The Sandbox Turtle

What says childhood better than a turtle sandbox?! It's like the second I had kids I needed one of these.
I kept my eyes out for a while on second hand yard sale sites. I took a break last summer since I knew we were moving and it would be a pain to store- but once we were settled I resumed the search. I actually posted in the "want to buy" section that I was looking for one and someone contacted me with exactly what we needed! The little green turtle!

It was in perfect condition and just needed a little dusting off.

What I didn't expect was the search for sand to be such a pain. Have you read about play sand recently?
Apparently there is a warning on the bags of play sand that the airborne dust particles can carry carcinogens which can cause lung cancer... ummm last I checked I try to avoid carcinogens and lung cancer. And protect my kids from them. and for that to be in PLAY SAND? Intended for use in children's play areas?! That's terrifying. Of course I can't protect them from everything. But from the things I can protect them from- I will.

So my idea shifted to plan B. There HAS to be safe sand right? Not all sand contains calcium sulfate. A quick search on amazon brought up this sand:
It claims to be free of silica and all the other "bad stuff" that's in typical play sand. But At $30 for 25lbs I read somewhere that I'd need about 3 bags to fill the turtle. And after having saved so much on the turtle I didn't want to blow it on $90 worth of sand.

Another sand alternative is to buy river sand which comes literally from the ground. It's typically quartz I believe and although it can still create dust, it's not as bad as the manufactured stuff. But we don't have a truck and I couldn't imagine getting a delivery to our deck- that 2 stories high. So sand was officially scratched from our list.

We also questioned whether sand would be good since our AC until is below our deck and also our driveway. We worried that a lot of sand would be lost by being thrown down.

There's good news! There are some alternatives to sand. A few I found are:
1. pebbles. Kids can still fill cups and dump trucks with them. Again being over the AC until and living VERY close to neighbors (and drive by cars) we just didn't think pebbles were a great idea.
2. rice. Another good idea. But I saw that getting costly too. Plus isn't that bad for birds? Plus if it gets wet I worried about it rotting.
3. corn. Again I worried about rotting.

And those were pretty much the alternatives I found. Womp. So as I was sitting enjoying our patio furniture I tried thinking of ideas. Heck, my kids enjoyed playing in it empty! I also thought to maybe just fill it with water and let them go for it.

It suddenly hit me- what about a ball pit? Remember those? And ewwwww the ones at Mc. Donalds where kids probably used the bathroom in- remember the smell? #itdidntgrossmeoutthen

But balls were out because, again, I could see my kids finding great joy in throwing them at neighbors passing by. So I decided to grab some pool noodles.
I thought they would probably be fun to stack, and hide under. And at $1 a pop they were super inexpensive. I started with 4 and that clearly wasn't enough.
So why that size? I'm so glad you asked. Although they can fall off the deck because they aren't wide enough- I wanted to make them tall enough to not fall down. If it doesn't seem to be an issue I may cut them even smaller. But I wanted to see how this went first. So far the kids LOVE it.

By the way they are super easy to cut. Luke snuck out of bed one night and watched me and I heard him crying inside. When I asked what was wrong he said he was sad that I was cutting up his pool noodles. I assured him that I had bought more and his were still down in the garage. I guess the punishment for being out of bed was watching his beloved noodles die a slow painful death by stabbing and slicing.
I ended up buying 4 more to fill the pool out. So $8 total was the cost (after the $15 for the turtle). Not a shabby "sandbox" for under $25!
We did make sure that the sandbox is against the house, not the railings. Wouldn't want to tempt my little people too much. Plus since they're not round if one does get loose it's not going to roll down the street into the sewer or anything crazy. I'm sure Luke will feel like a big helper going to retrieve them!
I feel like my life is complete now that this sandbox has a purpose!


  1. Hi! An alternative that we have found works great for kids at church and is much cheaper is homemade "Moon Sand" Still great for building castles, but without the grit! To make, just mix 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil. Lasts forever and little hands love the texture. Just something to add to your idea lists :)

    1. GREAT idea! I would love to hear how this holds up long term outside. Do any critters get into it? I may end up doing a small rubbermaid sensory box with this mix. Not sure I want them "swimming" around in it :)

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