How to Build a DIY Sandbox and The Best Sandbox Ideas

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that bring us (and kids) the most joy. As youngsters, we all loved to play in sandboxes – which is why we are big fans of building a DIY sandbox for your children. 

Remember those mindless, thrilling adventures in the backyard or at school? You’d take your shoes off, grab a plastic shovel and a bucket and let your imagination run absolutely wild. You could spend hours in the sandbox, if not an entire day, especially in the summer when the days are longer and you’re lost in the moment. The term “play nice in the sandbox” was something our parents told us and obviously, we remembered; as adults, it’s taken on a whole new meaning but we also impart that same wisdom for our kids.

The sandbox teaches us a lot of life lessons. Sharing, caring, compassion and communication are all things kids practice while playing in the sandbox with other kids. And the best part is, a lot of times it doesn’t require a lot of hands-on coaching or parenting! When they’re in the sandbox, children tend to figure it out on their own because they’re actively engaged and figuring things out on the fly. 

So, what better way to bring this fun and educational experience to your own backyard than to build it yourself? We’re going to use this blog to detail what you’ll need, how to do it, and how to help your kids get the most enjoyment out of it. 

How to build a DIY sandbox

Here’s a fun fact: not all DIY projects have to be exhausting and tedious.

How about that?

Building a DIY sandbox is one of the easiest things you can do in your own backyard, and if your kids are of an appropriate age to use light tools like shovels and a hammer, you can bring them into the build process too. After all, some cheap manual labor is never a bad thing. 

That’s *mostly* a joke. We would never tell you to force your kids into doing this dirty work for you. Never ever.

Planning and preparing is the most important step when building your DIY sandbox. If your question is “how to make a DIY sandbox,” this next section is for you. Let’s talk about what you’ll need in terms of tools and materials – this is a light project in terms of both, so you may have a lot of these items in your garage or storage already.

Tools needed

  • Circular saw
  • Spade or square shovel
  • Sledge
  • Level
  • Drill
  • Hammer

Materials needed

  • Sand
  • Lumber
  • Landscape fabric
  • Velcro tape
  • Tarp (for inclement weather)
  • Framing squares (4)
  • 3-inch decking screws
  • 6-inch timber screws

Step 1: Budget Your Time Properly

Before we even get to the manual labor aspect of this DIY sandbox project, we need to budget some time. After all, we all live busy lives and time is of the essence – and the last thing you want to do is start, then have to stop and come back to the project multiple times.

We estimate a DIY sandbox project to take about four hours from start to finish. So, about half a day. This makes the sandbox an ideal task to tackle on a Saturday or Sunday morning after breakfast with the kids. They’ll have some energy and will be eager to help out because the final product is what they’re most excited about.

Step 1 is making sure you have the time allotted to make this happen. Don’t skip it!

Step 2: Make Sure You’re Organized

When you’re cooking, you’ll hear the term “mise en place.” It’s the process of assembling all of your utensils and ingredients in an organized manner so that you can efficiently prepare and cook your food. We recommend doing the same when building a DIY sandbox; you don’t want a messy work area and frantically look for tools, materials, etc. 

If you’re prepared to work, you’re prepared to succeed. We made that line up and think it sounds pretty cool, so hopefully it motivates you. Get your tools and materials ready and laid out exactly where you’re going to be building the sandbox – unnecessary trips to and from the garage or house are only going to make the build take longer. 

And hey, the kids just want to play! Let’s get to it.

Step 3: Prepare The Lumber

This is where the lumber comes in. You’ll need 12 pieces of wood (three for each side of the sandbox). To determine how long they should be, take 3.5 inches off the length you prefer for each side of the box (3.5 inches is the width of a 4×4).

You want these pieces of wood to butt end-to-side at each corner, so measuring and cutting should be done with precision.  

Step 4: Create Your Sandbox Outline

Ok, now it’s getting real. Lay out four pieces of wood to outline the sandbox, making sure each wood piece’s end is butting up to the other’s side. Once you’ve done that, it’s time for your square or spade shovel. Using the shovel, cut through the grass (on both the inside and outside) of each piece of wood. This is the outline of your sandbox!

Step 5: Dig Your Sandbox

If your kids are old enough (and willing), this is where they can start getting to work. 

