A Sandbox for Calvin

Back in March I became obsessed with getting Calvin a sandbox. Calvin loves playing in the sand at any park we go to and I liked the idea of having one in our own backyard where he could play. However, I had a lot of trouble finding what appeared to be a suitable sandbox. I spent hours online looking for a good size sandbox and did find a couple interesting options but none that had the depth I was looking for.

I started talking to Jaeger about sandboxes and he suggested I email his parents since he recalled having a fantastic sandbox when he was growing up. I emailed his mom and she said his dad had built a 6’x6’x3′ sandbox and sunk all but 1 foot into the ground. This sounded brilliant to me. Our yard had an area that was suppose to be a rose garden but the roses didn’t take. I measured and decided I could put a 6’x4′ box in there without any problem. However, Jaeger wasn’t interested in building one himself and I couldn’t find any sandboxes that fit my specifications.

After a while, it occurred to me that a planter box is basically the same thing as a sandbox. I poked around the internet more and found a website that not only sold planter boxes but allowed customers to specify custom dimensions. Jaeger and I sat on this information for a while to see if it’s really something we wanted to do. Meantime, we tried to figure out what to do with the massive concrete patio we have in back. Eventually we decided to get two planters for the patio. I ordered them from NaturalYards as kind of a test for the sandbox. I thought they turned out pretty good.

Eventually, I got around to ordering a 6’x4’x33″ planter to use as Calvin’s sandbox. My original plan was to dig a 2′ hole to sink it into. However, I quickly discovered large tree roots running through the area. Given how many trees we had on our yard, I decided it was probably a lot cause trying to find any place that I could dig a 6’x4’x2′ hole without hitting roots. Plus, the rose garden has a decent amount of shade so hopefully Calvin could avoid getting burned to a crisp.

The sandbox kit arrived last week. On Sunday, Jaeger rerouted a drip line that went through the sandbox area, leveled the ground, and put down a weed barrier.

Preparing the sandbox area

Preparing the sandbox area

After Jaeger finished preparing the ground, I started putting the sandbox together. Everything went well except that I discovered the side trim was the wrong size. They were were 27 1/2″ instead of 33″. The trim is important because it would keep the sand from leaking out at the corners. I emailed the company on Sunday and Monday morning they apologized and mailed out another set of trim by express.

Sandbox without trim

Sandbox without trim

Jaeger made a trip to Home Depot and came back with some pea gravel for the bottom, to promote good drainage.

Sandbox with pea gravel

Sandbox with pea gravel

Calvin had quite a bit of fun with the box even though there wasn’t any sand in it yet. Even though it’s 33″ tall, he was managing to clamber in and out without a chair or ladder. Long-term we’ll probably put something on the side to assist getting into the sandbox.


Nana, Jaeger’s mom, was visiting us and was kind enough to call various landscaping companies trying to find good sand for sandboxes. Due to the dust issue I was hoping for river or beach sand. However, apparently that isn’t commonly available in Colorado. There are options to buy super safe sand online but they’d end up costing thousands of dollars. In the end, I decided to go with Mason sand and try to minimize the dust by wetting it down.

Nana, Calvin, and I dropped by Pioneer Sand Company on the way to the library to make sure Mason sand really would be the right consistency for a sandbox1. It looked good so we ordered 2 tons. It turns out that 2 tons of sand is not nearly as much as it seems like it should be.

The sand was delivered, via dumptruck, to our house this morning. While watching the dump truck dump the sand I realized that I should have schedule them to come sometime when Calvin could have watched.

2 tons of sand

2 tons of sand

After work, I started transporting the sand from our driveway to the sandbox in the back yard. 2 tons didn’t look like much sand in the dump truck, or even on the driveway, but it seemed like a lot of sand once I started transferring it. I shoveled sand for 1 1/2 hrs before having to take a break to pick up Calvin from preschool. Then, I shoveled for another 1 1/2 hrs before it was finally all in the sandbox. It was a lot of work but we ended up with the perfect amount of sand.

Not surprisingly, Calvin was really excited.


Calvin and I had a brief safety talk about what sort of things one doesn’t do in a sandbox. Calvin seemed to think it was obvious that you shouldn’t bury anyone’s head in the sand but was less enthusiastic when I told him he shouldn’t be jumping around on top of it (given how high it is from the ground, I’m a bit worried about the fall he could take).


The new trim arrived this afternoon so after supper I put the finishing touches on the sandbox. (Note the tiny shovel in the picture. That’s a Calvin-sized shovel that I picked up at McGuckins. It’s perfect for Calvin.)


Below is the finished sandbox. Jaeger will probably take better pictures later but it gives you a feel for what it looks like.


The two things that still need to be done is to figure out the best way to let Calvin climb into the sandbox and what sort of cover to put on top. Given we have cats, a cover is essential. For now, I have one of our tarps on top weighted down with some rocks. However, we need something else for long-term use.

I’m not looking forward to my aching arms tonight. However, I think Calvin’s going to have a lot of fun with the sandbox.

  1. Some places on the web suggested that pea gravel could be used instead of sand to minimize dust. However, the obvious problem with pea gravel is you can’t use it to build anything. I’m not sure what good it does in a sandbox.

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