When you think sandbox, what comes to mind is probably some kind wooden framed box filled with sand and toys like buckets + spades, maybe some cars, sand moulds, and other things you get in those sand toy multi-packs.
These classics are fun and I don’t doubt kids love them, but it’s so easy to take your sandbox to the next level and really create a fantastic open-ended play space with multiple play invitations for your kids. Here’s some ideas how:
- Look after your sandbox! Your outdoor place spaces should be treated with the same love and respect as your indoor ones. The sand should be raked and watered (if very hot/dry) so it stays fresh and inviting – no one wants to play in a dry dirty desert scape.
- Find a way to store all your toys and materials when your kids aren’t playing in the sandbox. This will help things to last longer and it keeps your outdoor play space looking nice too.
- Old pots, pans, and other baking supplies are fabulous tools/toys to encourage lots of cooking and potion making. Just like the toys you have inside, the less plastic closed-ended toys = the better and more engaged the play.
- Replace your plastic shovels with real metal ones!
- Get serious about your truck play and use vehicles that can actually dig and move the sand.
- Think about adding some toys like animal figurines to encourage small world play.
- Add an old mirror (if your sandbox is next to a fence) for added dimension.
- Rocks are awesome! One side of ours sandbox is entirely covered in rocks of different sizes. These are not only used in the sandbox, but also as an added element to my kids’ play arcs (in and out of the sandbox).
- Loose parts – we have baskets of loose parts around our outdoor play space with things like tubing, ropes, yard flamingoes, tools, safety cones bricks etc.
- Water! If you have water restrictions, even just a little water added to the sand play can enhance the play. If you don’t have water restrictions, don’t be afraid to go all out. In the photos above my boys had the sprinkler going on the sandbox at a very low level. This completely changed the play and was the most compelling play initiation ever. Both my five and one-year-old didn’t want the play to ever stop!
- Create a platform next to your sandbox which your kids can use as a building surface, staging area, or even just a place to sit (we built a triangular one onto the side of our wooden box frame and have storage underneath it).