One activity that is guaranteed to bring my 26 month-old tons of Joy is her DIY sandbox. It's not pretty or fancy, but it works. Plus, it cost less than $15 to make. Have you seen the prices of really nice sandboxes? Yikes.
I just used an organizational bin that we already had at the house. The kind that you put under the bed seem to work the best. It's nice and low and enabales the child to easily reach into the bin.
I bought 50 lbs of sand for $5 from our friendly neighborhood Hardware Store. So far we have only used about 1/8th of the bag.
I gathered up a variety of spoons, scoops, cups and shells and added them to the box. And, bam...hours and hours of fun!