Transform your sandbox from ordinary to extra-ordinary with these easy, awesome sandbox ideas. Lots of simple tips and tricks to create backyard sandbox that inspires creative, imaginative play.
We spend a ton of time playing in our backyard play space, and without a doubt, the most popular spot for the kids to play in is our our sandbox and playhouse.
I’ve slowly added to this corner of the yard over the years, making it an inviting, natural place for the children to play.
You have to see how I transformed the inside of our playhouse last year!
The most recent undertaking was to add a bunch of inexpensive but engaging features to our sandbox to make it an enchanting and inspiring place for my daycare toddlers and preschoolers to play.
In front of the sandbox, 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, providing lots of gross motor development and imaginative play.
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 inviting areas and activities in your sandbox.
Ours has become an almost magical place where imaginations and creativity flourish!
Our sandbox is quite large, and is located directly underneath the playhouse, which is ideal for keeping the hooligans sheltered from the elements.
We can play out there quite comfortably on the sunniest of days, and we’ve also spent many rainy mornings, playing in the sand, under the shelter of the playhouse.
Easy and inexpensive sandbox ideas:
All of the ideas you see here have been done on a shoe-string budget. Aside from the lumber and 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 sand-kitchen in the other half.
The plank also provides seating in the sandbox, a surface to drive cars and build castles on, and it doubles as an extra work space when things get busy in the kitchen.
I’ve added a few shorter boards which the hooligans like to move around the sandbox, and use as ramps for their cars.
An old bench sits in the kitchen end of the sand box. The shelf underneath makes it the perfect work space for making sand cakes, mud pies, and many other wonderful “homemade sandbox treats”.
At the other end, we have our “sand wall”. The inspiration for the sand wall was our homemade water wall.
I made this sand wall by nailing a scrap piece of lattice to the frame of the playhouse and sandbox. Then, I cut the bottoms off of a few plastic bottles and containers, and attached them to the lattice with zip ties, florist wire and large twist ties.
The sand wall provides lots of entertainment and opportunities for learning as the hooligans pour sand into the highest containers, and watch it filter down through the containers below.
Replace plastic with the “real thing”:
When it comes to sandbox toys, I’m in the process of replacing all of our plastic sand toys and tools with wood, metal, tin and enamel pieces. 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.
A collection of rocks, sticks and play stones also encourage open-ended, imaginative play.
From time to time, I’ll add a new supply of pinecones and a couple of evergreen boughs to add interest to the sandbox. It’s always fun to see how the kids incorporate them into their play scenerios.
Although they’re not “natural”, a few bouquets of artificial flowers, purchased at the dollar store and the 2nd hand store, provide countless opportunities for pretend play.
To make clean-up easy in the sandbox, I keep a plastic, mesh beach bag at one end, and all the cars and trucks get tossed into that at the end of the day.
Any loose sand filters down and out of the holes in the bag, and having one place to put all of the vehicles keeps the sandbox organized and clean.
To store the rest of our sandbox toys, I repurposed a couple of metal planters that were destined for the trash, and I attached them to the backside of the sandbox.
This is where we keep the buckets, and kitchen utensils. The spaces between the bars of the planter allow sand, water and debris to drain out of the toys at the end of the day.
As you can see, creating a natural play space for children doesn’t need to be costly or complicated. These sandbox ideas are easy to implement with just a few thrift shop purchases and repurposed items.
I hope our tips and tricks help you to take your sandbox up a notch, and turn it into a wonderfully magical space for a child to spend his or her days in.
If you don’t have a sandbox, check out these small space sand play ideas:
Construction Sensory Play in a Cardboard Box
More simple backyard play ideas:
8 Simple Outdoor Play Ideas for Toddlers
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.
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?
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.
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.
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!!
I love this space! The hooligans are so lucky!
Chantal Chin A Foeng
Thanks for sharing! Love it!
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!
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.
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!
Kierna Corr (@CiarnaC)
Your sand area is amazing & a real inspiration to anyone trying to develop an area like this, especially as you didn’t just throw a pile of money at it. Thanks for linking up too.
Sam @ Thrive 360 Living
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.
Thank you, Sam! Hey, if you’re ever passing by… 🙂
Anna - the Measured Mom
LOVE this post! I’m sharing it my on Facebook page today as part of our social media shoutout for KBN 🙂
Emma Smith (@MyLittle3andMe)
This is such a gorgeous play space. am sharing on my Facebook page and Pinterest. Love it! (from KBN shoutout)
Thanks so much, Emma. I’m so glad you enjoyed our post so much!
Margarita Ibbott ~ @DownshiftingPRO
Those kids look like they are VERY happy hooligans! Love your pictures!
your sandbox is amazing ! who would not love playing here =)
The Fairy and The Frog
love your sandpit- esp love the flowers.
Very nice! Love your thought process! You’ve given me some inspiration for our sandbox this summer. 🙂
So Awesome. What lucky children that get to hang out at your place every day!
Jackie, I’d love to be one of your kids! Your ideas are amazing and inspiring!lu
Aww, thank you, LuAnn!
Love your posts Jackie!
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.
Cinnamon is apparently quite effective when it comes to deterring ants. I wonder if it would work for earwigs?
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.
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!
Wow! Great ideas! I wish I had this sandbox area for my littles! I especially love the sand wall and the ramps for the cars! I also like the idea for some storage when he pulls out different sandbox items. Thanks for the ideas!
Hi. Where did you get the sand for your sandbox and what kind is it? I have read tp get silica-free sand, as the dust from most sands sold in stores is harmful for little ones (or anyone really) to breathe in. Thanks!
We buy our play sand by the bag at Home Depot or the local hardware store, Rebecca.