34 answers

Alternate Idea for Sandbox

Hi all,
I am trying to come up with an alternative to using sand in our sand table. I can't stand the mess, but it is my kids favortie activity so I don't want to get rid of it. The sand table is outside and open most of the time, so it will have to be something that can get wet. Any creative ideas you have I would appreciate!!!

2 moms found this helpful

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Hi, M.. I use beans, rice, noodles, popcorn, and those syrofoam peanuts that are used for packing. Some of the peanuts disappear in water which is really fun to watch. Since it is getting warm, water is a great replacement for sand. Color it different colors and add water toys and sponges. Sand tables are great for all kinds of sensory activities. Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful

M.,
We used small gravel the kids could still shovel and dig but we didn't have the mess of cats and it doesn't stick to their little bodies when sweaty. The gravel is also good in all weather. Oh, you can also put in a few bags of fish aquarium gravel and that makes it pretty and sometimes shinny. Good luck

1 mom found this helpful

my mom has been the director of several daycare centers. And she has always used rice. But that was an inside activity. Another option for outside could be gravel????

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Hi, M.. I use beans, rice, noodles, popcorn, and those syrofoam peanuts that are used for packing. Some of the peanuts disappear in water which is really fun to watch. Since it is getting warm, water is a great replacement for sand. Color it different colors and add water toys and sponges. Sand tables are great for all kinds of sensory activities. Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful

M.,
We used small gravel the kids could still shovel and dig but we didn't have the mess of cats and it doesn't stick to their little bodies when sweaty. The gravel is also good in all weather. Oh, you can also put in a few bags of fish aquarium gravel and that makes it pretty and sometimes shinny. Good luck

1 mom found this helpful

When I worked daycare we always used rice, pasta, beans, and things like that in our sand table however most of those you probably don't want sitting in water. When the weather gets warmer you could put ice or water in there. The only other thing I can come up with is try some of the local stores or factories. I used to get these scrap plastic pellets from a teacher recycle center back in Indiana and they were fun to scoop and also worked great for art projects. Good luck

M.-
There is a country park not far from us that uses corn, I have also seen small smooth rocks (like you find at some school playgrounds) and also beans (parents as teachers does this alot). Hope this gives you some better ideas, I know!! I hate the sand toooooo.
T.

M.- About 3 years ago I had the same idea because I was tired of cats coming into our yard and the sand staining clothes. I put pea gravel in the sandbox, and what a mistake that was! It has been three years and I still am digging the gravel out of our deck boards. It also got into the yard and messed up the lawn mower. So if you do use pea gravel, I would be sure to "use with caution". Just my two cents. Since then, I have gone back to the sand, but I use the white sand. (It can be hard to find so call around because it sells fast.) It does not stain clothes and I also moved our sandbox far away from our house. I try hard to install the "sand stays in the sandbox rule". Then again I was doing laundry this morning and unfloded some of my daughters pants to find sand pouring out, ugh! The good news is, they still love to play in the sandbox at 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 years old. Good luck!

I have no alternate ideas unfortunately...but I wanted to see if others did. I don't know how to see your advice w/o sending a message! I am so with you. I HATE sand!

M.,
We had a sand table but filled it with tiny pebbles instead. I think my husband got them from home depot or the grass pad. They work GREAT and don't make a mess. The only thing I can suggest is to somehow rinse them off first. They were pretty dirty initially.

M.,
we have an indoor sandbox (it is a plastic tub about 6 inches deep and long) that is filled with pinto beans. i don't know how the beans would survive outdoors if they got wet, but maybe you could put some sort of plywood cover on top that you could just pull on and off or a tarp.
other suggestions would be rice or little stones. the other option would just be to fill it with water over the summer and just use it as a water table.
E.

rice or beans work GREAT!

I have a friend who has a rice table inside. Its great, but wouldn't handle the rain well. If it were me, I'd just do a water table.

M.-
Rice or birdseed seem to be the best ideas. One problem with having sand outside is it can be infested with wasps. I know of several kids who have been stung while playing. Also, if it's low to the ground, cats like to use it.
Good Luck!

my mom has been the director of several daycare centers. And she has always used rice. But that was an inside activity. Another option for outside could be gravel????

We have little pebbles in the sandbox under our play structure. The kids love it - they can still scoop and pour but it is not nearly as messy. Also, you could use it as a water table instead if you don't mind them getting wet.

What about pea gravel?

You could try fish gravel (or dollar store marbles?) if the table isn't very big, otherwise it might get a little pricey. That way it doesn't have the "powder" a lot of gravel has, and as long as the kids keep the rocks out of their pockets, it's relativily neat. You could even put water in on top of it, and they could have their own outside aquarium to play in!

