What You Should Know About Backyard Sandboxes


What You Should Know About Backyard Sandboxes

Sandboxes are great playing grounds for your kids, especially when summer sets in. There, your kids enjoy all the fun and creativity of constructing sandcastles while learning the social skills of sharing. Indeed, building sandboxes is not necessarily as technical as they appear. Let us tell you how.

Sandboxes can have an average depth of 5 inches. Sandboxes need cover for more longevity and safety. Cypress, Ipe, and white oak are great choices of wood for your sandbox. Sandboxes also need to be regularly cleaned to make them healthier. So long a safe type of sand is chosen, sandboxes are not dangerous to your kids.

There are a couple of things to know to achieve that perfect sandbox that is both enjoyable and healthy for your kids. You have to choose the right depth and quantity of sand. The sand needs to pass tests like the sandcastle test and the sugar test. You also need to know how to sanitize your sandbox to keep off insects, bugs, and snakes. How about we learn more about all these?

How Deep Should the Sand Be in a sandbox?

When determining which depth of sand would be ideal for a sandbox, you have to crucially consider the ages of the kids that would be playing in that sandbox. If you have only got toddlers, you don’t need much depth of sand. Just a few inches would do. For ample depth, you can go for a sandbox with a sand depth of 6 inches.

How Tall Should a Sandbox Be?

We recommend that the posts for your sandboxes should have an approximate height of 2 feet.

How Many Bags of Sand Do I Need for a Sandbox?

The volume of sand majorly determines the playability of the sandbox. Therefore, many parents are skeptical of the befitting of bags they can get for their sandboxes. Typically, the sand you buy for your sandbox is packaged in 50-pound bags. They have a sand capacity of half a cubic foot.

The amount of sand you need is typically calculated in cubic yards or cubic feet. The right amount also depends on the shape of the sandbox.

Let us learn how to calculate how many bags of sand you would need for the square sandboxes, which are the commonest types you see around.

To start with, you have to measure the internal width and length of your square sandbox. Now multiply the internal length by itself. So if we have a 6-foot square box, what you have from this self-multiplication is 36. Good.

The next thing to consider is how deep you want the sand in the sandbox. In the case of where you desire your sand to be 2 feet deep, multiply these 2 feet by the 36 (we got earlier), the result is 72 cubic feet.

Remember that each bag has a sand capacity of half cubic foot. Therefore multiply 72 by 2, which gives us 142. Thus, you need 142 bags of sand for such sandbox. Possibly, you would get the bags in bulk size, then you need to convert these back to cubic feet.

What Kind of Wood Should I Use for a Sandbox?

The type of wood used also contributes to the durability of your sandbox. Typically, the ideal kind of wood should be fairly resistant to splintering and rot. Overall, we discourage the use of wood that is chemically treated for your sandbox. This is because of the potential dangers they pose to your kids.

Now let us examine some critical determinants of the type of wood to choose.

What is the Natural Resistance of the Wood?

There is no denying that termites and other insects would attack the wood of your sandbox in addition to deterioration and rot from moisture. Cedar, redwood, and cypress rank among the best woods with such natural resistance to insect attack and rot.

Take note that cypress is more susceptible to warping, especially in the face of insufficient drying. Therefore, to help it retain its shape in the longer run, we will advise you to brace the corners when using it for your sandbox.

Also, redwood is not naturally sturdy, necessitating drilling nail holes into the wood beforehand to avoid splintering the wood.

What Part of the Tree are You Getting Your Sandbox Wood from?

We generally recommend heartwood for your sandbox construction. This is because at the center of the tree, there is an increased density of the chemical content of wood (which has a natural resistance to rot). This explains why timber obtained from the heart of the tree is more resistant to rot and insect attack.

Premium grade heartwood is admittedly expensive, given its quality. However, for your sandbox, you can make do with lower grades like the construction heart grade.

Commonly, the outer layer of a tree (seen as the sapwood) is lighter in color than the heartwood.

