We’ve always had a sand box, with the emphasis on BOX, but I frequently wished for a larger, more natural-looking children’s sand pit instead.
For one thing, the kids needed more space to play. Our sand box was perfect for one and cramped with two, but often had three or four kids vying for space. I also wanted to provide more of a natural outdoor experience for the kids and visually, wanted it to be more integrated into the garden landscape.
So with the move to a new house and a blank slate of a backyard, I decided to give it a try.
Actually, it was more of a general wish until last week over spring break when the kids and I were gardening. After they planted and watered the flowers they had picked out at the nursery, Daphne started outlining a path to the compost bin with sticks and I made a suggestion to Maia about how she could outline a possible sand box wherever she thought one should go.
We took a look at the proposed sand pit, enlarged it, and made the shape a bit more amorphous and natural looking.
And suddenly we were all excited about this possibility and decided to go for it.
Here’s how we did it…
How to Make a Natural Children’s Sand Pit
- Landscape fabric
- Sand box sand (we bought 20 50-pound bags from Lowes for about $80 total, our biggest expense)
- Pebbles and small rocks (optional)
- Larger rocks to outline the sand pit
First, outline your children’s sand pit in the proposed size, shape, and location, using a garden hose, string, bricks, rocks, or whatever else you have on hand (you’ll remove these later). Change any feature desired now, while it’s still in the planning stages. Some questions to ask yourself as you’re doing this ::
- How many children will be using this sand pit?
- Is there shade (trees, building structures) or will you want to erect an umbrella or canopy of some sort?
- Is the sand pit located in an area that will allow the children some degree of privacy and autonomy (more important for older kids than toddlers, obviously) while also allowing for any adult supervision necessary? (Our new sand pit is at the edge of the backyard, where my girls and their friends can talk and play on their own, but where I can see it from the windows and from the yard.)
- Is there a water source somewhere nearby in case you’d like to bring in a water play element?
Once you’ve outlined your new sand pit, it’s time to start digging!
It took us the rest of the day to remove the sod (we lay it upside down in an area where I wanted to start a new garden bed) and dig a hole deep enough. We decided that part of our sand pit would be fairly deep and part of it would be shallower, to allow for a variety of ways to play in the sand and rocks. It was hard work, but the kids were motivated and worked alongside me the entire time, with breaks for snacks and strawberry lemonade.
Now that you have a hole in the ground, line it with landscape fabric.
Our landscape fabric was 3 feet wide, and our sand pit was 8 feet by 6 feet, so we lay two pieces of landscape fabric inside the pit along the two longer edges, with a third in the middle overlapping the other two by a good margin. We held the fabric in place temporarily with random rocks and bricks around the edges.
Add your sand!
My kids were super excited about this step, understandably. I brought the heavy bags of sand over in a wheelbarrow and the kids cut them open and dumped out the sand. 20 bags of it.
And started playing in it immediately! For the rest of the evening…
Line the edge of your sand pit with rocks.
The next morning, we went straight to the stone yard to pick out rocks together to outline the edges of our sand pit.
Once we placed the rocks around the edge, I went back and trimmed away the excess landscape fabric with scissors. And then hid the edges under mulch.
Play! The kids (and their friends) have been playing or relaxing in the new sand pit pretty much nonstop since we made it.
Here, Daphne is burying Maia in sand. And Maia reciprocated by making a mermaid tail for Daphne.
Add a few sand play accessories. Here are some ideas…
- Buckets (this is the nesting pails set shown here)
- Shovels or sand scoops
- Loose parts, such as small rocks, pinecones, sticks, and natural wood blocks
- Sand molds
- Toy dump trucks and tractors
- Animal figurines
- A pulley and bucket system
More Children’s Sand Pit Ideas & Inspiration
- A natural rock play space (on Fun at Home with Kids)
- LOTS of awesome natural sand pit inspiration (on Let the Children Play)
- What the children learn in the sand pit (also on Let the Children Play)
- How to make a children’s sand pit lined with wood stumps (on Childhood 101)
- Sandbox tips and tricks :: toy suggestions, play ideas, and storage solutions (on Happy Hooligans)
- Plus check out my Pinterest board of outdoor play spaces for children
If you want a sand box for your kids, but are not feeling like doing the work to make one, here are a few options.
- Buy a raised garden bed kit, line the bottom with landscape fabric, and fill it with sand box sand (tends to be bigger and cheaper than most sand boxes you can buy)
- This Naturally Playful Sandbox gets good reviews and is currently 30% off on Amazon
- Sand tables are great, too, for little ones, especially if your space is limited, although the experience is very different
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