we don't have space for a sand table inside and haven't found a
cheap free sandbox for her to play with in the yard... there has also been quite a bit written lately about the toxins in play sand...
therefore we went with a bucket of rice instead. lucy likes to bury her hands in it, squish it, drop it, shake it and dig in it. she only made a mess the very first time we played with it - we always place a tray under the bin and now she's learning to use her dust brush and pan to clean up (sometimes we even take some rice out of the bucket on purpose just for her to clean it up again...)
now she likes it when i bury some of the chestnuts in the sand and she uses a fork to dig them out.
the only downside with the rice is that it sucks out all the moisture from your skin - so make sure to moisturize your hands and your little ones' after playing. (i'm convinced that it really would work in sucking out all the water from all those cell phones that have gone swimming in the toilet...)