In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air. — Charlotte Mason
The very first outdoor play spot we added was this sandbox back when Ale was just 1 year old. And it has been continuously a popular play space for both boys. As Ale has grown his games around the sandbox have changed, but he still loves it. And of course, anything that Ale is interested in Eleon is there as well!
Making the sandbox
I did not buy a ready-made sandbox, as none of the sizes fit well for our space plus they seemed unnecessarily pricey. I ended up making this sandbox myself with some lumber from HomeDepot and it was quite easy. I’m sure it can be more elegant and fancy, but this basic design does the job well.
What you need:
- 4 untreated large boards that you can have HomeDepot cut for you at desired length. The treated lumber contains a lot of toxic chemicals. Meanwhile, you can preserve the boards with simple oil application. See below.
- 4 metal corners to connect them together and deck screws (they are coated to prevent rusting)
- A piece of plastic tarp (available in the painting department) to make a bottom and an upholstery stapler to attach it.
- Olive or hemp oil, cheapest brush and some old cloth for treating the boards. We buy the cheapest, yet organic olive oil at a supermarket for treating wood. Buying organic even if not for food helps to support sustainable agriculture ad provide safe environment for bees, birds and workers.
- After determining your sandbox size have the boards cut for you at HomeDepot or Lowes at desired length.
- Prior to assembly paint the boards with olive or hemp oil, to preserve it from moisture. The most basic cheap olive oil works great and is easily accessible anywhere. We painted 2 coats, letting the oil sit after application, then rubbing it with cloth to help absorb better.
- Using the mental corners connect the boards into a rectangular. You can probably do it just with long screws, but I felt using these metal corners was easier for me and seems sturdier if we needed to move it./li>
- Using upholstery stapler attach the plastic tarp to the bottom, so that your sand stays inside.
We placed our sandbox underneath the trees to make it a nice and shady spot for the summer time. Here, I just wanted to recommend to observe a chosen spot throughout the day to see if it remains in shade. We also placed some pieces of old lawn grass (we are in the process of replacing most of our lawn with plant beds) at the bottom u underneath the sandbox, to make the bottom of it softer.
Our nearby rock and landscaping supply yard had many tree stamps for sale, so I got these 4 stamps as little seats for around the sandbox.
Getting clean sand
I ordered the sand online from this company. It may seem an overkill, but I am always suspicious about products sold at stores who are very comfortable with selling Round-p and other unsavory chemicals. And the safety regulation in this country are unfortunately very low when it comes to toxicity in general. I was concerned that sand sold at locations like HomeDepot,etc. could be from near a fracking site or near some agricultural zone (all the chemical run-offs). And since the kids rub their skin on the sand and it gets everywhere I wanted to have something I’d feel safe about. The SafeSand company says their sand is actually from a beach. I hope it is so.
The SafeSand company where we bought our beach sand also has some warnings about the use of regular sand in sandboxes and they advocate that their white sand is safer. We tried some of the white sand, as we got a wrong shipment. We did not like it. It is very fine, it sticks more to skin and clothes than the regular sand does. It is very bright and hard on the eyes because of sun light reflection. Lastly, it was rather unpleasant when wet, not like regular sand, it seemed more like wet fine salt as far as texture goes. We went with this regular beach sand and it is great! I feel people have played on the beaches for ages. All children in the world still play in the sand on beaches today. That’s the sand I feels is safest for my children, in spite of any warnings.
Toys for the sandbox
Some of the most popular toys in the sandbox are:
- This cheap strainer from IKEA. It is also great for sieving sand to get rid off different dead leaves, bugs and so on. 🙂
- This little kids cooking set or this other set thats actually normal size, but very cheapalso gets used a lot. Ale likes to make a pizza or a fruit tart when playing in the sandbox. 🙂
- Miscellaneous kitchen utensils, old containers, bottles, etc.
- Some form of trowel, spade and rake in small size, like this one.
- Lego Duplo construction trucks. I’m also thinking of getting this little cement mixer for Ale.
We were also gifted a sand wheel toy. Unfortunately I do not recommend those, as sand gets stuck in the wheels and they stop turning disappointing the kids. And then it is just a wasted piece of plastic.