Creating Irresistible Outdoor Play Spaces: Sand

17th August, 2011 - Posted by - 5 Comments

Editor’s Note: Welcome to part three in our Creating Irresistible Outdoor Play Spaces series. If you haven’t had a chance yet, don’t forget to check out the Add Water post!

We’re so grateful to preschool teacher and writer, Jenny Kable, for sharing this series with our readers. Jenny’s work inspires so many and her love of outdoor play is infectious.  Happy reading! ~Bethe

Did you ever dig a hole to China when you were a child?

Children have always been intrigued by sand play. They dig in sand, sift it, build with it, pour it, enjoy the feel and smell of it, pretend with it, and explore how it moves.

The children have voted, and they want sand in their play spaces.  So naturally, we must take a look at inspiring ways to include sandpits in playgrounds and backyards.

Before we go looking for some sandpit inspiration, here are a few tips to consider if you are thinking of building a sandpit (from The Outdoor Playspace Naturally by Sue Elliot):

  • locate your sandpit near a tap or water tank for easy access to water
  • fill the sandpit to a recommended depth of 600mm
  • enclose your sandpit in decking, stones or stumps to provide a place for play
  • build your sandpit in a shady spot
  • ensure that you have effective drainage
  • consider climbing plants on a timber frame for added shade
  • define sections of the sandpit using natural materials for different play opportunities.

Sand play: Making it also offers a comprehensive list of things to consider before you get cracking on your own sandpit.

Now lets go and look at some sandpits shall we?

Don’t let lack of space put you off adding sand to your backyard or playground.  Located in a building, this preschool lacked space and a proper outdoor area, but that didn’t stop them from giving their children the opportunity to play with sand in an inviting natural play space:

It is amazing what adding plantings and natural elements both in and around the sandpit can do:

If you are really stretched for space providing sand in containers can let children experience the value of sand play.  Doesn’t this small sand box just make you want to get stuck in and play?

By surrounding your sandpit with natural materials and natural ground cover you can expand the opportunities for children’s play.  Not to mention create something that looks beautiful and is sympathetic to the natural surroundings.

You can enclose your sandpit in stones, tree stumps, or decking.

The use of natural elements to contain the sand adds and exciting design element to a play space and extends the sensory aspects of the sandpit.

Some sandpits are beautifully designed as a natural extension of the garden:

Others have added whimsical touches:

The only thing children love playing with more than sand and water is sand and water mixed together!  Some sandpits beautifully combine the two:

Here is a nifty solution to storing all those essential sandpit accessories:

Sand Play Accessories

Speaking of sand play accessories,  here are a few suggestions that will spark the interest and enhance the learning of the young children in your world:

  • cardboard tubes and ping-pong balls
  • spatulas
  • rolling pins
  • funnels
  • sieves
  • colanders
  • mortar and pestle
  • stones
  • shells
  • scoops
  • measuring spoons and cups
  • aquarium gravel
  • gardening tools and gloves
  • sprinkling cans
  • plastic flowers and vases
  • wooden spoons
  • buckets
  • jewels
  • shakers
  • zoo or farm animals
  • table blocks
  • pipes, tubes, cylinders
  • pine cones
  • nuts
  • jars and lids
  • clothespins
  • potato mashers
  • block people
  • dishes
  • sand combs
  • filters
  • cloth scraps
  • cars and trucks
  • model railroad accessories-tunnels, trees, people
  • spice containers
  • corrugated cardboard
  • baking bowls, pans
  • pulleys
  • small pitchers
  • soup ladles
  • mixing bowls
  • plastic guttering
  • pvc tubing
  • wooden pallet
  • big wooden blocks

So, who’s ready to go outside and play?!

Stay tuned…

Blogger Bio: Jenny Kable is an early childhood educator, teaching and learning from children in a progressive preschool setting nestled in the beautiful Australian bush. Her blog, Let The Children Play, is filled with wonderful ideas and inspiration. Jenny is a favorite blogger around here! You can follow her on Twitter @preschoolplay.


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[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristen Culliney, HeadStartBodyStart. HeadStartBodyStart said: New blog post: Creating Irresistible Outdoor Play Spaces: Sand #ECE, #play [...]

Erika Felt

July 28th, 2010 at 6:02 pm    

I have never liked traditional sandboxes but have been a little stumped since we are restricted on the landscape changes we are allowed to make.
You’ve inspired me to write a proposal for one that fits right in with the residential area :)
Thank you!


July 28th, 2010 at 6:51 pm    

Jenny has AMAZING ideas! We are so lucky to have her share them with our community. :o )

Sandpits Australia

September 2nd, 2010 at 6:35 am    

Those are beautiful sandpits


September 23rd, 2010 at 10:01 am    

I used to love sandpits, were the best form of entertainment from around 3-6 years.

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