Sandbox Ideas – Toy Suggestions, Play Ideas and Storage Solutions

Sandbox Ideas
.  Easy and awesome tips, tricks and DIY accessories for your backyard sandbox! 

back yard series - our sandbox

We spend a ton of time playing in our backyard playspace, and without a doubt, the most popular spot for the kids to play is in and around our sandbox and playhouse.

I’ve slowly added to this corner of the yard over the years, making it an engaging and natural backyard play space. You have to see how I transformed the inside of our playhouse last year!    Next up – the sandbox!

Out front, you can’t help but notice our our amazing play logs .  They’ve been an enormous hit with the kids, and I would highly recommend getting your hands on some if you can!  They’re a fantastic addition to any outdoor play yard.  Come past the logs though, and step right into the sandbox with me, to check out some simple but stellar play ideas.  With a few basic materials, you can set up some really engaging areas and activities in your sandbox.  Ours has become an almost magical place where imaginations and creativity bloom!

natural materials for play in the sandbox


Our sandbox is quite large, and sits directly underneath the playhouse which is wonderful for keeping the hooligans sheltered from the elements.  We can play out there quite comfortably on the sunniest of days, and we’ve been known to spend many a rainy morning, playing in the sand, under the shelter of the playhouse.

simple sandbox ideas - outdoor kitchen

Easy and inexpensive sandbox ideas:

All of the ideas you see here have been done on a shoe-string budget.  Aside from building the structure and filling it with sand, the cost to “furnish” the sandbox has been very minimal.

Seating and a work space:

A plank placed across the width of the sandbox serves as a divider; we have cars and diggers in one half and a kitchen in the other half.  The plank also provides a place to sit, a surface to drive cars and build castles on, and it doubles as an extra work space when things get busy in the kitchen.

plank for seating and workspace - sandbox ideas



I’ve added a few shorter boards which the hooligans like to move around, and use as ramps for their cars.

loose boards as ramps - sandbox ideas

Kitchen counter/oven:

An old bench sits in the kitchen end of the sand box.  The shelf underneath makes it the perfect counter, stove and oven combo.

Sandbox ideas - bench becomes kitchen counter and stove

Sand Wall:

At the other end, we have our “sand wall”.  I nailed a piece of scrap lattice to the frame of the playhouse/sandbox, and cut the bottoms off of a few recyclables, and attached them to the lattice with zip ties, florist wire and large twist ties.

sandwall - sandbox ideas

Similar to our water wall, this lots of learning and entertainment as the hooligans pour sand into the highest containers, and watch it filter down through the containers below.

sandbox ideas - sand wall

Replace plastic with the “real thing”:

When it comes to sandbox toys, I’m in the process of replacing plastic toools and toys with ones made of metal, tin and enamel ware.  I pick this stuff up when I’m second-hand shopping.  Wooden spoons, metal spatulas and pots and pans are far more durable and eye-pleasing than plastic, and kids prefer the “real thing” over plastic any day.  This hand-held egg beater is a favourite.

Sandbox ideas - replace plastic toys with authentic kitchen items

Natural Elements:

A collection of rocks, sticks and play stones also encourage open-ended, imaginative play.

natural elements - playing with sticks and stones

From time to time, I’ll add a new supply of pinecones and a couple of evergreen boughs to see what the kids do with them.  


And although they’re not “natural”, a few bunches of artificial flowers from the thrift shop have provided countless hours of flower shop play.

artificial flowers in the sandbox

To make clean-up a snap, I keep a mesh beach bag at one end, and all the cars and trucks get tossed into that at the end of the day.


To store the rest of our sandbox toys, I rescued a couple of metal planters that were destined for the trash, and I attached them to the backside of the sandbox.  That’s where we keep the buckets, and kitchen utensils.

Tips and tricks for a backyard sandbox

The mesh bag and the planters allow sand and rain to run through, so the toys always stay reasonably clean and dry.

As you can see, creating a natural play space for children doesn’t need to be costly or complicated.  A few simple thrift shop and up-cycled additions are all you need to take your sandbox up a notch, and turn it into a magical space for a child to spend his or her days in.

Looking for more simple backyard play ideas?  You might enjoy:

Pool Noodle Abacus

A Rope and a Bucket

Backyard Balancing Activities

8 Simple Outdoor Play Ideas for Toddlers


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  1. linda says

    Trying to get motivated with the sand play at home. Thanks for the inspiration! Just a question, there are neighbourhood cats, you can imagine my concern as they love sand! It’d be like a giant litter box, how do you solve this?

    • says

      Depending on how big or small your sandbox is, you can make a hinged lid, Linda. When we had a smaller sandbox, it sat right beside our wooden shed, and we would lift the hinged lid, and hook it (with a hook and eye fastener) to the wall of the shed to keep it up and open. You could also use a tarp to cover it when it’s not in use, or a piece of garden lattice, cut to fit, placed over top when not in use.

    • Shannon says

      At the daycare I used to work at we had a BIG sandbox and we used a net that we secured on the ground (sand) around the edge of the box. Cats are fussy and apparently do not like to walk on or between the netting. The bonus is that the sand always had a chance to be cleaned by the rain and dried by the sun.

  2. says

    Loving this series…we are working on our backyard to make it a friendly space for our twin toddlers and also for when I begin as a home educator too later in the year. Love all your sandpit ideas…will have to use some of them in our new sandpit. Just love how busy it keeps kids….your sand wall is inspired, love it!!

  3. Emily says

    This is one of my favorite posts on your blog! We just built a sandbox for our son, and I’ve been trying to find ways to vary sand play for him and keep him interested. Some wonderful ideas. Thanks!

  4. says

    Each of the elements you have added to your sand area is wonderful. I saw the planters for supplies on Pinterest and decided I had to check out this post. I really like the sand wall. I have pinned it to my Outdoor Play board.

  5. says

    This is awesome! We just built a large sandbox for our twins and I am planning all sorts of ways to “soup it up,” so this is just the post I needed! Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. says

    This might just be the best backyard and sandbox I’ve ever seen. I actually want to come over and play because it looks like so much fun. Pinning and wishing our backyard was larger so I could recreate this.

  7. Maggie says

    I know this post it quite old but thank you for it! Definately enjoyed the tips. Question: how do you keep the bugs out? It’s been raining nonstop lately and our son’s brand new sandbox has an unfortunate earwig infestation as a result.

    • happyhooligans says

      Cinnamon is apparently quite effective when it comes to deterring ants. I wonder if it would work for earwigs?

  8. says

    Wow. Thanks for the sandbox ideas. I’m from Germany and own a Sandbox page. Im alltime looking for new ideas. Thanks for this post.

  9. says

    Lovely sandbox ideas! It will be lovely for the kids to have their own special place in the garden. I can already imagine it! Thanks for the idea to put the little house over the sandbox, it’s very practical!

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