Saturday, June 16, 2012

DIY Sand Table for Under $5

Sprout has started to really enjoy the 'sand' table at the Mount Pleasant Family Centre, so I thought I'd get one for him at home. Not wanting to spend $50-100 for one like these, I decided to make my own. I used an under bed storage box that I had around, attached it to a plastic box with packing tape & filled it with 'sand', then added shovels, containers & sifting toys.

Maybe you're wondering why I keep using quotes around 'sand'? Because the sand is actually corn meal. Here's the 'recipe' for how to make the 'sand' table:

  • 2.5-5kg corn meal (I used 2.5kg for a box that's about 45cm by 60cm)
  • plastic containers & toys
  • under bed storage box (preferably with a lid)
  • plastic shopping basket/milk crate
  • clear packing tape (or Tuck tape, or duct tape--it all depends on how visible you want it to be)

(Really simple) Instructions:
  1. Tape the base to the top. Here's what I did: I cut four 10-20cm pieces of tape, pushed one end through the holes at the sides of the basket/crate. Folded them over themselves at the ends a few cm to secure, leaving most of the piece sticky side up. Placed the under bed storage bin on top of the basket/crate & pulled the tape strips up around the sides to stick it down.
  2. Fill with corn meal & add toys. Voila! You're done.
  • Use a base that's about the same width & length as your top so it isn't tippy. 
  • If you use the sand table indoors, put it on a large mat to reduce tracking the 'sand' around the house.
  • Use binder clips or bungee cords to secure the lid on when you don't want little fingers (or critters) getting into the sand table. 
  • You could use other types of containers for the top of the sand table, like an old baby bath, or even a sturdy cardboard box--just tape the seams to avoid corn meal escaping.
  • A base isn't necessarily required--you could just use a shallow container to hold the sand & put that on a low table. A non-skid mat underneath should help keep it from sliding off.
  • If you wanted your table to look a little fancier, you could make a fabric skirt around it. Attached just below the lip of the under bed box, it would cover up the base as well.
How much does it cost?
I found a set of relatively small-scale toys for $7, but you don't have to buy anything. Yogurt cups & containers, measuring cups, spoons & other kitchen utensils you might have on hand work fine too. The box & bin were just taking up space in my garage, so we'll call them free.

Pros & Cons
Using corn meal rather than sand has two disadvantages: firstly, you can't get it wet, or you end up with moosh; secondly, animals might want to eat it. However, the advantages outweigh that, I think. Corn meal is cheaper than non-toxic play sand (I paid $4 for 2.5kg); it's easier to find--you can get it at any grocery store; you can buy it in small quantities; it's okay if your child eats it; it isn't abrasive; you can easily see dirt in it & lastly, it comes in a lovely bright yellow colour.

When you want to get rid of the corn meal, you can compost it, feed it to the birds or sprinkle it on your garden or lawn. The corn meal encourages Trichoderma, which is a natural fungicide, helpful if you're having any root or leaf rot.

Try out my 'recipe' & let me know how it worked for you.

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