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An EZ Peezy Sandbox Shade Canopy Alternative

Having a shade canopy for your kids sandbox is a really good idea, not only does it protect them from damaging UV sunlight, it also reduces the temperature of their play area, and may allow your children to stay active for longer periods of time enjoying fresh air and the outdoors. 

Here is a product idea we thought might be effective and useful as a shade canopy for your children's sandbox. Not only is it easy to assemble, it is multi-functional, and could be used for other activities.

The product we are referring to is the E-Z Up Sierra II 10 by 10 Canopy pictured below:

.....Read More Here

What we like about this canopy as a sandbox shade covering is:

  • It's ​reasonably priced
  • It's larger than most of the canopies that come as part of sandbox kits
  • A 12' x 12' option is available
  • It's portable and easy to install
  • There is a choice of blue or tan
  • It's easy to take down and store for winter, if necessary
  • It's easily moved to another area of your yard, to put over a wading pool, or cover an outdoor table for eating
  • It can be taken down quickly and used for other activities. To mention a few:
    • A shelter from the rain or sun for your children's soccer team
    • A shelter when camping
    • A shelter at the beach (maybe a bit of a stretch if the beach is crowded)

    I'm sure you get the idea and can come up with additional uses. It also comes with a protective carry case that is equipped with wheels to facilitate transport.

    I go back to our own personal sandbox experience and think that this canopy has great possibilities. Anything that makes it easier for the kids to play outside for longer periods of time has to get strong consideration. It beats the alternative of staying indoors, and if you live in an area of the country where you get winter, kids are already indoors enough of the year.

    It should be noted that the 10' x 10' model is measured at the base of the slanted legs. The actual canopy itself measures about 8' x 8'.

    The second part of this "shade equation" is the E-Z Up Recreational Sidewall. This is a great compliment to the shade canopy and can be attached as a wall, or walls, to provide even greater protection. It gives you the option to strategically attach the "wall" to whatever side of your canopy you would like or even get more than one.

    .....Read More Here

The third, and final component that you might consider are E-Z Up Instant Shelters Deluxe Weight Bags to anchor the canopy. The E-Z Up Canopy comes with spikes to anchor each of the legs, however, if you want to place your canopy over something other than soft ground these weight bags could be just the answer. 

I know we have been in situations where driving a stake into the ground is an all but impossible task. I don't know why but camping sites are often built on gravel, or ground that's so hard it's the next best thing to poured concrete, which even the strongest of stakes is no match for.

Sandbox Toys

Sandbox Toys can be broken down into two categories: "Little Kids" and "Bigger Kids".

When your children are younger, and just starting out in the sandbox, the tactile feel of the sand is probably the most important feature. That's why they like to take off their shoes and socks so they can really feel the sand.

Our kids' first sandbox toys were old spoons, pots and empty yogurt containers. It's really quite amazing how long young children can be entertained by something so simple. Simple is often best.

As our children grew older they took old toys out of their toy basket in the house to play with in the sandbox. These were supplemented with a variety of "store bought" pails and shovels and eventually bigger toys to round-out their sandbox toy collection.

We found that the toys we ended up purchasing for our sandbox were driven very much by each individual child. Our oldest, and the first in the sandbox, was a boy that really enjoyed big trucks and road construction equipment like graders and bulldozers. Our second child was a girl that preferred Barbies, dollhouses and pretend tea parties. She also took great delight in messing up the roads that her older brother took so long to build; but that's a story for another time.

Each child has his or her own special toys that they enjoy playing with. Fortunately, there are so many great sandbox toys to choose from for your children. If your daughter would prefer a dump truck to Barbie she can have still have her dump truck in pink, if she would like.

Obviously as your children grow and want bigger toys the smaller, plastic, all-in-one sandboxes won't be large enough. That's when you will have to look at a sandbox kit or consider building your own design.

