Toddler and preschoolers love playing with sand – and it can be great for their physical development and early learning skills.

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All that pouring and moulding and raking helps tune hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills but there's more to it than that: because playing with sand is such a sensory experience, it also supports brain development in ways that other types of play may not. Ruth Lue-Quee, founder of My Mummy Teacher, explains: "Children are more likely to retain learning done in a multi-sensory way and playing with sand, specifically, is great for developing early maths concepts such as capacity and volume (how much sand can a container hold? which will hold the most?) and early science concepts, such as cause and effect (what happens when the sand gets wet? how does it change?").

Of course, sandpits (and beaches) are brilliant places for sand play but not everyone has room for a sandpit at home or time for a trip to the playground (or beach). And sandpits can be, well, a bit of a full-body experience – with your child emerging from the 'pit' with sand clinging to their child's legs, clothes, shoes, hair, everything!

A sand table, by contrast, brings the sand play up off the ground and contains it in a smaller space – meaning you can put it on the patio, or even on the kitchen floor with a big plastic mat underneath. Sand tables also tend to have lots of great built-in features or add-on accessories that boost the scope – and fun – of the sand play your child can enjoy. And many of them are divided into 2 (or more) separated sections, so you can combine (or alternate) the sand play with some water play, too.

We've tested and rated dozens of sand tables to select our top 10, in a range of prices, styles and sizes, so you can choose the ones that suit your child best...

Best sand tables at a glance

  • Best sand table for toddlers: Chad Valley Sand & Water Table, £40
  • Best sand table for staying out of the sun: Step2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table, £124.99
  • Best budget sand table: TP Toys Ecoiffier Sand and Water Table, £24.99
  • Best sand table for imaginary play: CAT Sand and Water Table, £41
  • Best sand table for multiple kids: Plum Play Sand & Picnic Table, £139.99
  • Best sand table for storage/portability: Mookie Sand & Water Fold-Away Play Table, £49.99
  • Best sand table for doubling as an art table: Dolu 3-in-1 Unicorn Themed Sand and Water Table, £59.99
  • Best sand table for a split lid: Early Learning Centre Sand and Water Table, £89.99
  • Best sand table for a separate water table: Plum Play Sandy Bay Wooden Sand & Water Table, £139.99
  • Best sand table for big sand area: Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table, £80

What to look for when choosing a sand table

Age suitability and size – Height of the sand table is a key consideration because you want your child to be able to reach the play area with comfort (and usually when standing up). This is usually factored in to the age suitability indication from the manufacturer but it's worth checking by looking at the products specifications. It's also wise to check the specs for the table's overall width and depth, especially if your outside space is restricted.

Accessories – Some sand tables come with loads of accessories for sand play, such as buckets and spades and moulds and sand mills; others (often the more expensive models, funnily enough) don't come with any accessories. Always make sure you know what you're getting for your money – the picture on the retail site may include accessories that aren't included or which you need to pay for separately.

Lid – Sand tables that come with lids mean you don't need to bring it in when the weather's looking bad. Think about how much difference it would make to you to have a model with a lid. The best lids have ties to keep them securely on.

Materials and assembly – Plastic sand tables are cheaper, lighter and easier to put together; wooden sand tables are pricier, sturdier, more eco-friendly and take time to assemble and maintain.

Sectioned or non-sectioned – A lot of sand tables are divided in 2, to give your child 1 area for sand play and another for water play. Is this an option that appeals to you? Or would you prefer a sand table with a single section that you can fill just with sand?.

Drainage plug – Sand tables with drainage plugs are easier to empty (of water as well as sand). Without a drainage plug, you'll need to tip the table up and over to empty it. This may not be an issue with a small, light plastic table but it could be problematic with a bigger table, especially if it's made of wood.

Here’s our pick of the best sand tables for kids

1. Chad Valley Sand & Water Table, £40

– Best for toddlers

Little girl tester playing with Chad Valley sand and water table

Age: 18 months+ | Size: L53cm x W53cm x H70cm (with funnel waterfall) | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Weight: 6.3kg | Accessories: 2 moulds, rake, scoop, 2 boats | Capacity: 15.2kg (7.6kg on each side) | Drainage plug: Yes | Assembly: Very simple (snap-in table legs)

The dinky little plastic sand table is divided in 2, with a colourful funnel waterfall feature you can place in various positions along the central divider. When your child pours sand – or water – in the red bit at the top, it'll cascade down through little holes to spin the yellow seahorse or 3 spinning wheels on the other side (not visible in our picture).

