Children are naturally drawn to sandboxes. They can building sandcastles, drive trucks, dig holes, bury toys, or any other imaginative sand-play activities they can think up. Many children love playing in sand outdoors for fun whether in a sand box or sand table. I know my kids look forward to playing in the sand every chance they get!
But sand play is not only an opportunity for pure fun, it also has an important role in child development.
Benefits of Sand Play
Promotes Physical Development
Every movement a child makes during sand play – feeling the different textures, manipulating objects and molding sand into shape – increases their sensory and fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and strengthens muscles.
Builds Creativity and Imagination
For kids, sand is an open-ended toy that can be played with in multiple ways. This leaves plenty of room for a child’s input and provides an outlet for creative and imaginative play.
Develops Social and Language Skills
When playing with other children in the sand, kids practice social skills like empathy and collaboration, but also using problem-solving and language skills as well.
Research shows that kids who play mud and sand grow up stronger and healthier than kids that are constantly in sterile, indoor environments.
So with all of these benefits, are there any major concerns? While I wish it wasn’t the case, many of the sands available on the market and even locally have toxic concerns and health hazards for young children.
Is sand toxic?
With all the wonderful benefits of sand play, you’re probably on your way to building a sandbox for your child. But before you buy some playsand, it’s important to consider the safety of your source.
As you know, kids breathe more rapidly and can easily inhale dust. They’re also likely to put sand in their mouth when you’re not watching! There are some types of sand and chemicals in sand that can pose health risks to children.
Some types of sand may contain harmful chemicals or minerals, even including things like lead or asbestos, mixed in with the sand grains. Inhaling these substances can cause serious health problems, including cancer. If you’re unsure about the safety of your sandbox sand, have it tested by a qualified professional.
There are also some types of sand that can cause skin irritation, such as silica sand. If you notice your child develops a rash after playing in the sandbox, remove the sand and wash their skin thoroughly.
For this reason, it’s absolutely important to read the label before making a purchase. Also note that most sand is only used for outdoor use.
Potential Health Risks
Unfortunately, not all sand is created equal – many store-bought brands have been found to have harmful toxins that can negatively affect your child’s health. We all want to make good choices when it comes to our children, and unfortunately much sand available, including classic sand and regular sand is not as safe as it should be.
Conventional sand is mined from quarries, mainly for construction, as a byproduct of grinding rocks. As a result, it’s not cleansed to get rid of impurities and is therefore unfit for play purposes.
Natural sand is not always the best sand (nor is the sand sold in stores for young children).
These are some of the toxic ingredients found in conventional sand and other sand concerns:
Microcrystalline Silica is found in most sands sold in hardware stores and big box stores. The silica is made from quartz stone and is a known carcinogen linked to a host of health issues.
Breathing in particles of silica can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs, resulting in silicosis. It can also lead to autoimmune disorders or chronic kidney disease.
According to a study by Upstate Medical University, some sand sold for children’s play boxes has been shown to contain tremolite, which enters the body through the dust in the air.
Long-term exposure to tremolite can lead to health issues identical to asbestos exposure. This includes mesothelioma, a type of respiratory cancer that can show symptoms up to ten to fifty years after contact.
Have you heard earth is running out of sand? It is the most-extracted global resource in the world next to water. With 50 billion metric tons of sand consumed every year, the world’s demand for sand has started to strip riverbeds and beaches bare. This threatens wildlife and exposes coastal communities from extreme weather events such as floods or storm surges.
If you’re a conscious consumer, you should also think about the environmental impact of the sand you pick for your sandbox.
In general, the dustier the sand, the higher the risk of your child inhaling dust and being exposed to potential health problems. Using wet sand is not a solution as it can breed bacteria.
Fortunately, there are natural forms of sand that are less likely to contain dangerous materials. Sand that’s labeled as play sand is usually safe for children, but be sure to read the ingredient list before letting your child play in it.
CA Proposition 65
In California, Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide warnings to consumers about significant exposure to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. If a sandbox sand brand has this label, it most likely contains silica and tremolite and is not safe for your child.
Additionally, if you see a brand with “Not Labeled for Sale in California” – this means it is banned in California due to toxin ingredients in the sand.
What about Sand from the Beach or Rivers?
Beach and riverbed sand is great for sand play as it’s naturally low in dust and hardly gives off any residue when touched.
However, you can’t just go to the beach or riverbed, scoop up bucket loads of sand and put it in your child’s sandbox.
Sand harvesting without consent constitutes to theft in some places and you can even get in trouble for doing it. In the U.S.,Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Florida have signs stating it is illegal to remove sand from the beach. It takes millions of years for sand to form on the coastlines and river beds.
This post may contain affiliate links.
The Best Non-Toxic Sand for Your Kid’s Sandbox
Looking for the best non-toxic sand for your little one? Here are the top brands we recommend.
If you’re looking for fine white sand reminiscent of a tropical destination then you are in luck! Safe Sand provides the closest thing to a Caribbean beachfront. Safe Sand is highly rated as one of the best play sand options on the market. It’s a non-toxic play sand that is highly regulated for sandbox play and is a great option for an outdoor sandbox.
Their sand is naturally white nontoxic sand that has been carefully washed and tested for safety to ensure it’s 100% safe. It has no asbestos, no lead, no crystalline silica dust or any nasty ingredients that could compromise your child’s safety.
Perfectly moldable when wet, it’s great for building castles, mountains, dinosaurs, and more!
Safe Sand is available in various sizes to meet your needs. You can order in bulk and delivery is included in the price. This is a popular choice for a backyard sandbox and is a great natural play sand!
Sand Ranch sells one of the safest sand varieties on the market, known as dune sand. Sourced from the coastal region of Oregon, it’s not like regular beach sand typically found along the water. Rather, this is sand that has been blown away from the water area and does not have the salt content that beach sand has.
