Backyard Sandbox Safety Tips for Safe Childhood Play

by on November 9th, 2010
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According to the National Sanitation Foundation International ( NSF ), the public location that harbors the highest level of illness causing bacteria is the sandbox at your local playground. That fact being documented and well publicized, I (like many other parents and grandparents) purchased a private backyard sandbox for my little charges to safely play in. But just how safe is a backyard sandbox? Not 100%, there is always a risk of illness causing bacteria lurking in the sand, but simple safety measures will reduce the risk of illness and allow your children to enjoy time playing in the sand.

Start Out Clean

Start each play season with a clean sandbox and clean sand. Good Housekeeping recommends dumping last season’s sand and washing plastic sandboxes out with bleach and allow to air dry before adding new sand.

If you need to dispose of used sand, homeowners can recycle it by incorporating used, debris-free sand into vegetable or flower garden soil or add the sand to a compost bin or fill in a low lying area in the landscape. For renters or if you just don’t want to recycle the sand, divide the sand into several plastic bags (sand is heavy) and toss it out with the household garbage.

Keep the Sandbox Covered

Children are not the only ones that enjoy digging in the sand, so do pets and wildlife, all of which have the potential of leaving behind harmful bacteria. Fecal matter from wildlife usually contain pathogens like E.coli bacteria and roundworms and/or roundworm eggs, which can be ingested by sandbox-playing children. Keeping the sandbox with a lid when it’s not in use will prevent unwanted wildlife from making deposits in the sand. For backyard sandboxes without lids Good Housekeeping suggests using a tarp or a piece of plywood cut to fit the sandbox.

If the sand becomes wet from a leaky diaper or a sudden rain shower, allow the sand to dry out in direct sunlight before allowing children back in to play. The rays of the sun will also help to kill bacteria in the sand.

Keep ‘em Clean and Safe

Keep the sand and kids clean by frequently checking diapers for leakage and never allow kids to play in the sand naked. Teach children not to eat the sand and always wash kids bare feet and hands with warm soapy water after playtime in the sand.


National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF)

Good Housekeeping

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