Updated August 25, 2018 by Taber Koeghan

The 9 Best Sand Tables

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This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in August of 2015. They say there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the world's beaches, but one trip to the sandbox seems to get a galaxy's worth of the stuff stuck in your kid's clothes. Whether in a preschool, at a daycare center, or at home, let your little ones enjoy all the fun of the beach while standing at a sand table that keeps the mess somewhat better contained. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best sand table on Amazon.

9. Wood Designs

8. Hape Happy Trails

7. American Plastic Toys

6. Kids All-in-One Convertible

5. Children's Factory Neptune

4. Step2 Naturally Playful Center

3. Simplay3 Activity

2. Step2 Cascading Cove

1. Little Tikes Garden

Sand Tables: Stimulating Young Minds

This type of play stimulates all the senses, but it really enables children to explore their sense of touch.

At its most basic level, a sand table is a low-sitting structure that holds one or more containers filled with sand. Like a sandbox, you typically load it with items children can use — such as scoops, toy trucks, boats, measuring cups, mini umbrellas, and watering pots — to engage with the sand and other elements in the table.

Many of today’s models are a bit more advanced than a simple box of sand, featuring basins for water and additional play areas. They vary significantly in size and style, but they’re all designed with one primary goal in mind: to encourage hands-on learning and development in children.

Whether you’re preparing a preschool classroom for a new year or decking out a recreation area in the basement or the backyard, a quality sand table can serve as the cornerstone of your operation.

It gives young kids the chance to explore, observe, and experiment — and because their activities allow them to take initiative and make their own decisions, it can help build self-esteem, as well. This type of play stimulates all the senses, but it really enables children to explore their sense of touch.

Through carrying, sifting, molding, and pouring, youngsters develop fine motor skills, improve hand-eye coordination, and cultivate creativity and artistic tendencies. The whole process is constructive — when they struggle to accomplish what they intend to do, they develop emotional strength, while success breeds self-confidence.

The benefits aren’t limited to mental or social skills either; kids can gain knowledge of mathematics and science, as well. Through interactive play, they’ll explore concepts like counting, grouping, and measuring as they familiarize themselves with the basics of experimentation and engineering.

For preschool teachers, a sand table is a valuable classroom asset. You can use it as a tool to teach the skills and concepts listed above, and it's useful for observing students as they interact with both the objects in the box and other children.

Consider The Contents And Design

Before you select a model, assess your specific situation. Will it be indoors or outside? Will it hold water? If inside, how large is the room? If it’s for a classroom, how many children will be using it? How old are they?

A sturdy, durable construction is a must. The frame and legs should be stout enough to prevent a handful of kids pushing and pulling on it from tipping it over. Additionally, try to find a model with rounded edges for safety — if the table harbors a hidden sharp corner or a particularly rough surface, you can be sure a curious, energetic young child will find it.

Though the table will likely include an assortment of ancillary items for children to play with, it’s simple enough to add your own to the mix.

If it's located indoors, some level of messiness is a foregone conclusion, but you’ll make your life easier if you position your table on a tile or wooden floor. Locating your table near a sink will make for a more convenient cleanup process, as well.

If you’re considering models with water tubs, look for one with a valve underneath for efficiently emptying liquids. A table with casters or wheels is ideal for those of you who know you’ll want to move it around frequently.

If teaching is your primary goal, make sure to go with a table that’s designed to help kids reach specific learning milestones. It should include strategic objects that will help foster creativity, the development of certain skills, and the accumulation of knowledge.

Though the table will likely include an assortment of ancillary items for children to play with, it’s simple enough to add your own to the mix. Pitchers, spray bottles, cookie cutters, and tongs are a few popular examples that help drive engagement and activity. Just make sure all the items are clean and large enough to not be a choking hazard.

A model with a solid removable lid is preferable, especially if you're setting the table up outdoors, in which case a built-in umbrella is a useful feature, as well. Many options include trays and racks for holding items when they’re not in use, and some offer detachable legs to simplify storing the table itself.

A Fully Furnished Preschool Or Play Room

Regardless of where you’ve set up your sand table, it will only occupy the kiddos’ attention for so long. If you want to keep them engaged for extended periods of time, it would be wise to populate the room with a variety of supplies to encourage development in other important areas.

While play items like Lego sets and building blocks aid in enhancing fine motor skills and problem-solving capabilities, they also have a proven track record as a highly entertaining activity for young children.

Little ones often like to imitate their parents, which is likely why mini kitchen sets seem to be so effective in sparking their curiosity.

Few methods for invoking creativity are as simple and effective as an old-fashioned art kit or coloring book. The same goes for Play-Doh sets, which allow kids to use their hands to shape and mold the flexible compound in any fashion they choose, limited only by their imaginations.

Little ones often like to imitate their parents, which is likely why mini kitchen sets seem to be so effective in sparking their curiosity. Child-sized work benches serve a similar purpose, giving kids the opportunity to “fix” things as they increase their strength and learn new skills.

Literacy is the foundation of education, which is why you can never introduce children to reading too early. By filling a small book rack with simple stories, alphabet sets, and writing journals, you’ll give the youngsters a head start on developing one of life’s most important skills.

Despite its importance in a child’s growth, one sense we haven’t touched on much yet is sound, which is something you can address easily with a simple music kit. Little ones can begin exploring rhythm with basic percussion instruments like a drum, triangle, cowbell, tambourine, and maracas — and probably have a blast in the process.

A play table is a more generic version of a sand table in that it can cater to a wide range of different activities, from simulating the construction of a town to creating art or music.

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Taber Koeghan
Last updated on August 25, 2018 by Taber Koeghan

Taber is a writer from Santa Monica, CA, with a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of California, San Diego. After completing her degree, she began writing and editing copy for a host of high-traffic e-commerce websites. Her areas of expertise include the beauty, style, pet, and home products categories, and she has plenty of experience covering literature and art, too. Her personal interests in crafting and decorating inform her writing and -- she hopes -- add a good bit of insight to her work. Outside of copywriting, she is a reporter and columnist at a Los Angeles community newspaper and is currently pursuing a master of fine arts in creative writing.

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