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Some of the most fun and best creative play time I remember as a kid comes from the time I spent outdoors playing in the sun and dirt. Even better than digging in the garden was playing in the sandbox, and it had the added benefit that Mom didn’t get after me for digging up her snap dragons. The memories of the time I spent in the sand made building a sandbox for my kids a top priority in our new home. After all, every kid needs a sandbox.
Kids need dirt. I think it’s hardwired in them. Boys and girls alike love to play in dirt and sand. Giving my kids a place where they can freely dig, build, sculpt, and get as dirty as they want without destroying my vegetable or flower gardens fills this seemingly biological need in them and preserves my sanity. Plus, many moms swear that kids who play in the dirt once in a while build up natural immunities and are sick less often than those who live in germ-free environments.
Fresh air and sunshine make kids happy. They make Mom happy, too. Playing outside under the sun gives kids a good dose of all-natural vitamin D and the opportunity to breathe fresh air. Healthy levels of vitamin D help to increase overall health and mood.
Sandboxes appeal to kids of all ages. Okay, that may be a little overstated, but sandboxes appeal to kids for years. From toddler age well into elementary school, kids love digging, tunneling, and playing in the sand box. Heck, even Mom and Dad like getting out there once in a while. It’s an investment that entertains kids for years. How many toys can you say that about?
Self play is valuable. The sandbox is so much fun that the kid will want to be in it with or without Mom and Dad, whether friends and siblings want to join them or not. While the sandbox is a social place, it’s also a place that kids can learn to play by themselves and be totally okay with it.
Bring on the creativity. Sand is a natural medium for creativity. It lends itself to being sculpted, moved, piled, dug, and more. Whether the kids are building roads, tunnels, and cities or creating wildlife preserves, they are using their minds in creative ways to create a play scene in front of them.
Science lessons abound. Think of the different properties of sand, how it behaves when it is wet versus when it’s dry. What grows in sand? Does it hold a shape? Why does it sometimes clump and sometimes flow? These questions and more make a great introduction to elementary science.
The dirt isn’t as bad as it seems. Yes, kids will get dirty in the sandbox, and the sand will get tracked inside your house, especially during emergency potty breaks. Watching your kids in the sandbox, seeing the fun they have playing alone, with friends, and with you out there will make sweeping your floor and doing a little extra laundry seem like a small price to pay.