Sensory sandpit with natural elements

Operation: Create an outdoor play wonderland - Phase 1

We live in a small 2 bed unit, which has a narrow border of concrete along 2 sides. It also has a small section of garden adjacent to the front door/living room. Determined to make the most of it, I have made it my mission to try to create a useable, inviting, more natural kids' play space out of this limited slice of private outdoor space. Inspired by a friend's gorgeous sandpit, with some wonderfully interesting natural sponges found at the beach...

Phase 1: The 'shell' sandpit
- all plastic sand toys (shovels, buckets, shapes...) were bundled up into a little, kids' sized wheelie bin for safe keeping, for another time... But all still perfectly accessible by Master B if required! For now, sensory exploration of a broader range of textures other than plastic feels like the right way to go;
- our trips to the park, beach and even down the street have become opportunities to gather interesting, natural items (rocks, stones, shells, tree bark, sticks, leaves, flowers, gum nuts, ... ); 
- herbs picked from our pot plants were collected; 
- shoes and socks removed and hey presto! ... Time to play!!!

I love that even though the sandpit is small, an even smaller container would be just as engaging. This 2 year old was so curious about exploring all the special little natural pieces, and loved touching, scrunching and moving them about...

The lovely thing about collecting these natural elements for the sandpit, is that one day they may be dancing about in clear view, and the next, they may  be 'hidden' in amongst the sand, like camouflaged treasures, ready to be discovered again!

It's so simple! So get out there, and start collecting...

... and decorating, and planting...

Other sandpit ideas:
* trucks & diggers
* pots, pans & tea set
* buttons & bottle tops 
* animal figurines

What other interesting ideas have others come across for home sandpits for toddlers?  

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in the other Kids Play Space posts documenting the transformation of our mini concrete jungle into a more natural play wonderland for our 2 year old to enjoy:
Phase 4 - Follow the Fenceline Brick Road
Phase 5 - Dinosaur small world in a pot

Happy playing,
'til soon,
Anna :-)  

[Be sure to follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ for all our Kids' Play Space updates!]


  1. Love the incorporation of natural materials! We are also constantly looking for interesting finds on our walks near and far...our house is full of them!

    1. It's so lovely to see kids intrigued by nature! ... I love the surprise 'uh oh, there's sand in this crayon box in the living room too?!' moments:-)

  2. Wow, can't believe how you've been able to take a couple of pieces of sponge so much further. Love it. I might bundle up our plastic fantastic for a while too!

  3. Gorgeous pictures! We are in the process of building a sandbox and you've inspired me to add some natural elements to it.

  4. I love the idea of using herbs. Hadn't thought to incorporate them into sandpit play before.

    1. Thanks Danya! The herbs are really fun - planting and pulling apart, rubbing between the fingers and smelling!! Thanks for stopping to comment!! Anna:-)

  5. Great ideas but the only issue is cleaning it maybe (unless you keep it pretty dry and then sift). Coconut shells and driftwood is great also.

    1. Hi Cathy! Ooh, I love the coconut shells and driftwood ideas - very cool!! Re: cleaning: we've managed 18 mths of all sorts of natural bits and bobs in the little shell sand pit with very little maintenance - just putting the lid on each night (to protect from the rain, but mainly possum and cat 'business'!!), and randomly collecting the worst 'bits' to throw away. Of course, the sand doesn't stay 'pure' - it does become more mixed with other things (currently tan bark/wood chips from the parks), but I figure that's ok - a bit more 'texture' to explore!! We are also practising dumping/transfering any contents between the two sides of the shell sandpit (lid and base) and into other pots/containers rather than the floor. Thanks so much for stopping to comment! Anna :-)

    2. Ha!!! Hilarious - had to pop back to say Cathy - that literally as I was writing to you that reply above... my son had gone to town with sand and dirt and everything else outside - tipper trucks/bucket transfers, piles of sand etc everywhere, and evidence of attempts to 'clean up' (ie broom on the ground, and sand 'swept' across the entire outdoor area.) so,... I eat my words! LOL!!!!


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