It might be humanity’s eternal love affair with the beach, but sand is a staple feature of just about every childhood.
It’s easy to set up, too. Just buy a box and pick up some sand from any old place.
The sand you’re buying from hardware stores and home improvement big box stores isn’t really sand. It’s manufactured from things like ground quartz and tremolite.Quartz produces a carcinogenic substance called silica that’s dangerous when regularly inhaled (ever seen a sand blaster’s face?
No because it’s always covered in a thick breathing mask for a reason. Tremolite is related to the asbestos family. Not such an idyllic childhood now.
Many people argue that it’s not harmful until someone is exposed to substantial amounts of the dust and breathes that dust in for prolonged periods.
However, anyone with a child can tell you that sand ends up everywhere including the mouth, nose, and sometimes ears. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
So what can you do?
Before you get rid of your sandbox idea entirely, let’s take a look at some alternatives for your sandbox play and recommend a few different products.
Does Sand Really Cause Cancer?
The silica and tremolite isn’t an issue by themselves. What gets people into trouble is the size of the grain.
The more delicate the grain, the more dust is produced each time your child interacts with the sand. The dust is what puts children at risk to develop certain kinds of cancer.
When you buy large grains, it’s much harder to inhale particles into the lungs where they can cause damage.
Some people recommend going with that cheap hardware sand but buying a larger grain size.
Another thing you can do is moisten the sand a bit before your child plays with it. The moisture prevents dust from becoming airborne, reducing chances your child is breathing it as he or she plays.
The downside to this method is that moist sand is a breeding ground for nasty bacteria and organisms. It also attracts buts and animals looking for places to hide, go to the bathroom, and fulfill instinctual tasks like burying. Gross.
It might be cheaper, but it’s going to be a lot more time intensive to go this route because you have to wet the sand slightly each time your child plays.
Then, you must allow the sand to dry out completely, preferably in full sun where it can heat up and kill organisms. You’re going to have to regularly turn the sand over to get down into the bottom layers.
It’s going to be a major headache, so proceed with caution and know what you’re getting into.
Non-Toxic Play Sand
Instead of all that fuss, you could buy non-toxic sand for a sandbox. “Oh!” you say, “Why didn’t you say that before?”
Well, non-toxic sand is going to be a significant jump in investment. You can get that 50-pound bag of builder’s sand for less than $10, or you can invest in the non-toxic sand for as much as $0,7-1 per pound.
A pound of sand isn’t a lot. For a full-sized sandbox, you could need anywhere from 50 pounds (for younger children) to 150 pounds (for elementary age children). Ouch.
If money is no object, by all means, go this route. However, investing in this sand isn’t a one time deal. Every time your child dumps sand out of the box, are you going to hyperventilate?
Again, consider carefully because the last thing you want is to be too worried about the sand to allow your child to play freely. That defeats the entire purpose of open-ended play.
Our Picks of the Best Sand for Sandbox
Let’s take a look at two excellent options for those of you who choose to invest in the non-toxic sand.
#1 Sandtastik Play Sand
Sandtastik’s play sand is made from a naturally occurring, silica-deficient rock known as Feldspar. It has a natural white color, no bleaching, and a tiny bit of sparkle. It contains no type of asbestos and is certified as non-toxic by CPSIA standards. It’s Prop 65 compliant.
Sandtastik’s sand goes through multiple stages of safety certifications. It’s safe to use indoors and outside and can be washed to remove any foreign debris or to remove any built-up dust.
It’s used in many different areas such as hospitals and therapy centers where children are encouraged to heal through open play. The rigorous safety certifications mean the sand has made its way to many organizations who use sand play as tools for development or other types of activities.
It moistens well and is easily moldable for building activities. It dries out easily in the sun and produces only a small amount of dust. If you’re using it outside, it’s best to place the box in a protected area to prevent the wind from picking up finer grains and blowing them around.
#2 Baha Natural Play Sand
Safe Sand Company’s play sand isn’t bleached or dyed. It’s a natural white, low dust sand that’s safe to use indoors or outside. It doesn’t contain any inhalant silica, and for you Californians out there, it’s also Prop 65 compliant.
It’s made of a naturally occurring Feldspar from a mine in Canada. It’s not crushed, so it’s less scratchy than other types of sand.
It can be moistened to build with, and when it dries, only a little fluffing is needed for it to flow smoothly through your hands with minimal chalky residue.
If your child is going to play with this outside, it might be a little too fine to play with completely dry. The ultra-light particles are easily blown around by the wind and might irritate eyes and faces.
Moistening the sand just a bit prevents this from happening, or having your sandbox in a sheltered area where the wind cannot reach it also helps.
It’s soft enough to use without irritating the skin.
