A sandbox is a great way for kids to spend time outdoors, engage their imaginations, and build some strength and motor skills as they dig and play around in the sand. But if that sandbox becomes infiltrated or overrun by bugs, the fun can come to a quick end. Some insects can scare the dickens out of your kids, and some can do much worse – a sting or bite from any insect can be painful but from the wrong insect it can be extremely dangerous. So naturally, you’ll want to keep any bugs from getting into the sandbox with your little ones.
Fortunately, there’s not much to it. In this article, I’ll go over the best (and safest) ways to keep insects and other uninvited visitors out of your sandbox, as well as how to get rid of them if they’ve already moved in.
How To Keep Bugs Out of Your Sandbox – A Simple Guide
Keeping bugs out of your sandbox is mostly about keeping it clean, dry, and well-maintained, but you can help improve the defenses with a few non-toxic or natural bug repellents. It’s also about making the sandbox less inviting in terms of nesting places and food sources. But prevention ultimately starts from the ground up – literally.
Here are 10 steps you can take to keep bugs out of your sandbox:
1. Line the Floor of the Sandbox
The first way to help keep bugs out of your sandbox is to make sure there’s a barrier of some kind between the ground and the sand, to prevent ants or other burrowing bugs from coming up through the ground. A plastic painter’s drop cloth works fairly well for this as long as you poke several holes in it to allow the sandbox to drain properly. Landscape fabric is even better since it already allows for drainage. Of course, some sandboxes (especially plastic ones) already have a bottom barrier.
2. Use Sanitized Play Sand
Natural, untreated sand is more likely to attract bacteria and consequently may attract insects. Using sanitized play sand that’s specifically labeled for use in children’s sandboxes and play areas improves your chances of keeping the sandbox clean and bug-free.
3. Mix Cinnamon Into the Sand
Many insects – including ants, mosquitoes, flies, fruit flies, ticks, and silverfish – are not fans of cinnamon. Adding some ground cinnamon to the sand will help deter them from coming near, but it’s best not to put so much that the sand seems appetizing to your young ones or pets. The exact ratio is hard to say and depends on the size of your sandbox, but 1 cup or less should do it for most sandboxes. Keep in mind that if your kids have sensitive skin, the cinnamon oil may cause irritation in larger quantities.
4. Apply a Safe Bug Repellent Around the Perimeter
The cinnamon will work to repel some bugs but may not be as effective for others. For more comprehensive protection, you can spray around the sandbox perimeter with a natural, plant-derived bug repellent that’s safe for kids and pets. These are sold in most hardware stores and are typically very effective if applied consistently.
5. Cover Your Sandbox When It’s Not In Use
Many sandboxes come with a fitted cover, and while they don’t necessarily form a perfect seal, they do help deter insects and keep out organic materials that attract insects (leaves, twigs, etc.). A good sandbox cover will prevent rainwater from collecting in the sandbox, which is crucial since mosquitos, bacteria, and other nasty pests can thrive in wet sand. It will also keep any cats from using the sandbox as their personal bathroom. Animal droppings will attract insects and may even contain parasites or worms – so a sandbox cover is a must-have.
6. Keep Food and Drinks Out of the Sandbox
Nothing attracts bugs like some dropped morsels of food or a sugary glob of juice-box overflow. To keep the sandbox bug-free, there will have to be a no-snacking rule in place in and around the sandbox. But this doesn’t just apply to the little ones. If you feed any pets outside, try to keep their food well away from the sandbox and make sure the dog doesn’t bury any bones in there. Any bird feeders should also be moved away from the sandbox to avoid spilling seeds or syrup in or near it.
7. Keep the Surrounding Area Clean and Tidy
A sandbox surrounded by tall grass or weeds is much more likely to become infested since many bugs tend to hang out in just such vegetation. If possible, the sandbox should have at least a few feet of neatly trimmed, empty space around it to put more distance between the bugs and the box.
8. Eliminate Hiding Places
Not all insects are interested in the sand but rather in the sandbox itself. Spiders will climb into crevasses or cracks in the wood and make themselves comfortable. Some species of wasp and other flying insects will burrow into the wooden frame to make their nests. The hollow underside of some plastic sandboxes also provides a spacious shelter for many insects.
Crevices and cracks in the wood can be filled with putty or foam sealant (after removing or killing any lurking critters, of course). Nooks or cubbies can be cleaned regularly or filled to discourage inhabitants.
9. Turn and Sift the Sand
Turning the sand regularly will send a clear message to any burrowing insects that this sand is not the place to build a stable home. And sifting it periodically using either a homemade or store-bought sand sifter will keep it clean and free of debris and organic materials that can attract bugs. As a bonus, you may find some long-lost toys in the process. Turning should be done once every week or two, while sifting can usually be done once a month unless there’s a visible buildup of junk in the sand.
10. Replace the Sand Periodically
Removing the old sand and putting in fresh sand every year or so will help keep the sandbox clean and less appealing to bugs and other critters. If the ground barrier has deteriorated or the wood has become rotted or badly cracked, it’s a good idea to replace them as well.
How To Get Bugs Out of Your Sandbox
If your sandbox has already become infested with bugs, preventative measures likely won’t do much to get rid of the infestation. You may be able to get rid of a wasp or spider nest in the frame without too much trouble, but you’ll have to wash out any pesticides you use before letting your kids play in the sandbox again – without contaminating the sand.
In most cases (particularly with ants, fleas, ticks, and parasitic worms) the only way to be sure you’ve solved the problem is to get rid of the sand and start over. Here’s a brief rundown on how to do it – the right way.
- Dump the Old Sand – First, remove and dispose of the bug-infested sand. Make sure you dispose of it properly according to your local laws or simply put it elsewhere on your property (though depending on what kind of bugs are in it, you may not want to keep it around).
- Apply Pesticide – Next, spray the entire sandbox with pesticide, making sure to get it in every crevice, nook, and cranny. This will take care of any stragglers or eggs left behind. Let the sandbox sit for two days while the pesticide does its thing. If possible, cover it with a weighted-down plastic sheet or tarp to keep pets away and prevent rain from washing away the pesticide.
- Clean the Sandbox – After the two days have passed, wash the sandbox with soap and water to get rid of any pesticide residue and get the frame or container nice and clean.
- Repeat Preventative Measures Listed Above – Once the sandbox is clean and dry, put a new liner in the bottom (if applicable), dump in new sanitized play sand, add cinnamon, spray the perimeter with bug repellant, etc.
As you can see, keeping bugs out of your sandbox is a lot like keeping bugs out of anywhere else. Cleanliness and routine maintenance make up the better part of the task, with a bit of extra protection for good measure. If you want an even more natural approach to bug repellants, you can find loads of information online about particular plants, household items, and essential oils that act as repellents for specific insects and animals. Thanks for reading!