We have sand in our sand and water table. I would only put rice or dried beans in it if you are keeping it inside, bec sand would be messy inside. But for outside, I don't find the sand to be too messy. My ds is pretty good about keeping the sand in the table. I put a couple shovels and trucks in it and he just piles sand into the dump trucks over and over again. I wouldn't put food in it for outside, bec then you would have to deal with ants.