How Often Should Play Sand Be Changed?

Play sand is a type of sand typically used in play areas for children. While it is convenient to use and easy to maintain, play sand must be frequently changed; it loses its color and shape, as well as its sanitary properties

One of the good things about children is that they don’t need costly and highly sophisticated toys and games to tap into their creative and imaginative powers.  All you need to get your kids’ creativity flowing are basic materials that are cheaply and readily available. One popular example is sand.  Whether it is in a playground or backyard sandbox, sand combined with a few other tools can keep your little ones occupied for hours. However, making sure the sand stays in good condition is critical to ensuring the safety and health of the kids.

So, how often should play sand be changed? Typically, you should consider changing your play sand every year. Keep in mind that as kids play in the sand, it gets soiled and dirty. Clearing visible objects from it is good, but it isn’t enough to protect your little ones.  Over time, it becomes rough, and even if you get rid of visible objects, it can still pose a threat to your kids’ safety. Generally speaking, replacing the play sand every year or two should be adequate to keep it safe but more frequent changes might be needed depending on how often children play in it.

In this post, we discuss everything you need to know about changing your play sand and how to do it right. Read on to find out everything that you need to know.  

Are All Sands the Same?

The short answer to this question is “no.”  There are significant differences between general sand, construction sand, and play sand.  General and construction sand is mostly for building and DIY projects, while play sand is specially created for playing in.  Construction sand cannot be used as play sand and vice versa.

Construction sand vs. play sand

There are two main types of sand in the construction industry, namely, sharp sand and general builders’ sand. These sands usually contain added materials such as clay or iron to make them sturdier and strong when used to construct house foundations or other concrete work.

When you use such sand in a playground or sandbox, it will be extremely rough on kids’ skin and cause severe irritation.

Construction sand doesn’t go through any particular cleaning regime and could be full of germs and harmful bacteria that could severely harm children.  Taking such a risk in the name of saving money isn’t worth it at all.

Play sand

For sand to pass as play sand, it must be subjected to a thorough cleaning process that makes it fine and smooth to touch.

The initial cleaning process focuses on getting rid of all unwanted particles and debris.  It also kills and removes any potentially harmful bacteria found in the sand.

Once this is done, the resulting sand is further subjected to vigorous blasting from highly pressurized water. The primary purpose of this step is to make the sand grains much smaller and rounding any sharper grains to ensure they are safe and won’t cause any scratches or cuts to kids’ bodies.

A toy on the sand.
To make sand fine and smooth, remove any large particles and use high pressure water to make the grains smaller.

For added peace of mind and to ensure that the play sand you purchase is completely safe for your children to play in, always make sure the packaging displays a mark of approval or certification from a recognized health and safety organization.

The certification/approval provides sufficient proof that it has been thoroughly cleaned and can be used as play sand. It also means it has been tried and tested before being brought to the market.

Can You Clean Play Sand?

Yes. In fact, regular cleaning is critical to the safety and health of kids who play in the sand. You need to take time and clean your play sand at least once every week. If you have got time, consider cleaning it after every play session.

Regular cleaning will also help in prolonging its lifespan. If the sand is in a sandbox, make sure you keep the sandbox covered tightly when it isn’t in use and shift the sand every week so that the bottom sand moves to the top and the top sand goes to the bottom.

Kid playing with sand and buckets.
To maintain your play sand, you should clean it carefully at least once a week.

Follow these simple steps while cleaning play sand:

  • Carefully shovel the sand to one side of the sandbox so that the other side is completely empty. If it is in a playground, heap it on one side.
  • Scoop handfuls of the sand into the colander and place the colander over a bucket allowing the sand to filter through.  Get rid of any debris that the colander filters out.  You can request your children to help you if you need assistance.
  • Pour the clean sand that you have already filtered in the empty half of the sandbox and repeat step two until you filter all sand.  Spread the clean sand in the box using a rake.
  • Consider raking through it every time your kids finish playing to get rid of any visible debris.

Play Sand Maintenance 

Besides regular cleaning, there are lots of other things that you can do to maintain your play sand in good condition. Keep in mind that if you do a great job looking after the sand, it will serve you better and for a longer period.

Here are some of the routine maintenance tips to follow:

  • Rake through the sand before and after every play session and make sure you get rid of anything that may have fallen into it, such as leaves or food.
  • Ensure any wet sand is fully dried after each play session because harmful bacteria tend to thrive in wet sand.
  • Keep your sandbox covered whenever it isn’t in use. Covering helps to keep unwanted materials such as bird droppings from getting into the sand. It also prevents insects from turning the sand into their home.  

How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Play Sand

Insects such as ticks, worms, and fleas are common trespassers in play sand, shortening its lifespan. These bugs also carry diseases and can easily make the play sand inhabitable.  Parasitic worms can also post a serious threat to the safety of your little ones.

Kid looking at his toy.
Cinnamon is a leading insect repellent that can be used to protect play sand from bugs, ticks, worms, or fleas.

The cinnamon method is one of the best and most popular ways of keeping bugs out of your play sand. It involves spreading about a pound of ground cinnamon into your play sand and raking it thoroughly to mix.

Cinnamon is used because it is a natural and highly safe insect repellent and will make the play sand smell great. You can also use this method to get rid of signs of mold growth in the play sand.

The good thing is that cinnamon is relatively cheap but highly effective in getting rid of those annoying bugs from your play sand.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Play Sand?

Kids love to play in the sand because it is a lot of fun. However, there are other benefits of playing in the sand.  Research has shown that playing in the sand is extremely beneficial to children of all ages for a number of reasons:

1. Sand play aides in sensory development

The three main sensory areas strengthened by sand play are tactile sense, proprioceptive sense, and vestibular sense. The tactile sense is your kid’s sense of touch, temperature, pressure, and detection of vibrations.

A boy with sand trolley.
The vestibular sense refers to the child’s ability to understand how the body moves and balances

The proprioceptive sense is a child’s awareness of his/her body parts and how they work in different environments, while the vestibular sense refers to the child’s ability to understand how the body moves and balances over different surfaces.

2. Boosts immunity

If you are the type of parent, who frowns at the idea of your little ones going out to play in the sand, you are not alone.  You understand that it is your responsibility to keep them clean and healthy.

But did you know that outdoor play, including sand play, helps your children develop strong immune systems that can easily wade off diseases? Playing in the sand can actually boost their immunity, which is a good thing.

3. Sand play aids in the development of social and language skills

Playing in the sand is not only enjoyable but also a way of interacting with others. When kids share sand toys and play together, they learn how to socialize, make new friends, collaborate, and interact with each other.

Boys playing on the sandbox.
Play sand promotes peer-to-peer interactions and helps the kids make new friends while playing.

They also put their problem-solving skills into use and improve their language skills. Plus, achieving a goal together provides them with a great sense of accomplishment, which boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Final Thoughts

Playing in the sand is a rite of passage for many kids. It is one of the things that define childhood and create those wonderful memories. It is also easy to understand why parents love play sand; it keeps their little ones happy and engaged for hours so they can focus on other things.

But it is critical to ensure that the play sand is in good condition to avoid injuries and health threats. Regular inspection and cleaning of the play sand to get rid of debris such as broken glass is important but changing it is inevitable.

Consider changing your play sand every year or two to keep your kids safe and healthy. Do you have any questions, suggestions, or comments? Let us know in the comments section below.

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