On the north side of the house and next to our former chicken-coop-now-playhouse was a sandbox. Made square of railroad ties brought home by a brother, it was filled yearly with fresh white sand. We spent hours there, playing, pretending, and building.
The sandbox was far enough away from the house that our dash from sandbox to indoors guaranteed sand removal from the lush grass we ran across to get inside. It was close enough to our playhouse that we incorporated it with playing house – or bakery – or hospital, or doctor’s office, or Shoefly girl.
Mama’s old cookie cutters, loaf pans, and muffin tins worked well for making sand-loaves and sand-cookies. We served them to “customers” at the edge of the railroad ties and fed them to our dolly-children.
Other days, we divided the entire square into as many parcels as children playing. Each section was a farm, where we designed our own houses, built steps, planted branches for trees, and plowed fields with bent-up forks. Whether we chose a plantation, country farm, or an elaborate castle, we found plenty to fix and build and to play.
Looking back, I realize we spent as much or more time “getting ready” to play than we actually did playing with our creative work. Yet it did not matter.
When I think of sandbox days, I realize how much we learned and experienced. I’m so grateful. No wonder I wanted my kids to have a sandbox and transported “real sand” hundreds of miles so I did not have to deal with glitter from sand in my house. I know what it did for us.
- Playing in the sandbox promoted health. It put us outdoors. We experienced fresh air and exercise. In the maple tree above our heads, we heard birds and the wind. From the fields adjacent to our yard, we inhaled fresh-mown hay or the unpleasant smell of manure-spreading across pasture lands. We were aware of nature around us and utilized all our senses there.
- Playing in the sandbox provided dexterity. Building houses, adding three-story steps, plowing fields and planting flowers or branches for trees all involved the use of muscles and dexterity. We squatted, sat, and spun around on our “parcels” of land, a great gym-exercise of its own. We developed physically while we played.
- Playing in the sandbox utilized our imaginations. We traveled anywhere we wanted to go, lived in any hut or mansion we wished to indwell, and acted out the lives of people we knew when we played in the sandbox. Our pretending knew no boundaries. We tunneled through mountains and built roads for our cars to travel. One monstrous castle called for secret codes for entering the castle-land-sandbox. We used our minds for imagining.
- Playing in the sandbox provided learning. We learned from each other from books we read. Sometimes we played Shoefly Girl or Amish or any other person we knew. We played characters our older sisters read about, not realizing our education.
- Playing in the sandbox provided social skills. When there’s only so much room in the box, you have to divide the land and learn to share. We learned to negotiate and to share by playing together here. We learned how to divide by giving and taking, and learned the power of giving up land to get the best corner in the box.
Still a favorite
Playing in the sandbox kept us entertained, out of the house and not underfoot, and provided education. We learned from each other. I still like playing in sandboxes.
The feel of sand between my fingers, pressing sand into a mold, and digging tunnels take me back to pleasant days of my childhood. I wish for every child the luxury of a sandbox.
Nixing the “buts” on sandboxes.
Moms tell me that a sandbox is too much mess. There is the problem of cat litter in the box [ask me how I know!] and of dirt, branches, and debris landing in the box. When we want something badly enough for our kids, we will find a way to do it.
You don’t have to buy sand and provide an enclosed box. A large pile of dirt will make great excavation dexterity for kids. The point is that outdoor play like this is one of the best entertainment centers in all the world.
Keep the sandbox far enough away from the house that there’s lawn space for kids to run on before they come to the house. You can keep a bucket of water with a towel outside for them to swish-wash their feet and dry them before coming in. Or you can recognize that a little sand in the house is a small price to pay for the benefits.
Make a cover to protect it when not in use. Some sandboxes come with their own cover, but you can make your own. Use a tarp or a large scrap of plywood. Under a porch or deck area is another way to provide protection from wind and debris. If having a sandbox for your kids is important for you, you’ll figure it out.
Photo credits: Pixabay.com