Home » $5 and Under, cheap crafts, Headline, Kids

Make a Portable Mini-Sandbox

29 April 2009 8,803 views 12 Comments

by heather

My kids are drawn to the dirt, so I wanted to make them a sandbox. I like the idea of a sandbox: a fun place for the kids to play in semi-clean dirt. In practice, I'm not that excited about having a huge sandbox in a corner of our yard, open to the elements and neighborhood animals, with two tons of sand in it. Even a small sit-in sandbox would likely have 300 pounds of sand. I couldn't move it if I tried! Here's a great dollar store crafts alternative: make a portable mini-sandbox from a plastic bin! [Other Make Something Cool projects]

This project is quick, fun, and cheap, and would be a fabulous party activity (and party favor to take home), scouting activity, daycare, or picnic activity. Basically anywhere there are kids, this would be a fun one. Because you only use part of a bag of sand per box, it particularly lends itself to groups of 5 or so.

I made two bins because I have two boys, and also because it expands the sandbox area a bit, but still leaves the boxes comfortably portable, with about 8-10 pounds of sand each. I added some "treasure" (idea from my new favorite blog Filth Wizardry) in the form of some rocks and shells I had on hand. Kitten Muffin used shiny beads for her treasure, which is also brilliant. I also added some spare kitchen spoons, some plastic animals, and of course, the boys used their construction vehicles.

You can get these shoebox-sized bins at the dollar store (that is, if you don't already have a few of them on hand). You can get rocks, shells, and other trinkets to add to the sandbox, if desired. The dollar store also has an array of beach sand toys at this time of year you can get. I say just use what you have on hand, though!

The sand: you will most likely need to hit the local home improvement store for some sandbox sand. I bought a 50 pound bag of it for under $4. Like I said, the boxes probably hold about 8-10 pounds, so you can make five mini sandboxes with one bag of sand.

Playing with the boxes: These can go anywhere, but may I suggest somewhere away from the entryway to your house?

Project Estimate:

  • Shoebox-sized plastic bin with lid, $1
  • 1/5 bag of sand, $.75
  • Toys, rocks, shovels, etc, on hand

Total: $1.75 per sandbox

p.s. Here is another great idea for a larger (but still manageable) thrifty sandbox at Thrifty Craft Mama.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Disclosure: this article may contain affiliate links or other forms of sponsored content. Opinions are 100% the author's. Full disclosure policy.


  • maryanne said:

    Great idea!

  • AmyG said:

    What a great idea! I was thinking about getting a sandbox, but like you, I didn’t like the thought of neighborhood animals, bugs & other stuff getting in there.

    I’ll definitely be making one each for my girls.

  • random dude #84 said:

    Wow! what a great idea! you put sand in a f—ing box! Such a hard thought and deeply imagined project!

    And I quote: “This project is quick, fun, and cheap, and would be a fabulous party activity (and party favor to take home)”

    Yes!! All my friends love it when I give them sand in a box! It’s especially handy for those who own cats, as it gives them an opportunity to s— in a box, just like their cat! And so much fun too! I took some sand, and put it in a box, and it was F-*-*-*-I-N-G AWESOME. I [ed: content removed] because I couldn’t contain the pure excitement.

  • Kellie said:

    Wow!! That last comment is pretty ridiculous!! Didn’t his mother ever tell him “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” ?? Geez dude. Get a grip.

    FYI: My kids would LOVE this project!! The easier the project the better!!

  • dita said:

    random dude #84 is awesome :D :D haha

  • kimberlysue said:

    you should consider filling one of the boxes with water. sand/water tables can be found in almost any preschool you go to, because not only are they fun for kids, but they are one of the best learning tools, too! i took many early childhood education classes while getting my degree, and you wouldn’t believe how much of an impact a simple sand/water area can have on children. they get to explore, experiment, and discover on their own, which is one of the best things you can let a child do.

    perhaps random dude didn’t get to play with sand and water as a kid…who knows!

  • Tricia said:

    We have a giant sandbox (permanent installation) and it is often filled with neighborhood kids. We had sand delivered from a place that sells landscaping supplies. We have a tarp with bungee tie downs on the corners to keep it covered (and yes, the weak link is remembering to cover it). It can easily fit 8 sitting around the perimeter. Tons of fun! It gets way more use than the smaller sandbox we had previously.

    Ah, but to tie this comment back to those who would prefer the small box of sand route: we seeded our sandbox with those flower arranging stones (available at the dollar store!) as “treasure” for a pirate birthday party 5 years ago, and they’ve been a big hit ever since (replenished once with a new batch). The neighborhood kids also like filling water balloons (from the dollar store :^) and building homes for them in the sand (they call these things Puffles, ala Club Penguin). Another favorite is to flood the sandbox after and while building – this is called “underwater city.”

    Finally, baby powder is a great sand remover – my theory is that it dries out the sand so it’s much easier to brush off. Keep some near your back door!

  • Last-Minute Birthday Party Games | Make and Takes said:

    […] and sand stations (for outside […]

  • Jennie said:

    Tricia, did you fill the water balloons with sand or water? Whats the best method of filling them if its with sand? I am considering doing this for my daughter to build with. Do they break easily?

  • Sand Box topic | Sell1buy said:

    […] The other day I came across this: […]

  • Beat the Boredom Blues | While He Was Napping said:

    […] be a lesson in patience for your kiddos, it takes 5-7 days to complete the project.51.  Make portable sandboxes.  Cheap and easy to maintain.52.  Play with pipe cleaners.  Who can make the most […]