Also, many sandboxes are capable of storing toys right in the sandbox when they aren't in use. This is a really handy feature, as it makes the sandbox more readily available/usable, and one less thing that someone has to do (usually Mom or Dad) each time junior goes out to play. With respect to storing toys in the sandbox I would just add, that metal toys will tend to rust and wear out quicker when left out in the sandbox, so purchasing the plastic version is generally a better option.

Protect Your Kids Sandbox With A Shade Canopy

A Sandbox With A Canopy is an excellent way to protect your children from the sun's harmful UV rays while they are enjoying their playtime. A canopy will give you the peace of mind that they are protected and it means that they can remain in their sandbox for as long as they want without fear of damage to their skin.

My wife grew-up in sunny, hot Australia where at one time not much attention was given to the ill effects of prolonged exposure to the sun. As they say: "that was then, and this is now". Australia has long since realized the correlation of skin damage and skin cancer and now broadcasts government advertising in prime-time TV spots, reminding people to be protected. Where my wife attended school it was even mandatory for school children to wear hats to and from school.

Here in North America we are also much more aware than we used to be and now take the appropriate measures to minimize, or eliminate potential future skin problems. This is especially true when it comes to our children, whether with hats, umbrellas, or sun screen.

Note the following statistics I found that support this point, particularly with children:

  • Children's skin is thinner and more delicate and therefore has less protection against sun damage.
  • Sunburn in childhood increases the risk of skin cancer by 50% in later life.
  • We receive around 80% of our lifetime sun exposure in childhood.
  • Cumulative exposure to sunlight is directly related to skin cancer.
  • Short intense exposure to the sun raises the risk of malignant melanoma, which can be life threatening.​

Remember that UV rays can still penetrate clouds, so be careful on bright cloudy days where you feel cooler but don't realize you are still exposed to the sun. This is also true of those sunny days when a cool wind is blowing and cooling you, making it seem as though the sun isn't as intense.

There are now a few covered sandboxes that also offer a canopy for protection from the sun. Not a bad idea.

If you would like to read more about the sandbox with the canopy pictured at the beginning of this post........Read More Here

Why Do We Need A Sandbox Cover?

sandbox cover

A Sandbox Cover is an essential design component of any sandbox you might consider for your children. The sandbox cover will keep out the neighborhood cats and prevent you, and your children, from unnecessary exposure to a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that causes a very serious infection called; Toxoplasmosis. This is particularly important if you are pregnant.

A sandbox cover will also keep out leaves, twigs and general yard debris, even bird droppings (depending on the cover) and keep your sandbox environment nice and clean for the ones it was meant for.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until after we had our sandbox built that we realized how important having a sandbox cover was. It seemed like every cat in the neighborhood was using our kid's sandbox as a litter box. We quickly realized that trying to clean out the cat poo was not only a battle we couldn't win, it was also dangerous because of the Toxoplasmosis.

We also had a child that liked to eat sand and the thought of her eating anything other than sand was pretty disgusting! Eating sand was bad enough.

It was a this point we decided to make a cover for the sandbox and foil our furry, four-legged neighbors. We further determined that it should be easy to gain access to the sandbox quickly whenever we wanted. So I manufactured a cover/lid utilizing 2 pieces of 1/2" plywood that were 4' x 4' (the sandbox was 4' x 8'). They were essentially like 2 doors. The idea was to have a hinge on one side so the doors opened and rested against the fence that was right beside the sandbox.

I used a piano hinge (although now I'm not sure why as regular hinges would have worked just fine) and attached a handle to each of the doors to make it easier to grasp for opening. This worked quite well for a few years. The downside was the doors were too heavy for the kids to open when they were younger and eventually sand, and rust, made the piano hinges inoperable (they really aren't designed for outdoor use).

The next thing I tried was building a frame (again 2 - 4' x 4' pieces) using 2" x 4" lumber and good sturdy outdoor hinges (I learned my lesson from the piano hinges). Then I covered the center with hard, ridged, plastic lattice. It looked great.