Are You Going for Local Wood?

Local wood is a great option for your sandbox, so long the quality is right. They are readily available, and you can get your hand on a reasonable quantity at local sawmills around you. Some nice options of local wood include black locust and white oak.

Many people like black locust for its outstanding durability, which mirrors hardwoods. Nonetheless, if you are using black locust for your sandbox, we advise having pre-drilled nail holes. Osage orange is notable for its water-resistant makeup with a pretty tight grain. It is good enough for your sandbox as well.

What is the Best Kind of Sand for a Sandbox?

It is crucial to choose the best kind of sand for your sandbox. This makes your sandboxes durable and, more importantly, safe for the kids. There are two primary factors to guide you in the selection of your sandboxes.

First, you have to look at how safe the sand is

Safety is a core consideration when choosing the type of sand for your sandbox. You don’t want to risk the health of the kids despite all the promise of fun. Steer clear from sands containing dyes or a significant amount of nuisance dust.

The latter can be particularly harmful to the eyes of your kids. We regularly advise parents to choose sand that isn’t toxic – preferably natural sand.

There are two major tests to certify the safety of sand for your sandbox. These are the sand safety test and the nuisance dust test.

The first test – the sand safety test – ascertains that the sand is naturally occurring and compliant to government safety regulations. The nuisance dust test also gives you an idea of the toxicity of the sand.

How efficient is the sand?

The fun of playing in sandboxes depends a lot on the efficacy of the type of sand. Kids majorly build sandcastles in sandboxes.

Hence, the sand should have good bonding capacity; otherwise, the sandcastles would crumble too quickly.

To achieve such impressive bonding capacity, you should avoid sand that has non-uniform granules. This is common with artificial sand, where the grains are not of a uniform size. Such artificial sand is mostly a product of pulverization.

When the sand has even granules, it performs better at packing, especially when moist. This enables your kids to build their dream castles.

The sugar test and the sandcastle test are two prime determinants of the efficacy of the sand. The sandcastle test determines how tightly the sand packs when moistened.

The sugar test determines the uniformity of the sand’s granules.

Having pointed out these parameters in selecting sand for your sandbox, let us identify two types of sands that are well recommended.

The Jurassic RiverBed Play Sand is popular among owners of sandboxes. It is safe and efficient (as we explained). Yes, this sand is free of chemical dyes and nuisance dust. It has a unique look (courtesy of its peculiar orange), which is aesthetically pleasing.

It also has excellent texture and granular uniformity, which enables it to pack tightly when moist. Also, this sand is not harmful to asthmatic kids or those with allergies.

Crayola is a reputable authority when it comes to kids’ play stuff. The Crayola colored play sand has a unique sugary texture. This makes it easy and convenient to feel and mold with. This sand is well rid of irritants and allergens that may hamper the comfort of your kids.

It is free of toxic substances, washed with water only, and is ecologically friendly. This sand has the reputable ACMI certification for non-toxic acrylic colorization process and safety.

This sand free of metallic composition nor does it contain any chemical residue.

Rare magnets are deployed in the manufacturing process to take off any metallic components before it is packaged.

This sand packs well and can build durable castles (with commendable resilience to fade), which can pretty much hold against sunlight and water.

What Can I Use Instead of Sand in a Sandbox?

Aside from sand, there are other beautiful and healthy alternatives to use in filling up your sandbox. Let us look at some of them.

You can use crumb rubber

Crumb rubber consists of smaller pieces of rubber. They are healthy and soft on the hand, giving your kids a good sensory experience when they play on them. The size of this crumb rubber mirrors that of the stones you would find in pea gravel.

Indeed, they cost more than the traditional sand for your sandbox. We discourage filling your sandbox with crumb rubber straight from the store. Make sure to wash them first.

