How to make a natural childrens sand pit for outdoor play
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How to Make a Natural Children’s Sand Pit

How to Make a Natural Childrens Sand Pit

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.

Outlining proposed childrens sand pit

She did.

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

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  • Shovel(s)
  • 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
Outlining proposed childrens sand pit


  1. Outline your children’s sand pit in the proposed size, shape, and location

    You can use 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?

  2. 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.

    Removing the sod from the childrens sand pit area

  3. Line your hole 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.

    Adding sand to the new childrens sand pit

  4. 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…

    Playing in the new partially finished sand pit

  5. 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.

    Line the edge of the natural sand pit with rocks

  6. Play!

    The kids (and their friends) have been playing or relaxing in the new sand pit pretty much nonstop since we made it.

    Playing in the new diy sand pit

Here, Daphne is burying Maia in sand. And Maia reciprocated by making a mermaid tail for Daphne.

Using the new backyard sand pit

Add a few sand play accessories. Here are some ideas…

Sand Box Toys and Accessories

More Children’s Sand Pit Ideas & Inspiration

Kids Sand Box Ideas and Inspiration

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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How to make a natural childrens sand pit for outdoor play


  • Reply
    Cara B.
    April 7, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    What kind of sand did you use? This looks like nice sand, I cannot seem to find any that isn’t toxic. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      April 8, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      I used sand from Lowes that is sold as children’s play sand for sand boxes. So I’m assuming it’s okay.

  • Reply
    April 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Do u cover this at night? I’d be concerned about insects moving in, and worse neighbours cats…

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      April 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      We don’t as yet, Tammy, but it’s a brand new sand pit for us. If it becomes an issue, we might pull a tarp over it at night.

  • Reply
    April 8, 2016 at 12:12 am

    This looks gorgeous and how cool that your girls were so involved in building it! I’m also wondering about the cat issue as I’m thinking about a sand box for my one-year-old.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      April 8, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      If it’s a concern with neighborhood cats, then you’ll probably want to use a tarp or some other cover at night.

  • Reply
    Louise Hunt
    April 8, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Do you have problems with cats using it as a litter tray?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      April 8, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      No. Not yet anyway. If it becomes an issue, I suppose I’ll have to make some sort of cover for it.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    How do you stop cats from shitting in the sand?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      April 17, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      It hasn’t been an issue for us yet, India, but you could keep a tarp over it when you’re not using it.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Have you had a problem with drainage? I have seen people put a layer of sand or pebbles under the fabric. I was wondering if it necessary.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      June 21, 2016 at 6:32 am

      We haven’t had a problem with drainage, Eddie, but it probably depends on where you live and how wet it is.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2017 at 4:08 am

    Hello, is it necessary to line the sandpit with a landscape fabric?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      November 25, 2017 at 5:24 am

      No, I was just trying to prevent the sand from getting mixed with dirt.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    How do you deter animals from using it, as a litter w?

    • Reply
      Melissa Garrett
      April 16, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Hi Maria. I’m Melissa, the Project Manager at The Artful Parent. If you’re having issues with animals, you can always make a simple cover out of a dropcloth or tarp and cover the sand pit when you’re not using it. I hope that helps – happy artful parenting!

  • Reply
    September 22, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    How deep is your pit and were you happy with the results? We are mid construction and trying to decide. Thank you for the wonderful idea!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2020 at 10:04 am

    I was curious as so what you do when it rains. Does the water sit under the sand or did you poke holes to let it drain?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      March 8, 2020 at 4:57 am

      Hi Jessica! The material that we lined the sand pit with is permeable, so that the water can go through it.

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