Well it's not exactly the same. But there are these packing peanuts that are being made from I think it's soy beans now. They become some sort hard glue like substance when they are put in water. You can give the kids little dipping bowls and let them dip them in water and stick them together. They will dry hard as a rock. You would have to order some stuff online to get them and not all companies are using them. But I'm sure they will become more popular. You should ask some fish store owners if you can get some of the packing peanuts from them. I've been having various aquarium and fish type products come in lately with them. I've thrown most of them away because I get tired of having so much stuff sitting around.

S.

I don't care for the mess either but my husband has built one far from the house and the kid's love it, it is good for them and their imaganitation,however you can fill your's up using beans all different kinds and colors there easy to fill and dump and the mess is easier to pick up too.I'm a wife and sahm of 2 kiddo's 41/2 and a 16 month old

There are all kinds of sandboxes for outside that have covers on them. I'm with you on the sand thing. I hated it and my kids loved it. We got them a turtle that had a lid. As long as we remembered to put the cover back on the sand stayed dry. Have one with sand in it for outside and use your sand table for inside with beans or rice. The preschool where I teach has one with beans. They are easy to pick up and you can make it a game with the kids. Leave the sand outside. Good Luck and God Bless.

how about small pebbles. you canbuy them by the bag at Lowes I beleive or go to a nursery and look there

I've used beans. Cleans up much better than rice. lol They actually both work but the beans aren't quite as difficult to clean up. Hope that helps!

I had the same problem. We used pea gravel and my son loves it and he can still use all of the same sand "tools" that he had from before. Just make sure you clean the gravel first because it is really dirty when you buy it.

Dried corn. Not sure how it will do when wet, but I know at the county fair and the pumpkin patch that is what they use.

Rice and/or different textures of pasta and beans.

What about rice? I've heard of that being done in daycares.

If you have access to a Farmer's COOP you might check into getting a bag of corn or wheat. It might still be messy, but much easier to clean up. Good luck~~ have fun!

I take my granddaughter to a Parents as Teachers class. They learn and play at the same time. They have an alturative indoor sandbox thing happening. This could work for you, however, you would need to get a sandbox with a lid for outdoor use. Then you can bring it in during the winter and they can still play; all year round. Anyway, at PAT they use rice. That's right RICE. Indoors it cleans up real easy with the vac and all my daycare little ones love playing in it. And no one gets dirty. Yahoo! I keep mine in an under the bed storage tote. It's really nice on rainy days when they want to play outside and can't. Love and Hugs, L.

Hi M., you know I went through almost same problem when my oldest was little, I lived in an apartment complex and couldn't have outside toys like that. I had a parent teacher come visit once a mth to check on development of group, but any ways I brought up wanting to find something in the liken but had to be easy clean and moveable. She suggest to go to a feed store get big bag of bird feed, he loved it, and I did to, any that got on the ground well we were just feeding the birds. Ya you may want something to cover to keep them out of the table when not in use. It is cheap and easy to come by. Not quit the same as sand but the pieces are small which made it fun to pour through tunnles, and such toys..
Good luck

M.,
Kids are messy. Just let them play with the sand. All the other things people suggested are great ideas but you can't get very creative like building castle's and such. I think you're putting your own wants (too messy) ahead of your kids. Afterall, you said it was their favorite activity. We all played in sandboxes and our parents just wiped us off really well. Chances are they aren't going to play in the sandbox for that much longer, and before you know it they'll be out of the house and you'll wish they were home getting sand wiped off of them. Try some of the other suggestions for indoor use. Who knows, maybe they won't want to play in the real sandbox as much!

In response to the mom who said let them just get messy and use the sand: if you do decide to keep the sand, baby powder works well to get the sand off, especially wet sand. I would still rinse them off with the hose so the baby powder doesn't stay on their skin too long. You could also make sure they wear water shoes when they play in the sand so you can just hose out the water shoes and the shoes can stay outside without bringing sand in.

I had a friend who had her sand box inside in a playroom and used pinto beans (uncooked of course).

Just a suggestion.

T. - KC

There are so many things you can put in the sandbox for different experiences for your kids. Rice, beans, marbles anything really that allows them a different experience. Just make sure you keep a close eye so things don't wind up in mouths (some are choking hazards) Depends on the age of your child.

HI,
I use birdseed. It is easy to clean up if your table is moveable just move the table to another spot and let the birds clean up the mess. It also makes it easy to clean at the end of summer (I change mine out every couple of weeks) just take and dump somewhere where the birds can eat it.

Make it a water table with just water or water and bubbles, or make it a shaving cream table (self cleaning). Hope this helps.

Have you tried the white play sand in the box? It is finer than regular sand and does not stain clothes it also brushes off alot easier than the other sand. We use the white sand in our sandbox at school and it is wonderful. Also when the kids are done playing in the sand cover the box with a tarp or cut a piece of plywood to fit the box this will keep animals and water out.

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