The problem with the latticing was two-fold: It didn't keep out yard debris very well and one of the kids just had to walk on it to see if it would support their weight (I used to think that my kids were the only ones that did stuff like that). The lattice didn't support their weight and there went all my work.

Probably the easiest, and quickest way to cover your sandbox is with a manufactured soft covering. Some of these are available as a sandbox cover alone and some are available together with the sandbox. They usually have a type of draw-string around the outer edge to tighten the covering and they recommend a large beach ball be placed under the cover to give a pitch to the cover to direct rain off of the sandbox (so it doesn't pool on the cover over the sandbox).

Apparently, the water still pools in the cover and it's difficult to get the cover off without water getting into the sandbox. Some complained about this limitation of the soft cover, while others simply accepted it and commented that moist sand was better for playing in and molding.

The other negative comments regarding the soft covers, was that they seemed to fade quickly in the sun. From my experience, I feel that as long as the integrity of the cover is sound, and I could get a couple of years of service from it, it's more important to have the sandbox safe than to worry too much about the cover fading.

Because they are manufactured to a certain size, and recommended for their particular sandboxes, be sure that you take that into account before you begin building your sandbox. You will want your sandbox cover to fit when you have completed your project. If it were me, I would first decide what size I wanted to build my sandbox, then I would see what covers were available and then purchase one. Then I would build my sandbox using the cover as a template.

There is also the option of purchasing a relatively inexpensive tarp and grommet kit from the hardware store to make your own soft cover. You are welcome to try this, but I have found from my experience these grommet kits to not be so great.

Just in case you are wondering, I replaced the sand after I installed my sandbox cover, with fresh clean sand. I would strongly advise you to do the same if that is where you are in this process. The old sand can easily be dealt with by spreading it out over your lawn or working it into flower beds.

Is There A Right And Wrong Kind Of Sandbox Sand?

Sandbox Sand might seem to be a straight forward requirement for a sandbox. After all, what would a sandbox be without sand? You purchase your sandbox, or the materials to make a sandbox, and when it is done you purchase sandbox sand to put into it.

Several years ago, when I finished building my children's sandbox, I went to a local landscape supply center and purchased some very nice, clean sand, to do just that. So why am I paying special attention to sand?

Because, I would be remiss, if I didn't at least inform you of reports that point out the potential dangers of sandbox sand. After all, we're talking about those that are nearest and dearest to us; our children.

The culprit that's causing the concern is freshly - fractured crystalline silica such as that emitted during mining and processing. This is sand that has been manufactured by crushing or grinding rock into small, fine particles, sometimes very fine. It is intended primarily for industrial use.

This "produced sand" is different than "natural sand" that has been naturally weathered, and rounded, over the years of time. The produced sand particles have jagged edges and there are more ultra-fines.

It is these very fine particles that have been identified as the problem. They are referred to as "respirable" and can easily be breathed into the lungs and have the potential to cause an irreversible condition known as, Silicosis.

Silicosis is simply defined as a respiratory disease caused by breathing in (inhaling) silica dust. The lungs are not capable of expelling this dust, so over a period of time it accumulates in the lungs, causing a variety of complications.

This condition has been recorded in workers associated with industries such as: mining, glass manufacturing or sand blasting, and usually takes 10 - 15 years of exposure before manifesting the symptoms.

So how does this relate to sandbox sand? Well, The State of California, Proposition 65, requires; "Chemicals, or substances, known to the state to cause cancer..........", must have a clear and reasonable warning, that is, label.

I'm pretty sure that if you were purchasing a bag that was labelled "playsand", and it had the above warning label, you would naturally take a step back. Because of the known problems with industrial workers, even bags that are labelled "playsand" are obliged to have this label if they are a derivative of fractured crystalline silica.

Yet information I gathered from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states, and I summarize, that children's products can't be labelled as hazardous. If they are hazardous they are automatically banned. They further mention on their website that their knowledge of crystalline silica is based on occupational exposures, that is, long-term exposure to high levels.