The table can hold 7.6kg of sand in each section and comes with a drainage plug for easy emptying, a nice collection of sand-play/water-play accessories and a lid to protect the sand from weather, insects and debris. It's quick to assemble – you just snap in the legs, which can then be detached again if you need to put it away/store it.

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Katie, mum of our child tester, Lucy, 2 (pictured above) was impressed by this table's compactness, its toddler-friendly height and how neatly the accessories (including the fun waterfall) can be stowed inside it after play's finished. "It comes with lots of toys that pack in well," she said, "and it's easy to empty out the sand. The lid fits well but is maybe a little flimsy to use as a table surface for drawing on."

Pros: Good value, compact size, good accessories, drainage plug, comes with a cover, legs detach for storage
Cons: Cover not suitable as drawing-table surface

Available from: Argos

2. Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table, £124.99

– Best for staying out of the sun

Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand Water Table

Age: 18 months+ | Size: L58cm x W61cm x H108cm (with umbrella) | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Weight: 8.9kg | Accessories: Canopy, spade, bucket, 2 boats, 2 mini-bridges | Capacity: 45kg | Drainage plug: Yes | Assembly: Simple (requires screwdriver)

This larger, higher sand table comes with a lid and a removable sun canopy, so your child get some protection from the sun on a bright day. It's sturdy, chunky and split down the middle, so you can opt for water on 1 sides if you like. The divider and the sides have moulded roadways for vehicle play and 1 of the sections has a moulded 'island' in the middle, with slot-in anchor points for the mini-bridge accessories that come with the table, so you child can make some over-the-sand pathways, too.

As well as the bridge accessories, it table comes with bucket and spade and 2 little boats. Each section of the table has its own drainage plug, and the lid has elasticated tie-downs at each end, which we particularly rate for keeping everything super-weather-tight. It's easy to assemble, with mostly slot-together pieces but you'll need a screwdriver to secure the legs in place.

Pros: Tight-fitting lid, drainage plugs, good accessories
Cons: Pricey, may be too large for some gardens, doesn't fold/tricky to store

Available from: Amazon, Step 2 and Wayfair

3. Ecoiffier Sand and Water Table, £24.99

– Best budget buy

TP Toys Ecoiffier Sand and Water Table

Age: 18 months+ | Size: L50cm x W37m x H66cm (with mill)| Material: Plastic | Cover: No | Weight: 1.91kg| Accessories: Sieve, sand mill, spade, rake, bucket, watering can and sand moulds | Capacity: Not specified | Drainage plug: No | Assembly: Very simple (slots together)

This great-value, vibrantly coloured sand table has 2 little sections for sand (or water) at either end and then a bigger, deeper central section that can be covered with a yellow activity tray with sieve sections at the front, a play cannon at the back and a slot in the middle into which you can slot the red sand mill.

It comes with a good set of accessories, including moulds, spade, bucket and pourer/watering can, but there's really a fairly limited space sand (the packaging doesn't specify the container capacity but we'd say this table needs the least sand of all the tables in our selection). It also it doesn't have a cover or a drainage plug, Saying that, this table is pretty small and light, so tipping it up to empty it isn't as difficult as it would be with other bigger, heavier tables.

It's easy to assemble, with slot-in legs, and all the accessories, apart from the sand mill, fit neatly into the central section for storage.

Pros: Great value, good accessories, compact size
Cons: Small, doesn't hold much sand, no drainage plug, no cover

Available from: TP Toys, ManoMano and Amazon

4. CAT Sand and Water Play Table, £41

– Best for imaginary play

CAT Sand and Water Play Table

Age: 18 months+ | Size: L67cm x W48cm x H40cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: No | Weight: 1.7kg | Accessories: Dumper truck, 2 pipes, 1 pipe plug, 1 water plug | Capacity: Not specified | Drainage plug: No | Assembly: Very easy (slot together)

This little construction-themed sand table has a movable scooping digger arm, traffic cone legs, 2 pipes for dumping sand (or water) down and a little dumper truck – so the stage is truly set for some sandy excavation adventures.

As it has 2 separate, removable sections, with a little bridge for the dumper truck in the middle, so you can put sand in 1 section and water in the other. There's also a water-plug accessory that allows you to dam, and un-dam, the water. There's limited space for sand (the packaging doesn't specify the container capacity) but the sections are reasonably deep, so it doesn't feel like you're skimping on play value.

