Play Sand vs Regular Sand

child playing in the sand with colored toys

Kids love playing in the sand. Whether they’re at the beach or playing with their sandbox, it’s a great way for them to engage in some creative play outdoors. If you’re thinking of buying a sandbox for your child to play with, you need to consider what type of sand you should buy.

Play sand is less coarse and a lot smoother than regular sand, making it more suitable for children to play with. In this article let’s look at the differences between the two types in more detail.

What is the difference between play sand and regular sand?

Play sand is specifically designed with children in mind as it is refined and cleaned before it hits the shelves. In the refining process, dust is removed from the sand and pressurized water is used to reduce the size of the sand grains, making it a much smoother material than regular sand. However, regular sand does not go through the same process, meaning it is not fit for children to play with.

How can you test which sand is safe for playing with?

There are several tests you can try at home to determine whether your sand is safe for your child to play with. Two of the most reliable tests are the dust test and the sugar test. Both of these tests are very easy to carry out as they don’t require complex equipment and they reveal the quality of sand in a matter of minutes. It’s worth trying out both tests so that you can have total confidence in the safety of your play sand.

Dust test

As the name would suggest, the dust test reveals whether play sand has any dust remaining in it. In other words, it checks whether the sand has been successfully cleaned and refined.

To perform the dust test, you should:

  • take the sand
  • pour it into a clear container
  • pour it from the container onto a plate.

If you see any dust during this process, it means the sand is not safe for your child to play with. It is advisable to conduct this test outdoors as it can get messy.

Sugar test

The sugar test aims to test the smoothness of the sand to ensure it doesn’t hurt your child.

  • Pour some sand into a strainer.
  • Slowly sift it through and check the contents of the strainer at the end to ensure no large particles remain.
  • Then, pour the sand into a zip lock bag
  • Tap the bag up to ten times
  • Check the bottom of the bag for any dust.

If you see any dust, it means the sand has failed the sugar test.

What is play sand?

Play sand is a type of sand that has been treated and is safe for children to use, meaning it is smooth and clean. It is often used in sandboxes as it is less likely to harm children.

What are the different types of play sand?

First, we have kinetic sand. This is sand that has a layer of silicone oil on it, making it great for children to build with as it is mouldable. Kinetic sand tends to be the most expensive option on the market.

Next, we have natural sand. This type of sand is usually affordable as it comes straight from the beach and does not have to be processed to the same extent as kinetic sand. However, as a result of this, it tends to be rougher than other types as it is formed organically from eroded rocks (though it is cleaned before being sold).

Finally, processed sand is another type of play sand that is formed by grinding down stones, before being cleaned and filtered for sale. It often has traces of dust, making it the most dangerous option for children’s play sand.

What is play sand good for?

Play sand is great as it allows children to explore the interesting texture of sand in a safe way. While they are playing in the sand, they are learning essential fine motor skills such as building and digging. Often, children are introduced to sandboxes in public places, so it’s also a great opportunity for them to socialize with other children and learn how to behave in this environment. For example, they learn how to share a confined space with other children and how to get others to play with them. 

Classic Sand & Play

Is play sand the same as beach sand?

Play sand is not the same as beach sand. While the cleanliness and smoothness of play sand is quality controlled, beach sand is natural and therefore comes with more risks; it is a much coarser type of sand. 

Can you sanitize play sand?

You can sanitize play sand using either vinegar or bleach, but make sure you clean the sand first. The easiest method involves:

  • Filling a spray bottle with either equal parts white vinegar and water or equal parts bleach and water, depending on your preference.
  • Then, you spray the sand with the solution and mix it to ensure it is evenly coated. Every time you mix the sand, spray it again to coat the new top layer, and repeat this process three to four times.
  • Finally, let the sand dry completely before your child uses it again.

How can you clean play sand?

First, remove all items out of the sandbox and push the sand to one side. Wash the items so that they are ready to go back into a clean sandbox. Then, take a sand sifter and carefully drag it through the sand, moving the clean sand to the side as you go. Some people choose to use a litter scooper as well as a sand sifter, but either method works. 

How often should you change play sand?

The general rule is to replace play sand every year. If you do it less frequently than this, it puts your child’s health at risk as they may be exposed to harmful bacteria. A study by NSF International has shown that sandboxes contain 2,000 times more bacteria, yeast, and mold per square inch than a door handle in a public restroom does. Evidently, if you don’t replace play sand at least once a year, your child could become ill from playing in their sandbox.

How can you look after play sand so it lasts longer?

To keep play sand in good condition, it’s important to supervise your children when they are playing in the sandbox. Look out for any plasters that fall off, diapers that leak, or pets that walk into the box. It’s also a good idea to clean the sandbox toys regularly. 

What can you do with leftover play sand?   

If you’re looking to reuse play sand, one useful tip is to pour it on your driveway in the winter to help you exit your house safely. However, if you’d rather dispose of it, you can do this by taking it to a garbage dump.

What is regular sand?

Regular sand, otherwise known as builders sand, is a rough material that does not go through a process of refining before being sold. 

Can you use regular sand for a sandbox?

Due to the course nature of regular sand, it should never be used in a sandbox. It is often used for construction purposes instead.

When can children start using a sandbox?

Some parents feel comfortable introducing their child to a sandbox from as young as 12 months old, while others wait until they’re two years old and beyond. As long as you wait until your child is at least one year old, and you ensure they are supervised throughout, it is safe for them to play in a sanitized sandbox. It is always advisable to watch your children to make sure they aren’t eating the sand as they could be exposed to harmful bacteria if they do this.

What is the safest sand to use for a sandbox?

The safest sand to use for your child’s sandbox will always be play sand. Before you decide which brand to buy, make sure you are looking at play sand rather than regular sand. Then, check that the play sand does not contain dust or silicon, as these can be irritants. Many brands offer non-toxic play sand that is perfect for your child’s sandbox.

Play sand vs regular sand – Which is the best choice for your child?

Without a doubt, play sand is the best option for a child’s sandbox. It is the safest material for your child to play with as it goes through a rigorous cleaning and refining process, ensuring it is dust-free. What’s more, it’s much smoother than regular sand, so it will keep your child safe and injury-free.

play sand vs regular sand