Using the perimeter you just made, dig 6 inches deep into the interior of the wood outline. Once you’re done digging this hole, you’ll want to fill the hole with sand to set the base of your DIY sandbox (preferably 4 inches wide and 1 inch deep).

Pro tip from EJG: make sure your digging and filling area is level!

Step 6: Secure Your First Lumber Layer

Position the framing squares on each corner of the sandbox outline. Adjust the pieces of wood until they are perfectly square, and secure each corner into place by drilling in 3-inch screws. After you’ve secured and fastened each corner of the outline together, use the spade or shovel (and your level for accuracy) to tap each piece of wood into the sand.

Once again, use that level to make sure the sandbox is…well, level.

Step 7: Add The Second Lumber Layer

Add the next layer of wood pieces on top of the first set, but you’ll want to make sure there’s a slight overlap on the second layer in the opposite direction. Secure the two layers by drilling 6-inch timber screws every 2-4 feet around the perimeter of the sandbox, making sure you get through the second layer into the first layer.

Step 8: Apply the Base Fabric

Alright, here we go! It’s time to start getting excited as the DIY sandbox is coming together. By this point, you’re ready to lay down the landscape fabric. This is when you know it’s getting real (and the kids’ faces are probably going to start lighting up).

Make sure the landscape fabric covers the base of the sandbox and overlaps the second layer of wood. Press the fabric into all corners and edges of the sandbox.

Step 9: Time for the Last Layer of Wood

There’s one final layer of wood to go, and it happens right here! 

Just as you positioned the second layer, do the same for the third and secure the wood with timber screws, in the same spacing as you did for the second layer. If there’s extra fabric extending from the border of the sandbox, simply trim it off.

Step 10: Fill the Sandbox with Sand!

And…we’ve made it! This is the last step of your build, and then the kids are ready to start playing in the sandbox all day long.

Open the bags of sand and fill in the interior of the sandbox. The Velcro tape and tarp are optional (we listed them in the materials section as a “just in case”), but they’re beneficial if it rains or you have curious animals that like to roam your backyard. 

DIY Sandbox Ideas

Want some creative inspiration to jazz up your new DIY sandbox?

1. Beach Party

Sun and warmth are hallmarks of summer, and sand often reminds us of the beach. If you can’t get to the beach, bring it to your backyard and theme the sandbox with beach balls, sunglasses, a tent and more.

2. Add a cover

A roof or canopy over the sandbox will keep your kids out of the blistering sun. These are especially helpful during hot summer days when they’re in the sandbox for a long period of time.

3. Paint it!

Color is a great way to engage kids and capture their interest. Ask your children about their favorite color(s) and customize your new sandbox with those colors – they’ll be instantly interested and feel like it’s truly a space made for them.

4. Theme Sandbox Days

Do your kids love trains? Pirates? Animals? There are a ton of inexpensive, fun toys to include with the sandbox and you can find them at many home improvement and budget stores. 

5. Sandcastle Contest

Invite the kids’ friends, the neighbors, and more for a friendly competition in your new DIY sandbox. If you’re feeling adventurous, set a time limit (15 minutes) for all participants to complete their sandcastle and see who comes up with the best creation.

6. Treasure Hunt

Every kid loves a treasure hunt. And if you can’t make it to the beach, this is the next best option. Make sure the kids aren’t looking, but all you need to do is bury a few trinkets in the sand and set them free to find them! It’s like a scavenger hunt, but no one needs to leave your backyard sandbox.

7. Dinosaur Dig

Are your kids into dinosaurs? Do you have some budding paleontologists in the house? Well, this is the perfect activity for them. Plastic dinosaur bones and artifacts are easily found online, and this becomes a fun educational exercise as well. Teach the kids about the different dinosaurs and then lead them to the sandbox to dig for the bones!

Are you ready to build your own DIY sandbox?

Hopefully, this blog will help you in your journey to build a fun, accessible DIY sandbox right in your own backyard. There are plenty of options, plenty of possibilities, and opportunities to involve kids. After all, this is a space in your backyard made specifically for them! 

We can’t rave enough about the joy that a sandbox will bring – and it’s even more rewarding when you build it yourself.

What compliments a sandbox perfectly? Well, a strong, sturdy, swing set of course! Browse our swing set models here.