“ Brand: Smyths / Type: Hippo Sandbox „
Like many family gardens, we have a sandpit permanently in place, ready to entertain my three boys whenever weather permits. Our sandpit is this rather friendly looking green plastic hippo, originally purchased from Toys R Us at least five years ago. This fun sandpit is very similar in style to the more popular (and more expensive) Little Tykes Turtle sandpit. Instead of the turtle, this design has a cute hippo's head attached to the circular 'body', complete with four chunky feet around the edge. This style of pit is designed to enable the kids to climb and play inside, which always seems more fun than the smaller 'table' variety raised on legs, although this design is much less portable. The fact that this pit has survived for so long in our garden is testament to its build quality and durability. It is a pretty heavy pit but has certainly proven to be robust, particularly given the rough treatment that my kids' outdoor toys experience. It is slightly weatherbeaten and the once bright green exterior has faded considerably over the years but it is still functional and safe for the boys to play with. The Smyths Toys website, where this is currently in stock for £24.99, lists the dimensions of the hippo pit as 116Lx83Wx31H (cm). In real terms, this equates to a space large enough to easily accommodate one or two young children, both sitting inside the pit, if they wish. The height is deep enough to contain a fair depth of sand, whilst still allowing youngsters to climb in and out easily. There is a handy ledge inside which makes a perfect seat for a child, handy if the sand is slightly damp and they don't want to get too messy, or for younger toddlers who are a little wary about the whole experience (as my youngest was last Summer at just a year old). I've found that there is less squabbling and bickering if only one of the boys climbs inside the pit and the other(s) play from the outside edge but there is actually room for two of them to climb in together and play. I tend to fill the pit with at least two 15kg bags of play sand. This provides an even coverage across the base and enough depth to allow the boys to dig and burrow as they wish, with plenty of room for all of the spades, buckets and moulds to make the whole experience as much fun as possible. The pit could easily accommodate twice as many bags of sand, if not more, but I find that overfilling leads to some of the sand escaping, despite the rounded edges that help to keep most of the contents inside. I end up having to replace the sand fairly frequently anyway, as it inevitably gets soaked and too dirty for hygienic play so I keep a fairly miserly amount in there. The pit does come supplied with a plastic lid, which is essential to keep out rainwater or local cats looking for a new litter tray and helps to contain all of the sand play equipment. The lid is not quite as sturdy as the extremely thick base, although it does need to be much lighter to ensure that it can be lifted on and off easily, even by a child. Our lid has withstood all manner of play over the years- including being jumped up and down on like a trampoline and used to create various dens- but I think it was being utilised as a makeshift sledge during the snow this Winter that was the final straw. The lid is now slightly worse for wear - sporting a small crack in the middle. The lid does fit securely into position after use and is water tight when the boys remember to put it back on. The main disadvantage, however, is that the lid can be blown off the base incredibly easily, meaning that the contents are exposed to the elements anyway. In theory, this should be fairly easy to clean out after use, as it has smooth, glossy sides and base and no annoying grooves or ridges for sand and dirt to collect. The reality is that cleaning the pit is a pretty long-winded and tedious job and one that I hate doing, particularly when the sand has become waterlogged and infested with insects! There is no easy way to drain or empty the pit as there is no hole or drainage facility at all, so all of the dirty, wet sand needs to be scooped out manually. The hippo is so large and bulky that it's difficult to move around, particularly when full of wet sand, and is certainly too heavy to be picked up and tipped out in one go, so the whole process takes a long time to complete. The pit can even be used for water play or as a paddling pool although the difficulty draining it puts me off using it for that purpose, as well as the fact that ours is now a little too grimy to be used as a pool. For the current price of £24.99, this is an excellent value purchase, particularly in comparison with the Little Tykes version which sells for around £40 or more. Ours has certainly proven to offer excellent value for money and should still have plenty more opportunities to entertain my family, weather permitting.