Dig a Kids' Sandpit

If you've got bored kids underfoot, put 'em to work digging a kids' sandpit. When it's done they'll have no end of fun with excavation projects.

| August/September 1994

  • 145-048-01_01m
    Diagram shows depth of sand pit and methods of creating proper drainage. 
    SCOTT MACNEILL
  • 145 backyard adventures - sand pit, cover
    A kids' sandpit needn't be large if only two kids use it. Four to five feet in diameter should be enough.
    ILLUSTRATION: SCOTT MACNEILL AND MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 145-048-01_01m
  • 145 backyard adventures - sand pit, cover

The swamp maples are showing a hint of fall color, but summer is still very much with us, and the outdoors is warm, spring-bug free, and perfect for outdoor play. But over the bleating of the TV in the family room comes a petulant "Mommeeeee, whaaaaat can I doooooo?"—a sure sign that school vacation is winding down. If the kids are small, you find yourself barking, "Time Out!" more often than you like. If you've a preteen, anything but a day of mall-crawling is "Borrr-ing!" Everyone in the family is anxious for school to start—children too, even if they won't admit it—but there are still weeks of freedom for them to endure ...for you all to endure.

What say you off "Barney" or "Hollywood 9-0-whatever-0," herd the kids outside, and all of you get to work building a kids' sandpit big enough for serious excavating? Add in a shovel and bucket and a few other simple wheeled toys and together they offer much of the fun of a trip to the shore.

Let the kids help dig the sandpit, measure and hand-saw wood, hammer, and paint. Give kids a series of small jobs they can complete success fully ...even if it does take twice as long—or perhaps because it does. Make the projects family fun rather than work. It's still vacation, remember?

Our Sandpit

The best-used outdoor "toy" I ever made for our kids and their little pals was the sandpit—about a cubic yard (29 cubic feet or 50 buckets) of sand dumped into a 1 1/2' deep, 3' x 4' oblong hole dug in the lawn of the side yard. Singly or two to four at a time, the children would spend hours there, building roads and caverns and hideouts. Without much squabbling either; sand play is physically active but focused. There were plenty of Tonkas and homemade sand scrapers, scoopers, haulers, and building blocks to go around. Plus, this was when Star Wars first came out, and model Sand People were right at home stalking R2D2 and 3CPO through the minidunes.



Now that the children are college age, the pit has gone back to lawn and you'd never know it existed. But under the sod, between the quince bush and big apple tree, is a wedge of well-broken-in sand waiting to be uncovered and topped up for grandchildren, if and when. They'll find a small fortune in lost Star Wars figurines buried there if they dig deep enough.

Size and Shape  

To determine the size pit you need, wait till your kids get down on their hands and knees—head-to-head, playing together with little cars, model animals, or small dolls. You'll see that two children establish a more or less target-shaped play space: a one-to-three-foot-diameter joint-play circle inside a larger maneuvering circle from four to five feet in diameter. Three children need perhaps six inches more in circle diameter, and four a bit more still. Surrounding the active play space is a ring of floor space where they will keep toys not in active use.






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