Again, because it has to do with children, we want to be careful and do the right thing. We want to protect them. Because of that, I did a lot of research to see if I could find anything definitive on this subject. I could not, so you will have to exercise your own judgement.

In fact, "processed sand" is course and dusty, and doesn't make very good sandbox sand anyway.

As I mentioned earlier, I purchased the sand for my children's sandbox at a local landscape supplier. It was nice, granular, clean sand and served us well for many years. If you are going to consider doing the same you can ask your supplier where they get their sand from.

If you don't have the option of purchasing sand this way, I have provided the following link to an alternative sandbox sand product for you to check out.

I have also seen pea gravel mentioned a few times as an alternative to sandbox sand. Those that mentioned it said that their children were fine with it, just make sure it's clean. Just a few thoughts on pea gravel. Obviously you won't be making sand castles with it as it can't be molded. The other thought I had would be with toddlers. Toddlers are sometimes curious little people and want to try different things in their mouths. I don't know if it's the textures they want to experience, or what.

One of my children was like that (sometimes you don't find out until you change their diaper!). In the case of toddlers pea gravel might present a choking hazard and should be restricted to larger sandboxes and older kids.

However, I was told that cats steer clear of pea gravel. Apparently they don't like to use it as their litter box. I was also told that's why the city where our family lives uses pea gravel at all of the playgrounds in the city parks. This would certainly be an added bonus, but not one that I have enough personal experience with to give a definitive recommendation.

In summary, don't let the sandbox sand controversy stop you from providing your children with the enjoyment of a sandbox.

All-In-One Sandboxes With Covers

These plastic, all-in-one sandboxes with covers are admittedly smaller than most of the sandbox kits, but are great for younger children, and their use is not limited to use as a sandbox. They consist of 2 parts: the body and a lid/cover, which are constructed of highly durable commercial plastic.

The base is usually molded into an interesting shape, which children often become very attached to. I have read reports of children receiving their sandbox as a gift during the winter months and wanting to play with it in the house (without sand of course), and even wanting to sleep in them.

The base can hold water so these sandboxes have often doubled as a wading pool. And because the sandbox base is self-contained they can be placed on a patio, terrace, or deck. You wouldn't normally do this with the larger kits as most of them have no bottom. That also means that you can move them to another location if you want. Because grandparents may have sized down this makes these sandboxes attractive for them to purchase as gifts. Then their favorite little people have a play place when they come to visit.

Also, because the base is plastic it won't rot like a wooden sandbox, and will therefore last much longer and will be available to "pass on" to the next child.

These sandboxes have a cover, or lid. The lid will keep out the neighborhood cats and other unwanted yard debris. The lid is also important for these sandboxes to keep out the rain. With the kits the rain washes right through, but because these sandboxes have an enclosed bottom the lid is necessary to keep the sandbox from filling up with water.

A very nice feature of these covered sandboxes is that they are easy to clean. If the sand starts to get old, just get rid of it and clean the base out with soap and water. That also makes them easy to empty and store at the end of the summer season. Because they are smaller, they don't require huge quantities of sand, so you can put new sand in them every year at a limited expense.

Please find below a classic example of the all-in-one plastic sandbox: I hope you're not put-off by the commercial video, I found it to be useful for giving the scale of one of these sandboxes, with children actually in the sandbox playing.

Step2 Naturally Playful Sandbox

Step2 Sandbox

......Read More Here

Should I Be Worried About Toxoplasmosis In My Kids Sandbox?

What about pregnancy and your cat?

The transmission of an infection called toxoplasmosis is the primary concern related to cats. Transmission occurs from contact with feline feces and also contact with raw or under-cooked meats. Outdoor cats are more likely to have toxoplasmosis than cats that remain strickly indoors.

