs looking for some moisture.
What To Consider When Shopping For Sand for Sandboxes
Play sand typically comes from one of two sources — natural landscapes or mined rock. Both types of sand may be labeled as “natural.” However, some manufacturers label sand from the latter source as “processed.”
One of the biggest differences in sand from either source is its impact on the environment. More often than not, sand sourced from natural areas like beaches or deserts is more sustainable than sand that is mined.
Where sand comes from also goes hand in hand with its mineral makeup. For example, sand sourced from some tropical beaches contains different minerals than sand sourced from an inland mine.
Most play sands are the color of, well… sand. There’s nothing wrong with this and, in many cases, naturally colored sand is quite beautiful! At the same time, other colors may be more engaging for children.
Colored play sands undergo the same screening and washing processes as naturally colored ones. Any dyes used must be non-toxic and child-safe. But some parents still opt for dye-free play sand for even more peace of mind.
While you might not want to invest in colored play sand when filling a large outdoor sandbox, these products can be a fun alternative for things like sensory and water play tables.
Many of the best sandbox choices for kids openly advertise the amount of sand needed to fill them. If you don’t know how much sand you will need for your own project, we strongly suggest measuring your child’s sandbox or sensory table before purchasing any play sand. We’ve explained how to calculate how much sand to buy for a sandbox here!
Why Sandbox Play Is So Important?
Kids are naturally attracted to sandboxes – it is the one place they can get messy, have fun and yet – still be building important life skills. Some of the benefits include:
Motor Skill Improvement
When your child has better motor skills it can decrease their frustrations in being able to do tasks. Building with requires doing things like molding and shaping and during the building process of their sand art they will learn how to be patient and keep hands steady which are all important skills to have.
Eye And Hand Coordination
Building with sand requires the skill of seeing something in your mind and being able to make it happen with sand. They will need to work these skills from ideation to creation and learn how to use their thoughts and eyes to create beautiful works of sand art.
Imagination & Creativity
Sand art is limitless – which means your child can build so many different things. From castles to boats to animals – the sky is the limit. The fact that they can easily finish an item – knock it down and start again on something new are all great reasons to encourage sand play.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Any Safe Alternatives To Play Sand?
Yes, there are several alternatives to play sand that you can use to fill your child’s sandbox. Some of our favorite sand alternatives for sandbox play include rice, pebbles, and dry beans.
Is It Safe to Use All-Purpose Sand in a Sandbox?
No, you should not use all-purpose sand when filling a sandbox or sensory table. All-purpose sand is not subject to the same screening and washing standards as specialty play sand. There’s a chance that all-purpose sand could be contaminated with debris or bacteria that would not be present in properly treated play sand.
Plus, all-purpose sand lacks the fine consistency of play sand that makes that latter so perfect for sensory play, molding, and building!
How Do You Keep Play Sand Clean?
To keep play sand clean be sure to cover your child’s sandbox between uses. This will prevent things like plant debris and animal waste from making their way into the box. Covering your sandbox will also keep the play sand dry and prevent mold from forming.
It’s good practice to occasionally rake or sift play sand to locate and remove pebbles, sticks, and other small pieces of debris that may have been introduced during playtime.
As a general rule of thumb, play sand should be completely replaced every 1 or 2 years. It may be necessary to top up your child’s sandbox in the meantime to maintain a consistent depth.