Perfectly Portable Backyard Sandbox

Do you dream of sandcastles on the beach? With this simple, do-it-yourself project, you can build sandcastles right outside your door! Create your own beachy backyard adventure by repurposing a molded plastic storage box into an instant, portable sandbox, complete with a cover to keep the sand—and toys—inside.

What You'll Need

  • 1 plastic under-bed storage box with cover—choose one that's 6 to 7 inches deep, 16 to 18 inches wide, and 24 to 36 inches long
  • Enough natural, non-toxic play sand to fill the storage box (usually sold in 50 lb. bags at hardware and home improvement stores)
  • Scissors
  • 1 small bucket
  • Household items to move and mold the sand, such as forks, scoops, hand rakes and shovels, and recycled dairy product containers
  • Household items to hold and pour water, such as measuring cups, a spray bottle, plant mister, or recycled plastic squeeze bottle
  • Small toys and decorative items, like action figures, plastic animals and plants, and cars, to play within the sand

Get Ready… Get Set…

Note: Supervise small children when they're playing around or with sand, water, and small objects.

1. Wash and dry the storage box and cover, as well as any household items or recycled materials you plan to use as toys. Remove any labels or residue.

2. Locate the place where you'd like to put your sandbox, and bring all the items you'll be using to that spot. (For safety, have a grown-up carry the sand and the scissors while kids carry the rest.)

3. Set the box down in a place where there's room to sit and play around all four sides. Remove the cover, putting it aside for later.

4. Use the scissors to carefully cut one corner from a bag of sand.

5. This job's for a grown-up: Carefully pour the sand into the storage box until it reaches about 2 or 3 inches from the top edge. If the bag is too heavy for you to lift safely, cut a larger opening and use a scoop or measuring cup to transfer the sand into the storage box.

6. Store any extra sand in a cool, dry place after you close and secure the bag. (You can use it to replenish or freshen up the sandbox later.)

7. Fill the bucket with water so you can add it to the sand to mold it.


1. Add small amounts of water to some of the sand so that it will stick together and become moldable into shapes. To test if it's damp enough, try to form a "snowball" with your hands. If it sticks together and holds its shape without crumbling, it's just right.

2. Use your imagination! Pack sand into recycled containers that you're using as molds, and invert them into the sandbox to release the sand into shapes. Stack the sand as high as you can to build skyscrapers and castles, scoop out moats and riverbeds using your fingers, or trace letters and numbers into the damp sand. Make roads for cars to drive on and islands for your action figures' vacations, or bulldoze the sand into a hilly desert farm!

3. When you've built the beachy wonderland of your dreams, empty any containers of water, gather up your toys so they don't get lost, and leave everything out in the sun to air-dry.

4. When the sand is nearly dry, consolidate the toys into the sandbox—nest them together before nestling them down into the sand. Snap the cover onto the storage box and you're all set to play again another day.

Depending on the size and weight of your sandbox, you can leave it in place or move it around. Put it under an awning, on a protected porch or deck, or even on the kitchen floor to keep on playing even on a rainy day!