Styrofoam Packing Peanuts are great alternatives to sand

While it is quite unconventional, it is admittedly fun to fill your sandbox with packing peanuts. This is safe, clean, and healthy – fit for both indoor sandboxes and those you have outside. One thing we love about packing peanuts is that they don’t stain.

They have considerable resilience to moisture and wouldn’t break down too easily. Being that they are big, you can readily scoop them into your hands. This makes it super easy to clean your indoor sandboxes.

If you are using packing peanuts for your outdoor sandbox, we recommend that you cover them when the kids are not playing in the sandbox.

Pea gravel is another excellent alternative

If you don’t want to use sand for your outdoor sandbox, you can make do with pea gravel. When choosing pea gravel, bear the mind the impact on your kids from potential falls.

This is why it is better to go for rounded rocks. This feels softer on the kids when they fall. Pea gravel with rounded rocks also has enhanced drainage, which prevents the formation of mold.

Take note that when going with pea gravel for your sandbox, there is the possibility of your kids packing them in their mouths.

Do you know you can go with dry foods?

Yes, dry foods are an inventive way to floor your sandbox, especially when it is indoors. If you are not a fan of filling it with sand, you can resort to uncooked beans and rice. We must, however, admit that despite the excitement of loading dry foods in your sandbox, this is a temporary filling solution.

You shouldn’t forget that such dry foods are more prone to decay and mold upon sustained exposure to moisture.

Does a Sandbox Need a Cover?

It is advisable to cover your sandbox when it is not in use. This significantly contributes to its durability, hygiene, and consequent safety. Sustained moisture is not suitable for the sand. Also, if you have colored sand, leaving them all day to the full glare of the sun will soon prompt fading.

When you cover your sandbox, you keep it drier. With such dryness, it is less supportive or conducive for the growth of harmful bacteria. Some animals (even your pets) are notorious for habitually passing waste in your sandbox.

This is why you should regularly cover it when not in use. This goes on to primarily reduce the risk of infestation of your kids playing there. Open sandboxes can get loaded with dangerous debris. Objects like pieces of sticks, rocks, and leaves can be blown or deposited into your uncovered sandbox, making it hazardous for your kids.

Before you cover your sandbox (after your kids are done playing), make sure it reasonably dries. If you buy an already-made sandbox, the chances are high that it would come along with a cover.

If yours doesn’t come with a cover, you can buy it as an additional accessory. You can also build a sandbox cover for yourself with plywood.

Is Sandbox Sand Dangerous?

Indeed, some types of sand contain toxic substances. One of such dangerous substances is microcrystalline silica. This is more common with artificial sand produced possibly by pulverizing quartz rock.

However, safe sand (which is naturally occurring) is free of such toxic material and nuisance dust. They are free of silica, making it very safe for your kids to play with this type of sand.

Does a Sandbox Need Drainage?

Being that your kids will build with moist sand, it is helpful for the water to drain out. The avenue for the water to seep off is thus essential. Some of these sandboxes are equipped with landscape fabric. They are not as strong as plywood, despite their impressive drainage capacity.

This is a handicap being that mobility around the deck is a major need for your sandbox. While plywood is strong enough to be readily moved around, plywood is very susceptible to rot.

To improve the drainage of your sandbox, we advise that you raise it, building it at a slope. This makes it unwise to construct or install your sandbox in the lower spots of your backyard.

How Do You Clean Sandbox Sand?

Your sandbox needs to be well treated. If not, it will support the growth of harmful bacteria. Cleaning your sandbox is an essential part of the treatment process. It is recommended that you regularly churn the sand, at least once in 7 days, to keep it fresher.

Let us teach you some simple techniques to clean the sand in your sandbox.

The first step in this process is to get one side of the sandbox empty. This can be achieved by shoveling the sand in your sandbox to one side to create that emptiness in the other half.

Get your colander over a bucket. Now pack up (in your hand or cup) some sand and filter it through this colander, collecting the filtrate in the bucket. The colander will hold back residues which are most likely debris.

