SPRING!?!? IS THAT YOU???? Omigoodness, it’s finally here! Screw you Winter and Snow and freezing my butt off! My Snuggie has been washed and put away and I am literally sitting on my back deck in the sunshine as I type this. Yes, I’m still wearing a jacket and I had to pull my chair into the actual sunbeams because the shadows are chilly, but it is spring and spring is here and I love spring and spring spring spring.
Now that that’s out of my system, let’s get to business. The serious and important business of sandboxes. I joke, but seriously, as parents, aren’t we always trying to make things more fun and more awesome for our kids? We do this because we love them. And, maybe a little bit because the more fun they are having, the longer they leave us alone! 😉
If your sandbox is just a box of sand, they might be amused out there for a short time, but if your sandbox is EPIC, they might be amused out there for a LONG time! Or even a LOOOOONG time. (These are actual units of measurement for measuring time by my children).
So, I thought I’d kick off a spring blog with some tips on how to make your sandbox more awesome. I hope this buys you some much deserved time in a chair in the sun.
- Landscape Fabric
Let’s start by talking about that sandbox and how it’s made. If you have a plastic sandbox from a big box store, you’re kinda stuck, but I know a lot of you have wooden sandboxes that you or someone you know made. A really easy and quick way to make your sandbox overall better is to replace your bottom board with landscape fabric. Rip that bottom board right off, and just use small nails or tacks to put landscape fabric on instead. Landscape fabric lets water drain from the sand, without letting grass and weeds grow through into the box. This way, you don’t have to worry about covering it all the time, it won’t be disgusting and full of water everytime it rains, and the kids can go nuts with buckets of water when they’re in there building, without you worrying about how gross they’re making the sandbox. The sand is always dry and clean, and it doesn’t get scummed up over winter the way a sandbox with a bottom board does.
Now that you have your sandbox set up and filled with sand, add cinnamon to the sand and stir it in. This will help keep your sandbox free of ants and other crawlies, which might be keeping your kids from enjoying the sandbox.
Now it’s time for the toys! If you think you need to spend a lot of money on sand toys, you absolutely do NOT. All of this came from the dollar store or yard sales…
3. Baking Supplies
You buy the dollar store buckets and shovels for the sandbox and what do the kids make? Mud pies of course! So step it up a level and hit up the dollar store for stainless steel mixing bowls, measuring cups (wet and dry measures), measuring spoons, wooden spoons, whisks, mashers, and spatulas. Anything goes in the Sandbox Kitchen! The kids love “baking” just like mom or dad does in the kitchen. My kids love to put on cooking shows for us, where they practice for awhile by themselves, then call us out as an audience to watch them make their concoctions while the commentate the process. It’s pretty cute. Not only will they be having fun, but you’ll be secretly help them learn math! That’s right, they’ll be learning about volume and weight, and units of measurement- even fractions if you get in there with them and do some simple explanations!
4. Play Food and Dishes
On a whim I decided to throw some of our old toddler plates, bowls, cups and cutlery into the sandbox instead of the yard sale box last summer, and the kids LOVED it. Now they can cook up their sand food and SERVE it too!
5. Buried Treasure
With a tiny bit of pre-planning on your part, the snadbox can morph into an amazing pirates treasure hunt! The dollar store is a treasure trove of tiny toys that can be easily buried all over the sandbox. You can get little plastic animals or dinosaurs, marbles, even loose change you have. Choose items that suit your child’s ages of course, but I’ve even done stickers, puzzle pieces, or candies in those tiny 2″x 2″ ziploc bags you can find in the craft section at the dollar store. The kids will love digging for treasure. You can expand on this and create a whole scavenger hunt or pirate treasure map that takes them around the house or yard, ending in the sandbox. You can also get small plastic or wooden treasure chest boxes at the dollar store if you want to end with one big treasure to dig for rather than a bunch of small ones.
For more tips on Treasure Hunts for kids, check this out.
6. Paint Brushes
You never realize how hard working and focused your kids can be until they have a bucket full of water and a paint brush in their hands! I’ve bought small craft style paint brushes for them to use while carefully digging up their buried treasure, but also get them the big house painting sized brushes and let them go to town! My kids paint the outside of their sandbox all the time. And the play house. And the porch. And the trees. And the trampoline. And the dog. Another awesome use for the paint brushes? After the kids graffiti all over your driveway/porch/brick walls of your house with their sidewalk chalk, you can have them clean up their own mess by “painting” it with water.
7. Old Dollhouse and/or people figures and/or cars
A large-ish dollhouse is not really something you’re going to find at the dollar store, I’ll admit, but since you’re looking for something to live it’s life outside, fading from the sun and being packed full of sand, you don’t have to be super picky about the shape and quality of the dollhouse you find. I found one at a yard sale (who am I kidding, I’m never up in time to get to yard sales… when I say “yard sale”, I mean I found it in the trash at the side of the road after someone had finished their yard sale for the day). It’s not perfect, but it’s awesome for the sandbox. Grace loves taking her little people from the house out there- Disney princesses or Barbies, etc. And Gavin plays with it too- Star Wars guys have multi-level battles and Ninja Turtles infiltrate Shredders palace.Even if you can’t get your hands on an old dollhouse, try to score some people figures at the dollar store. Lots of times the kids will build their own structure (house, palace, dojo) out of the sand and just play with their people figures for ages out there. Or if your kids are younger, toy cars are fun in the sandbox too. Build roads, dig tunnels, make bridges.
I hope these tips help you take your sandbox from fun to EPIC and you have an amazing spring and summer with your littles!