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What’s the Best Type of Sand for your Sandbox? (Pros & Cons)

colored square wooden sandbox_Butus_shutterstock
colored square wooden sandbox_Butus_shutterstock
Image Credit: Butus, Shutterstock

Believe it or not, but not all sand is the same. For example, building sand may include iron and clay, while play sand must be clean, fine, and smooth. Since there are so many types of sand on the market, you need to know what kind is the best for your sandbox.

The best sand for a playbox is play sand. Still, play sand can be dangerous if you do not conduct proper testing to ensure its safety. In this article, we’re going to look at what exactly makes safe sand for sandboxes, potential safety risks, and how to determine whether or not the play sand is actually safe.divider 4

Best Type of Sand for Your Sandbox: Play Sand

sandbox-pixabay (2)
Image Credit: RAMillu, Pixabay

The best type of sand for your sandbox is play sand. What makes this sand type different is that it is regulated by the government for safety standards, unlike other sand types. Only allow your children to play with play sand since it is free of chemicals and harmful bacteria.

Since it is under strict government regulations, play sand must undergo intense cleaning processes so that it is fine and smooth. This initial cleaning removes debris and particles and kills any potential bacteria.

After the initial cleaning is done, the play sand is then blasted with pressurized water. This blasting makes the sand grains even smaller and rounds out sharp edges. This ensures that the sand cannot cut or injure your child during use.


Potential Safety Risks

Still, even play sand can come with some serious health hazards that many people would like to avoid, especially where their children are concerned.

Tremolite

Most notably, some sand used in sandboxes contain tremolite, a form of asbestos fibers. Asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, a form of aggressive and rare cancer that typically develops 20 to 50 years after the initial asbestos exposure. Asbestos is only dangerous when the fibers are inhaled, allowing them to be lodged into the lungs.

As the tremolite is mixed with the sand, it can be easy to inhale. As a result, a sandbox full of tremolite is one of the most dangerous situations with a clear link to cancer.

However, all sands that are labeled as “play sand” will be tested for tremolite and be free of the cancer-causing mineral. The rigorous safety standards ensure this fact. If you select a brand that specifically calls itself play sand, you should avoid this issue.


Dust

Another common issue associated with sand in the sandbox is dust. Play sand is normally ground so finely that it can create dust that is easy to inhale. Children with asthma and other respiratory illnesses can inhale the dust, exacerbating their symptoms. Dust is a much more likely health risk associated with play sand than tremolite.


Bacteria

Many people believe that adding water to their play sand will offset the side effects associated with tremolite and dust. Adding water turns the sand into a paste form, preventing dust and tremolite from being inhaled. Unfortunately, adding water to your sand increases the chance of bacteria growth.

divider 5Should I Get Play Sand? Pros and Cons

sandbox-pixabay3
Image Credit: mari_sparro, Pixabay

Given that play sand comes with some serious potential health hazards, you may be thinking that you should immediately steer clear of this past time. Before jumping to any conclusions, you should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of a sandbox, especially if you take the time to make sure that the sand you select is clean and safe.

Pros

So long as you select a type of sand that is safe and free of tremolite, sandboxes are a great way to provide safe and clean entertainment for your children. Children love playing in sand. Give them hours of entertainment with a sandbox.

Not only are sandboxes entertaining, but they are very helpful in developing your child’s skills. As they play in the sand, they can enhance their fine motor skills and their proprioceptive sense. At the same time, playing in sandboxes can enhance social skills, language abilities, and communication abilities.

Cons

The biggest con of play sand is that it could be potentially dangerous if you select the wrong brand. Just by being diligent in the sand you choose can help you avoid this problem entirely. You can even conduct your own safety tests, which we will discuss extensively in the next section.

Another drawback of play sand is that bugs and other critters may want to make it their home. You should be able to generally avoid this negative occurrence by properly maintaining the sandbox at all times.

Our Take

From our perspective, sandboxes are a good investment. Even though you should take extra time to select a safe play sand and maintain the sandbox, the extra effort will be worth it since it helps your child to develop healthily and provides them hours of entertainment.

Pros
  • Provide safe and clean entertainment
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Enhances social skills
  • Round and small
  • No harmful bacteria
Cons
  • Potential safety risks
  • Bugs can infest box
  • Must maintain the sandbox
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Factors to Consider When Choosing Sand

In the case that you believe the benefits outweigh the potential risks, you need to make sure to choose the correct sand. Simply grabbing any play sand won’t do. Some manufacturers are not as diligent in confirming the safety standards of the product as others.

No matter what sand you get, it should be able to pass the following three tests:
  1. The Nuisance Dust Test
  2. The Sugar Test
  3. The Sandcastle Test

These tests ensure that your sand is safe and fine. You can administer these tests yourself relatively quickly and easily. Here’s more about these tests:

The Nuisance Dust Test

The point of the nuisance dust test is to ensure that all fine particles are washed out of the sand. This ensures that dust clouds will not trigger asthma or allergies. Unnatural sands are most likely to fail the nuisance dust test.

Fill a 4-cup clear container with your sandbox sand. Immediately pour that sand into a different container or plate. It doesn’t matter what kind. Now, place the original 4-cup clear container on a flat surface.

Grab the plate or container of sand and hold it 6 to 12 inches above the empty container. Pour the sand into the clear container at this height. Try to pour the sand as quickly as possible. If any particles of dust can be seen, it has failed the test and is not safe. You can add a black backdrop behind the clear container to more easily see whether or not any particles are created.


The Sugar Test

The sugar test makes sure that all of the sand is uniform, even though no sugar is used. This ensures that the sand is natural and will not cut or cause other health issues for your child. If your sand does not pass this test, it is more likely to harm your child during playtime.

To perform the sugar test, sift out the sand using a kitchen strainer. If any larger particles are left within the kitchen strainer, it has already failed the test. Sometimes, the sand will pass this step but not the next.

Now, place sand in a zip lock bag, and tap your hand against it about 5 or 10 times. If dust is present, it will shift to the bottom of the bag. There will be a distinct line to differentiate the dust from the larger grains. Any distinct lines mean that the sand has failed the test.


The Sandcastle Test

The sandcastle test tests the enjoyment level of the sand, not the safety. As the name suggests, the sandcastle test sees how easily the sand can build a sandcastle. Failing the sandcastle test will make the sand less fun for your child.

All you need to do is add some water to the sand. Start by adding a little but build up as you need more. Grab the sand and roll it into a ball, like you would a snowball. If you are unable to create a ball that does not crack, no matter how much water you add, the sand has failed the sandcastle test.divider 8

FAQs

What is the appropriate age for children to play with sand?

Play sand is safe for all children 12 months and older. However, the Toy Industry Association notes that many childhood health professionals believe that a sandbox with safe sand is suitable for any child that can sit up on their own.

How do I maintain a sandbox?

Maintain your sandbox to ensure that no critters or bacteria infest it. Here are some tips to maintain your sandbox:
  • Rake sand before and after each use.
  • Remove any items, particles, or unwanted toys from the box before closing it up.
  • Allow sand to fully dry before closing up your sandbox.
  • Cover sandbox when it is not in use to prevent against unwanted animals, insects, and bacteria.
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Conclusion

Fill your sandbox up with play sand. Overall, this is the best sand for sanboxes. Play sand has undergone rigorous testing to ensure that it is free of bacteria and tremolite. Go the extra step by performing the nuisance test, the sugar test, and the sandcastle test to ensure that the play sand you select is optimum for the health and enjoyment of your child.

So long as you select a play sand with no dust, your child will be able to play happily and healthily for many hours.


Featured image credit: Butus, Shutterstock

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