There are no drainage plugs and there's no cover, and this table sits really low to the ground – even a younger toddler might need a little chair to sit on when playing diggers on this one. It's easy to assemble, with slot-in legs,

Pros: Great accessories, themed design, compact size
Cons: No drainage plugs, no cover, low to the ground

Available from: Amazon

5. Plum Play Sand & Picnic Table, £139.99

– Best for multiple kids

Plum Wooden Sand and Picnic Table

Age: 3+ | Size: L106cm x W89cm x H49cm | Material: Wood | Cover: Yes | Weight: 12kg | Accessories: None | Capacity: 15kg to 30kg | Drainage plug: No | Assembly: Takes time (1 or 2 hours)

This sturdy, wooden bench-style sand table is great for siblings or up to 4 friends who want to play together, as the container for the sand stretches along the whole length of the bench, offering each child their own little patch to play in.

The sand container is lined and 10cm deep, so you can get a fair amount of sand in, and you can cover the whole thing with a wooden lid that converts the table into a very serviceable picnic bench. There is no drainage plug, however, and no accessories are included.

The wood is FCS-certified timber with rounded corners for added safety, and the lid does fit nice and tightly – though you may want to put a little plastic cover over the sand first, just to keep any moisture off in damp or rainy weather. The table is not as high from the ground as it might look from the picture but, as it's designed for sand play while sitting on the bench, it's actually a good height for preschoolers.

This is a sand table that arrives flat-packed, which means you're going to have to set aside an hour or 2 for assembly. You may also want to add a coat of paint or wood varnish for extra weather-proofing.

Pros: Doubles as a picnic bench, sturdy, sustainable materials, cover included
Cons: Pricey, no drainage plug, no accessories, not suitable for smaller toddlers, needs assembly time

Available from: Robert Dyas, Argos, Amazon and Plum

6. Mookie Sand & Water Fold-Away Play Table, £49.99

– Best for storage/portability

Mookie Sand & Water Fold-Away Play Table

Age: 3+ | Size: L96cm x W41cm x H58cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Weight: 2.6kg | Accessories: Spade, fork, attachable sieve, attachable tipper bucket | Capacity: Not specified | Drainage plug: No | Assembly: Simple

This reasonably large and quite high sand table can fold right up into a briefcase size and has a carry handle to make it even more portable. Do be warned that you'll need to unscrew 4 bolts to do this, though – it's not just a case of a simple hinge fold.

It has a reasonably big central sand tray section (the packaging doesn't specify its capacity but we didn't find it at all stingy) and 2 trays on either side that can be opened up separately and also removed. The trays have gently rounded bases so will hold a little sand or water but don't put more than a sprinkling in, as they won't take the weight of more.

It comes with a nice set of accessories, including a sieve and tipper bucket on bendy arms that you can place in a couple of different places on the edge of the central tray.

It's simple to assemble: the bolts screw in quite easily.

Pros: Portable, reasonably large, good accessories, side trays become covers
Cons: No drainage plug, side trays quite flimsy, not a simple hinge fold, not suitable for young toddlers

Available from: Amazon and Booghe

7. Dolu 3-in-1 Unicorn Themed Activity Sand and Water Table with Lid, £59.99

– Best for doubling as an art table

Dolu 3-in-1 Unicorn Themed Activity Sand and Water Table with Lid

Age: 2+ | Size: L67cm x W47cm x H73cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Weight: 3.7kg | Accessories: 3 crayon pots, 2 sand moulds, 2 boats, sand/water mill | Capacity: Not specified | Drainage plug: Yes | Assembly: Simple

This bright pink and purple (where's the unicorn?!) sand has a really good, close-fitting lid that means, once it's on, the table makes a great, flat table for drawing and other arty projects – especially with the cup holders for paints and crayons that are positioned on each corner.

It's split into 2 sections, so 1 can be filled with water if your child prefers, and the sand/water areas are nice and deep (the packaging doesn't specify its capacity but it felt quite generous to us). The sand/water mill can be placed in 3 different positions on the central divider, and the turtle sand moulds and little sailboats are really chunky, nicely designed accessories. Don't be worried by the height spec: that's the measurement with the sand/water mill in place – though your toddler may need to stretch to pour sand/water into the mill, the table itself is a good height for a 2 to 4 year old.

This table has drainage plugs in both sections. Assembly is an easy slot-together job. Also available in Blue & Red.

