How to make sure your sandbox is good for your family
Expert Advice | 3 years ago
Sand boxes are surprisingly controversial for something that has been a mainstay of playgrounds for decades. The first public playgrounds in the 1880s, as a matter of fact, were called Sand Gardens, and they were basically giant piles of sand dumped in empty lots where kids could play freely, but they were hugely popular. Sand play eventually became contained in sandboxes, but it is still popular today.
Most, though not all, kids love the extreme sensory nature of sand as well as how it is a perfect material for open-ended play. Kids can become completely immersed in digging, scooping and creating for long stretches of time.
Sand play has a lot of benefits for children. All the digging and scooping promotes both gross and fine motor skill, and it is particularly conducive to imaginative play as kids tend to pretend they are digging roads or making sand pies or building castles, and imaginative play helps kids practice their language, social, and problem solving skills. There is a lot to love about letting your kids play in the sandbox (not least of which is how it can give you a little well-earned moment of relaxation while they play on their own).
In recent years, however, there have been concerns raised about the safety of sandboxes. The sand itself can be hazardous to kids. Sand sold in hardware stores that is not specifically for sandbox play may contain silica dust which can be a health hazard if inhaled. That's not to mention what can get in the sandbox with the sand, as, when left uncovered, sandboxes are notoriously attractive to neighborhood cats and other critters which can lead to parasites, and other leavings.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure your sandbox is kid-safe, and your efforts will be well worth it for all the fun and developmental benefits that your kids will get.
First, only use beach sand or play sand that doesn’t contain silica in your sandbox. Make sure the packaging states that the sand is crystalline silica free. You should be able to find play sand at many hardware stores including stores like Lowes.
Replace your sand at least annually, more often if you happen to find any unwanted “foreign materials” in it, and it is a good idea to rake your sandbox regularly to make sure there aren’t any of those “materials” and to shift the bottom sand to the top. Be careful to cover your sandbox anytime it isn’t in use. Most companies that sell sandboxes - including CedarWorks - will also sell sandbox covers, or you can find them at many of the big box stores.
Many companies that sell playsets will also sell sandboxes, both separately and sometimes as a component of the playset. If you prefer to build your own box, make sure to choose building materials that are long-lasting, rot-resistant, and splinter-free. Do NOT use railroad ties that can be splintery and may be saturated with creosote, a carcinogenic material. Choose landscaping timbers or non-wood containers instead. These will be durable and safe for your family.
Owning a sandbox may require a little maintenance, but your efforts will be repaid in hours of fun and independent, creative play.