#3 Quality Producer Direct – Natural Play Sand
Quality Producer Direct’s play sand is one of a kind – perfect for outdoor play for children where they can mold it freely.
The play sand is also suitable for building and sculpting and happens to be designed especially for sandboxes.
Having a slightly moist texture, children would love to play with this sand as it feels comforting to touch it. It has an exceptional quality – after going through processes where it is cleaned, washed, and refined multiple times, it gets to have reliable consistency.
To top it off, it comes in a highly protective packaging. The bucket it is delivered in is tightly sealed.
Are you still wondering what sand is the best for filling a sandbox? This play sand might be it!
#4 Earthborn Elements Play Sand
Is your little one excited to go outdoors and play with a sandbox? The Earthborn Element’s play sand might do the job then!
This sand happens to be of an exemplary standard: the constant grating and refining during the manufacturing process allow it to have that.
It is produced so that children will find this play sand to be great for filling a sandbox.
However, be wary not to let it dry too much. The damper it is, the better – there will be less dust.
#5 Kinetic Sand
The kinetic sand is perfect for children of all ages. Having multiple shades and colors that it comes in, the Kinetic sand molds well, and neither does it stick too easily nor dry out soon.
You can squeeze it or crush it, make a castle with it, or put it in a sandbox – the kinetic sand puts your creativity to the test!
The sand feels as though it will flow through your fingers.
That is how good an experience it offers. What is the best sand for a sandbox? The Kinetic Sand is one that will keep your little one happy for hours on end, being completely safe too.
Even adults might want to play with it!
#6 Quikrete Play Sand
The Quikrete play sand is excellent for your children to use for filling a sandbox.
It comes in a bag worth 50 pounds of sand.
The Quikrete play sand is soft, making it feel smooth when it runs between your fingers.
With the large amount of sand that comes in one package, you can go a long time before feeling the need to get a new one.
#7 Classic Sand & Play’s Play Sand
What is the best type of sand for a sandbox? When there are so many different options in the market, it is easy to get confused over this question.
You need not worry, though!
The Classic Sand & Play’s play sand is one of the best play sand’s in the market.
Due to the way it is grated during the manufacturing process, the sand is super smooth!
Unlike most available sands, one unique quality of this play sand is that it does not have any dust. So, you will almost feel as though the beach is at your house!
#8 Pure Ingredients Organic Play Sand
The Pure Ingredients Organic play sand is free of dust.
It can be challenging for parents to trust their children to play with sand, especially when they know they tend to put everything into their mouths!
The Pure Ingredients Organic’s play sand is cleaner than most sands, though.
It wipes off easily as well, making it non-sticky.
You can put it in a sandbox for your patio or your children’s usage – the Pure Ingredients Organic play sand will rarely disappoint.
It weighs about 20 pounds, with the sand lasting for a long time. Keep it damp to reduct dust, though!
#9 Classic Sand And Play’s Play Sand – Green Colored Play Sand
Is it the quality of the sand that makes it the best? Whether it free of dust? what is the best kind of sand for a sandbox? This sand might interest you then.
Perfect for children, it comes in multiple colors. Each color holds its importance in the eyes of your children!
The quality is not comprising either. Being super soft allows your child to have fun with it for a long time.
You can build sandcastles with it or just put it in your sandbox – the choice is yours. It sticks together when it is slightly wet or moist.
#10 Be Good Company’s Natural Sand (Refill Pack)
The Be Good Company’s natural sand is as pure as the title makes it sound.
Great for filling sandboxes, it uses toxin-free ingredients that make it safe for children to play.
It is also refined continuously during the production process that gives it its smooth texture and finish.
Being free of dust is one quality of sand that you might hope for when you purchase it.
Do not worry, though.
The Be Good Company’s sand will not let you down. The sand’s grains make you feel as though you are on a beach.
What do I do? Don’t panic. There are alternatives to the sandbox if you can’t find stomach the hassle of cheap “sand” but don’t have the budget for non-toxic.
Some people use small pebbles in their sandboxes instead of sand. This solution gives kids the chance to dig and excavate without the hazards of silica dust. The downside is that pebbles don’t stick together, so that makes building out of the question.
Sand Tables and Table Top Boxes
You can also use sand tables or tabletop boxes to limit the amount of sand you have to purchase but still give your child the experience.
Sand tables and tabletop boxes only require a few pounds of sand at a time, but your child can build and bury and excavate just like a giant sandbox.
Sandboxes might not be as simple as you thought, but hopefully, we’ve found your solution. Open-ended play is a vital part of a child’s development, and playing in sand taps into a child’s imagination and sensory experiences.
Which solution is the right one for you? Pebbles? Non-toxic sand in a smaller space? Let us know your plan in the comments below!