Pros: Doubles as an art table, close-fitting lid, compact size, drainage plugs, good accessories
Cons: Not suitable for young toddlers

Available from: Amazon, The Entertainer and Early Learning Centre

8. Early Learning Centre Sand And Water Table, £89.99

– Best for a split lid

Early Learning Centre Sand And Water Table pink with tester

Age: 18 months+ | Size: H68cm x W68cm x H42cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Weight: 5kg | | Accessories: Rake, spade, boat, scoop, slot-in funnels, wheels | Capacity: 10kg | Drainage plug: Yes | Assembly: Very simple

This nicely sturdy toddler sand table is divided into 2, so your child can play with both sand and water and, ingeniously, its lid not only has a moulded car track on top, it can be split in half, so that you can keep one half of the table covered and the other open for play. Do note, though, that only 1 section has a drainage plug, so if you're opting for water play, make sure you use that one because the other one only has a 'blocker' designed stop sand trickling out of the hole.

You get a lot of great accessories with this table, including some really nice spinning wheels and funnels.

Once both sections of the lid are on and connected, it's definitely waterproof but maybe not completely water-tight. Liz, mum of our child tester Sophie, 13 months (pictured, above) said, "It's a perfect height for my daughter (she is on the tall side) and she stands and plays independently with it. I like all the toys, especially the ones that slot in and it's nice that the cover doubles as a race track."

The legs just slot in for easy assembly out of the box. Also available in pink.

Pros: Cover splits, good size, excellent accessories, drainage plug
Cons: Drainage plug only on 1 side, cover not completely watertight

Available from: Early Learning Centre, The Entertainer and Amazon

9. Plum Play Sandy Bay Wooden Sand & Water Table, £139.99

– Best for separate water table

Plum play sandy bay

Age: 18 months+ | Size: L63cm x W67cm x H60cm (water table: L50cm x W49cm x H47cm) | Material: Wood | Cover: Yes | Weight: 13kg | Accessories: None | Capacity: 20kg (combined) | Drainage plug: No | Assembly: Takes time (1 to 2 hours)

This good-sized sand table has a separate matching water table that fits underneath it when not in use. Both tables are super-sturdy, with smooth corners and made from FSC-certified timber.

The sand table is lined and a generous size and depth, though it may be a little on the high side for the smallest toddlers; the smaller water table is also lined, which makes drying it out easier, but we did think the lining was a little on the thin side for continued use by excited young children.

Neither table has a drainage plug and there are no accessories included but it does come with a good cover.

Both tables come flat-packed, which means you're going to have to set aside a good hour for assembly. You may also want to add a coat of paint or wood varnish for extra weather-proofing.

Pros: Sturdy, sustainable materials, good size, stacks for tidy storage, comes with a cover
Cons: Pricey, possibly too high for very small toddlers, no drainage plug, no accessories, take time to assemble

Available from: Amazon, Scandiborn, Argos and Plum

10. Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table, £80

– Best for big sand area

Step 2 Naturally playful sand table

Age: 2+ | Size: L66cm x W91cm x H42cm | Material: Plastic | Cover: Yes | Weight: 7.9kg | Accessories: 2 shovels, 2 scoops, 1 pot | Capacity: 18kg | Drainage plug: Yes | Assembly: Fairly simple

This no-nonense, thick-legged, sturdy sand table is lovely and wide and isn't sectioned up for optional water play, so there's loads of space for sand play. But, while it's wide, it's not super-deep so it doesn't need as much sand as you might think – although obviously we are talking way more sand than some of the smaller, divided sand tables need.

It comes with a small collection of nice accessories and has a great lid with elasticated ties to keep it firmly on and some moulding on the top which could double as a toy vehicle racing track. It also has a drainage plug.

It's easy to assemble, with mostly slot-together pieces but you'll need a screwdriver to secure the legs in place.

Pros: Big sand play area, tight-fitting lid, drainage plug, good accessories
Cons: Width might be an issue in small spaces, no water play section, not suitable for young toddlers

Available from: Amazon, Argos and Activity Toys Direct

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To fill the sand table

Early Learning Centre are selling 20kg of Safe Play Sand for £13, with free delivery.

How did we choose our 10 of the Best?

When testing and selecting these sand tables we considered age suitability, size, materials, features such as covers and lids, and any included accessories.

Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.

Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don’t just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.

About the author

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products for parents, ranging from best sleep aids to best playpens. She has a 1st class Psychology degree and a strong interest in child development.

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Authors

Picture of Chloe Brightwell
Chloe BrightwellDigital Reviews Writer and Coordinator

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.

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