Now that you have successfully eliminated the debris off the sand, you can pour the filtered sand on that side of your sandbox that was otherwise empty. You can keep doing this till you have scooped and filtered all the sand.

For smoothness and uniformity, you may rake the sandbox. This raking exercise can be carried out frequently, if possible, anytime your kids leave the sandbox. This will make it far easier to take off the debris quickly.

Do Sandboxes Attract Snakes?

Yes, sandboxes attract snakes. This can be very dangerous for your kids. Snakes are most time attracted, when there is a healthy population of rodents in your sandbox.

To reduce the possibility of snakes finding their way into your sandbox, you need to make the sandbox and the surroundings less habitable for crawling creatures. Let us tell you how.

Don’t feed pets outdoors

Snakes will come into your sandbox when there is food around it. Therefore, avoid feeding your pets close to your sandbox. In the case where you prefer feeding your pets outside, all remains or leftovers must be promptly cleaned up.

Bird feeders shouldn’t be close to your sandbox

Keep bird feeders also from your sandbox. This is because of the propensity of birds to recklessly scatter their food around when they eat. When such seeds are scattered on the ground, this will pull in rodents, which will, in turn, attract snakes.

No dense vegetation around

Also, avoid having dense vegetation around the sandbox, which could easily mask the snakes. If you must have trees and shrubs around (possibly to create a subtle shade for the kids playing in the sandbox), then you must make sure they are well-trimmed.

Also, there needs to be a reasonable clearance between the base of such trees (and shrubs) from your sandbox. We generally recommend that a minimum spacing of 25″ so it is difficult for the snake to quickly move from the trees to the sandbox without being preemptively spotted.

Snakes can get into your indoor sandboxes via cracks. If there are cracks in your home, it is very possible that snakes can sneak in via these holes. Therefore, make sure to seal all cracks you identify promptly. Of course, locating such crevices (especially those in very inconspicuous areas) can be hard.

However, you can resort to checking for energy losses in your home to identify those cracks via which the heat or air conditioning is leaving your home. In most cases, such escape points are the same crevices through which snakes crawl into your home and into your indoor sandbox.

Generally, we discourage the use of mothballs in chasing snakes from your sandbox. This is because of the toxic substances like naphthalene contained in such mothball. This can be dangerous – even lethal – to your kids. Sulfur is ineffective in keeping snakes off your sandbox.

Do Sandboxes Attract Bugs?

Yes, sandboxes attract bugs. This raises the risk of infestation (especially from bug bites) and the overall discomfort of the sandbox.

Covering your sandbox, when not in use, is an effective way to keep the bugs off. We recommend snug-fitting covers that entirely conceal the surface area of the sandbox.

Bugs don’t like cinnamon. When you mix your sand with a reasonable quantity of cinnamon, it will become very unattractive and intolerable to the habitation of bugs.

This must be done periodically. The good thing is that cinnamon is not toxic to kids.

Bugs have a habit of digging into the lower layers of the sand. This conceals them from the kids. You can prevent such deep borrowing by frequently turning your sand.

This disturbance from the regular turning will make the sand inhabitable for the bugs.

It is also vital to replace the sand once in a while. There are cases of mass bug infestation, where churning the sand will not be sufficient to get rid of the bugs. In such circumstances, it is best to change the sand and bring in fresh one entirely.

Do Ants Like Sandboxes?

Ants like sand. Sand is even the natural home of ants. Therefore, it is unsurprising that ants will regularly strive to get into your sandboxes. Your best chance of reducing such inhabitation of ants is by covering the sandbox with a waterproof canvas when your kids are not using it.

Ants will feast on the crumbs of foods that drop in the sandbox when your kids play in it. This is why you should strive to keep off food from the sandbox by prohibiting the kids from eating when they play there.

You can also use repellants with no (or negligible) toxicity to keep off such ants. One great way to keep off ants in this regard is by sprinkling cornstarch around your sandbox.

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