You’ll be happy to learn that Sand Ranch sand has passed stringent safety standards and has been found not to have any dust or impurities.
The texture of the grains of sand is smooth and fine which makes for excellent squeezing, stacking, and building all sorts of wonders.
You can get a 5 Gallon Bucket of sand for $5 which is a great deal.
Silica, tremolite, and dust are all things you want to avoid in a sand box and BAHA Natural Play checks all of those boxes.
It’s made of pure Aragonite sand that is ethically and sustainably harvested from the crystal-clear oceans of The Bahamas. It has been verified as nontoxic, so you don’t have to worry about your child breathing in harmful particles during playtime.
A little water can make this sand even more fun! When water is added, it molds well into different shapes and structures, helping to nurture their creativity and build their own worlds.
The standard package contains 25 pounds of sand, suitable for use in sandboxes or indoor sand tables.
If you can’t find a safe play sand or safe type of sand near you consider these other sensory alternatives:
1. Kinetic Sand – This is a type of sand that doesn’t contain any harmful toxins or ingredients. What makes kinetic sand unique is that it’s moldable and easy to clean up. They also have colored sand for extra fun. This sand is safe for indoor use because it doesn’t form dust clouds.
2. Corn Starch and Glue – You can make your own “sand” with corn starch and glue. This recipe is safe and non-toxic as long as you use non-toxic ingredients.
3. Oobleck – Oobleck is a mixture of corn starch and water that has the properties of both a liquid and solid. It’s safe to play with and can be easily cleaned up.
4. Rice – Cooked rice can be used as a great alternative to sand. It’s safe to play with and can be easily cleaned up.
5. Beans – Beans are another safe alternative to sand. They can be used in a sandbox or for sensory play.
6. Flour – Flour can be used as an alternative to sand. It’s safe to play with and can be easily cleaned up. To make it “taste-safe,” cook the flour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes.
7. Pea Gravel – You can also add pea gravel to your sandbox or use it on it’s own for rock play.
Final Thoughts on the Best Non Toxic Sand for Your Sandbox
It’s undeniable that sand play is a great way to keep kids active, creative, and learning in limitless ways, especially during spring and summer months.
In this article, we’ve talked about the problems with conventional sand and hope it will be of help when you’re putting together a non toxic sandbox for your kiddos.
More Helpful Guides:
Baby and Toddler
- 19 Best Minimalist Shoes For Kids and Toddlers [and Barefoot Shoes]
- Best Baby Shoes For Fat Feet (and Wide Feet) 2023
- 45+ Affordable Organic Baby Clothing Brands
- 25 Eco Friendly Baby Clothes Brands For Your Baby
- 10 Best Baby Shampoo For Curly Hair 
- 9 Best Pacifiers For a Breastfed Baby
- 10 Best Baby Shoes For Early Walkers 
- 10 Best Organic Baby Pajamas – Mom Approved
- Non Toxic Sand For Sandbox: 3 Picks
- 8 Minimalist Winter Shoes For Toddlers (2023)
- 12 Best Stainless Steel Sippy Cup Options For Every Budget
- Best Organic Toddler Pillow Options 
- The 10 Best Toddler Sleep Sacks (2023)
- 12 Infant and Toddler Large Motor Activities
- 25 Water Toys for Kids
- 8 Best Organic Vitamins For Kids
- Lovevery Block Set Review: Is It Worth It?
- Best Non Toxic Baby Sunscreen – 6 Picks (Tested 2023)
- 5 Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish For Toddlers (2023 Picks Tested)
- Top 7 Best Organic Baby Cereal Picks (2023)
Home and Nursery
- 12 Best Split Screen Baby Monitors 
- Non-Toxic Baby Pool Options For Kids 
- 20 Best Rocking Chairs and Gliders For a Small Nursery 
- The 20 Best Blackout Curtains For Your Nursery 
- 10 Best Nursery Chairs For Small Spaces 
- Top 8 Best Non Toxic Baby Swing Options 
- Best Baby Swing for Reflux – 7 Picks 
- 6 Best Organic Cotton Crib Sheets 
- 8 Non-Toxic Couches For a Healthy Living Room
- The 20 Best Blackout Curtains For Your Nursery 
- 10 Best Baby Activity Table Picks (2023)
- 9 Best Baby Play Gym Picks (2023)
- 7 Best Baby Bath Seat Picks (2023)
- 10 Best Cheap Baby Monitor Options 2023
- 8 Best Fans For a Nursery and Baby’s Room 
- 9 Best Bassinet For Breastfeeding – 2023 Picks
- The Best Bassinet For Small Spaces – Top 10 
- 11 Best Natural Baby Laundry Detergent Picks
- 8 Best Non Toxic Crib Mattress Picks
- Best Organic Nursing Pillow (5 Top Picks)
- 8 Best Non Toxic Crib Mattress Picks
- 9 Top Bathtub for Toddlers Picks (2023)
- 7 Best Non Toxic Crib Options 2023
- 15 Best Baby Carriers For Nursing 
- Best Baby Carriers For Plus Size Parents 
- 7 Best Cameras For Sports Moms (2023)
- 10 Best Blenders For Pureeing Food
- Best Baby Carrier For Disney World (Top 7 – 2023)
- Best Diono Car Seat – 7 Car Seats Compared
- 9 Best Toddler Hiking Boots 2023
- Best Travel Baby Monitor Picks 
- 9 Best Baby Carriers For Travel
- 20 Best Baby Toys For Airplane Travel
- 20 Best Toddler Toys For Road Trips
- The Best Kids Shoes For Disney 
- 7 Best Baby Travel Bed Options – Ranked By A Traveling Mom
- 6 Best Toddler Headphones for a Plane Ride (2023)