If a woman is immune to toxoplasmosis before pregnancy, then the baby is safe. Approximately 15% of women in the United States are immune to the infection, and the likelihood of immunity is higher for women who have owned cats for a long time.

Exposure to cat's feces will most commonly occur in the garden, or sandbox, where cats bury their bowel movements, or when you change the litter box. When a cat comes into contact with toxoplasmosis, the parasite only lives in the cat's feces for two weeks and then the cat becomes immune. But toxoplasma gondii eggs can live in cat feces for up to 18 months if the feces is buried in moist soil. It is best to avoid changing the litter box because even the dust can create exposure. 

Here are a few helpful tips to help create a safer environment during your pregnancy:

  • If you must do some gardening, wear gloves at all times
  • Avoid changing the litter box; have someone else do it
  • Do not leave your cat with your new baby unsupervised
  • Cover your children's sandbox

​Toxoplasmosis poses serious risks for your baby which include: mental retardation, blindness, learning disabilities, stillbirth or pre-term birth. Inform your health care provider that you are a cat owner. If you are infected while you are pregnant there is an antibiotic to reduce the likelihood that the baby will be infected.

A 2001 study found that direct contact with pet cats is probably a less common route of transmission to human hosts than contamination of hands with cat feces by touching the earth.

Most infants who are infected while in the womb have no symptoms at birth, but may develop symptoms later in life.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a single-celled protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, one of the most common parasitic diseases of warm-blooded animals. While Toxoplasma can infect numerous species, it will only reproduce in the intestines of an infected cat.

Humans are considered an 'intermediate' host for Toxoplasma (refer to the diagram above), meaning that our bodies can be infected by the parasite, but we cannot spread it to other creatures. 

But once a human is infected with Toxoplasm, the parasite migrates deep into our tissues - frequently the tissues of the brain and the eyes - creates small cysts, and stays there for life, multiplying as the years pass.

Sandbox Kits

Sandbox Kits are a great way to have a sandbox for your kids quickly, especially if your children are past the toddler stage. Sandbox kits are really the only way to get a larger sandbox. When your children are toddlers the all-in-one plastic sandboxes are a great option, but when they want to spread out a little more with their roads and towns, a larger play area will be needed. This becomes even more critical when there are several children in the sandbox at one time.

​Of course you will want to choose a sandbox kit with a cover to keep out unwanted four-legged visitors and yard debris. You will also want to choose the spot for your sandbox carefully as it will be difficult to move once it's filled with sand, as most kits don't have a bottom.

Kits come in a variety of shapes and sizes and generally require some assembly. They are also constructed from a variety of materials, such as heavy duty plastic, composite material, or cedar. Composite material, for those unfamiliar with it, is often a combination of recycled plastic and waste wood fibers. It works much like wood and is easy to saw, nail and screw. The most important thing is it will withstand being exposed to the weather. There are a variety of items now being constructed from composite; from decks to lawn furniture.

The other common material used in sandbox kits is cedar. It is well known to tolerate moisture and is also easy to work with. Cedar has become more difficult to find and is one of the reasons that composite and plastic materials have been increasing in popularity.

This Is The Sandbox Pictured Above Opened Up

Treated lumber is generally avoided for the construction of a sandbox and is becoming less popular as a construction material for projects such as decking where we are in direct contact with the material. The chemicals that are used to treat the wood so it will last longer, are thought to be potentially toxic. So it seems prudent not to unnecessarily expose our children to that kind of hazard when there are comparable materials available at a reasonable price.

Years ago, when I built the sandbox for my kids, I used untreated landscape ties/timbers. They were about 3" in diameter and 8' long. I simply cut them to make a 4' x 8' box that was about 12" high. It functioned quite well, but originally didn't have a cover (please don't make that mistake) and is still standing after years of service.

However, if there would have been the option to purchase a sandbox kit, that's what I would have done. There are several excellent options available, with covers, for a reasonable price, and they only require a few basic tools and a little time to assemble.