by | Sep 15, 2020 | Crafting, Reviews, Z

Last Updated: Sep 24, 2020 @ 11:04 am.

Play sand is fun! It feels cool or wet, but isn't. It doesn't dry out and can be sculpted, shaped and played with without making a big mess. How does it work? The sand is coated with silicone oil, the same ingredient that made Silly Putty a hit for previous generations of kids. We tested play sand with actual kids to see which products were the most fun and easiest to clean up after. Here are the winners.

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Best Sand Castle Kit

Sand castles with no mess = FUN!
We loved this kit—lots of fun with five molds and two tools! Easy clean up; storage case. Caveat: only 3 lbs. of sand. May have to buy extra sand.
$17.49

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Best Play Sand Castle Kit: Kinetic Sand Beach Sand Kingdom Playset

The jury verdict is in: play sand (also called cool sand) is a hit! Of course, who doesn’t like to play with sand? The problem in the past: sand is a mess.

To the rescue comes “cool” or “sensory” sand—sand that has been treated with silicone oil. It stays together, easily molding into shapes and figures. Cool and wet to the touch, it actually isn’t wet at all—that makes clean up much easier.

A quick word on clean up: just because play sand is much less messy than regular sand doesn’t mean it doesn’t require clean up—you may still have to vacuum up stray sand during indoor play.

Our top pick for best sand kit is this three pound kit with its own storage case. Here’s what it looks like inside the case:

Best Kinetic Sand Kit Inside

What We Liked

• Great tools, lots of fun. There are a total of eight molds/tools

• Easiest clean up compared to other kits we tested.

• Natural colored sand = no dyes. Colored sand, as you’ll read below, can have issues with dye transfer and staining. This kit has only natural colored sand.

What Needs Work

• Only 3 pounds. That’s not a lot of sand to play with, especially when competitors have six pounds. You may have to buy more sand to make this work.

• Sand is sometimes sticky. Cool sand isn’t supposed to stick to your hands, but we noticed in our testing if your hands are sweaty, it can stick.

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Best Colored Play Sand

3 colors included, hours of fun
The multiple colors and six molds were a big hit. 6 pounds of sand = more fun. Loved the finely textured sensory sand. Caveat: colors can stain hands; no storage container.
$27.99

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Best Colored Play Sand: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Play Sand Combo Pack

Looking for a colorful sand kit? NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Play Sand Combo Pack is our pick as the best colored sand kit—we love the generous amount of sand in three colors, plus included toys. Here’s an overview:

What We Liked

 Lots of fun: six molds, six pounds of sand. You get two pounds of each color (natural, purple, blue). Our testers loved the colors!

• Cute molds and structures like pyramids.

• Non-toxic and hypoallergenic. 

What Needs Work

• Colored sand can stain hands, especially if your hands are sweaty or wet. We noticed that this is more of a problem in humid environments (outside in Houston, Texas, for example). As a precaution, we’d suggest testing play with this sand to see if the color transfers to hands, tables or floors before you try it inside your house. And make sure your child’s hands are completely dry before playing.

• Sand is on the dry side and powdery compared to other kits we tested. You may have to add water if sand is too dry to stick together. Storing sand in zip lock bags may keep it from getting too dry to stick.

• Once you mix colors, you can’t easily separate them. This may seem obvious, but just a heads up!

• No storage container. If you have a plastic tub with lid, that might be a good solution.

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Best Budget-Friendly Kit

Great for beginners
Great value—once you get hooked on squeezable sand, you'll need refills. And this choice was the best in our tests. FYI: This kit is sand only; no molds or tools are included.
$9.97

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Best Budget-Friendly Play Sand Kit: The One and Only Kinetic Sand, Beach Day Fun Playset

If you’re not sure about the whole cool sand thing and want to give it a try without a big investment, this kit is budget-friendly.

This kit basically has the same  pros and cons as the Best Sand Castle kit mentioned earlier this article with two differences: you get 5 molds, 4 tools and one pound of sand. That’s not a lot of sand . . . but good enough to give it a try! You can always buy more sand if your child loves it.

What We Liked

• Great tools, lots of fun. 

• Easiest clean up compared to other kits we tested.

• Natural colored sand = no dyes. Colored sand can have issues with dye transfer and staining. This kit has only natural colored sand.

What Needs Work

• Only 1 pound of sand. That’s not a lot of sand to play with, especially when competitors have more. You may have to buy more sand to make this work.

• Sand is sometimes sticky. Cool sand isn’t supposed to stick to your hands, but we noticed in our testing if your hands are sweaty, it can stick.

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Best Sand Refill Kit

Affordable, 8 colors to choose from
Great value—once you get hooked on squeezable sand, you'll need refills. And this choice was the best in our tests. FYI: This kit is sand only; no molds or tools are included.
$25.49

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Best Play Sand Refill Kit: CoolSand Natural 5 Pound Refill Pack

Once you fall in love with play sand, you’ll want more—and refills can get expensive. To the rescue comes CoolSand: we loved their 5 pounds refill kits. Here’s an overview:

What We Liked

• 8 colors to choose from including unusual colors like pink and white. Our kid tester verdict: FUN!

• Storage bucket included. 

• Inflatable play tray is included, a nice touch.

• Good value. 

What’s Needs Work

• No tools or molds. This kit just has sand—you’ll have to supply the molds, toys and tools. But we assume you already have those from other kits.

• Can be dry. The refill kit we tested was the right texture, but we noticed some reports that complained CoolSand can be too dry. The manufacturer says don’t add water—use a spray bottle to moisten the air above the sand.

Why Trust Us

We rate and review baby, toddler and kid gear, including play toys. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward safety, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. Our work is 100% reader-supported!

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here's another key point: we don't take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no "partnerships." Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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