Building your own sandbox can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to provide your kids with plenty of outdoor fun and stimulation. But there doesn’t seem to be a single right way to do it, which leaves a lot of people scratching their heads. One particular aspect that many people come up against is the size – most importantly, the depth. Width and length are usually easy to come up with based on how much space is available and how big their child is, but deciding on an appropriate sandbox depth isn’t always as clear-cut.
A sandbox needs to be deep enough to contain sand as it’s moved around but shallow enough that small children can get in and out with ease – typically around 8-12 inches deep. The ideal depth of the sand itself will vary between 2-7 inches depending upon the age of the children playing.
When it comes to the depth of a sandbox, there are three separate but related depth measurements that people commonly ask about. To avoid confusion and get to the bottom of the matter (no pun intended), we’ll address each individually.
First up is the height of the sandbox walls, which will determine the depth of the sandbox itself. There’s no hard and fast rule for how high the walls of a sandbox should be, but a height of about 8 to 12 inches seems to be the most common choice, for both pre-made sandboxes and online DIY sandbox guides.
The key factor in choosing your sandbox wall height is practicality. You’ll want it deep enough to put at least a few inches of sand inside and still have several inches of wall left to prevent sand from overflowing or being flung out. The extra depth will allow kids to freely move sand around into piles and hills without it spilling out into the yard.
But you don’t want the walls so high that your children will have trouble getting into and out of the sandbox, nor should the walls be high enough to hide them from your view while they’re playing in it.
Ideally, the walls should be about twice as high as the sand depth for adequate containment and to allow for more sand to be added as the kids get older (more on that shortly). This will also make it easier to clean the sandbox, as you’ll be able to move all of the sand to one side of the frame without making a mess.
The next thing people commonly ask about is how deep the sand in their sandbox should be. Again, there’s no one right answer or rule, but there are a few general guidelines to follow for safety and practicality.
As mentioned above, you don’t want so much sand that it will spill over the edges of the sandbox during playtime or general maintenance. But you also don’t want so little that your children will run out of digging room too quickly.
The main consideration when it comes to sand depth is the age of the kids who’ll be using it. Too much depth may be unnecessary or even unpleasant for a smaller child (they likely won’t appreciate the feeling of sinking in or getting stuck). But the older the children get, the more space they’ll likely want to explore and the more sand they’ll want to work with.
The decision is ultimately up to your judgment, but here are some general recommendations for appropriate sand depths for different age ranges:
- Infants (1-2 years old) – 2 to 3 inches
- Toddlers (2-3 years old) – 2 to 4 inches
- Pre-schoolers (3-5 years old) – 4 to 6 inches
- Grade schoolers (6-12 years old) – 7+ inches
In-Ground Sandbox (Digging Depth)
Finally, many people like to build their sandboxes partway underground. This can be advantageous because it looks nice, allows for a deeper sandbox without an overly high outer wall, and if done correctly, the frame will be extremely sturdy and level. But it’s not always clear just how deep they should dig the hole to put their frame in.
If building an in-ground sandbox, you should only need to dig down around 3 inches to securely seat the bottom edge of the frame. This will help keep the frame from bursting outward after years of use. But many people dig down 6 inches or more to make a deeper sandbox.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how far you want to dig down to install a sandbox – after all, it’s your yard and your labor! The key advantage of digging down further (6+ inches) is that it allows for a deeper sandbox without an overly high wall sticking up. This makes it easier to get in and out and will likely be more aesthetically pleasing and discreet than a traditional above-ground sandbox. It can also create the feeling of actually digging into the ground, which your kids may enjoy.
However, before you do any digging in your yard, no matter the depth, call your utility company or dial 811 to make sure it’s safe to dig in that area. If they give the go-ahead, it’s still a good idea to dig carefully to avoid rupturing any underground irrigation lines or damaging tree roots.
I hope this article answered your questions and cleared up the issue of how deep your sandbox needs to be. Thanks for reading!