What Can You Use Play Sand for?

By Jane Smith ; Updated September 15, 2017

Play sand is not just for children’s sandboxes. It can be used to mark time, to cast candles and, when colored, to make paintings. Play sand will level patios and fence posts and thicken paint for application to concrete. It can also be molded after adding water and cornstarch to it.

Considerations

Play sand sometimes contains crystalline silica, because it is often made from quartz quarry dust rather than natural river or beach sand. Crystalline silica exposure can lead to a disabling and potentially fatal lung disease called silicosis. Any sand that produces dust during play can cause silicosis or lung cancer. Replace any dust-producing sand as soon as possible. Wet your sand down while cleaning the sandbox, and wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust.

History

Sand has been used to mark the passage of time since the days of ancient Egypt. The three-minute egg timer is still in use. Sand flows from the top chamber of the timer to the bottom. When all the sand has run out, the timer is flipped and starts again. Because the end of the sand marks the end of a period of time, the hourglass has become a symbol of Father Time.

Crafts

Paraffin and beeswax can be melted in a coffee can on an open fire at the beach and then poured into hollows scooped into the sand. As the wax hardens, it traps some of the sand, making an interesting free-form shape. Careful brushing will remove all of the loose sand and permit the artist more control over the final product. Make imprints of favorite items, such as shells and dolls, to create additional interest.

Paint

Sand can be added to regular house paint to create a wash that will restore a concrete floor or wall. This same paint can be applied on wheelchair ramps and in other places where additional grip would be helpful. Paint should not be added to asphalt because the asphalt will become weakened.

Extending Living Spaces

Sand is used to level patios by pouring it over several inches of gravel in the excavation site and raking it smooth. Pavers or flagstones are laid on top, covered with more sand and then swept clean so that all the sand is in the gaps between each stone. This provides an ongoing ability to level the entire patio and each individual stone. If any one paver sinks too far, it can be pulled up to have more sand poured beneath it.

Moon Sand

When you add cornstarch and water to play sand, you get moon sand. Moon sand is moldable, like modeling clay, but can be crumbled and softened over and over by wetting it slightly and kneading it back to pliability. Moon sand can be colored using powdered chalks or food coloring. Moon sand can also cause eye damage if children rub their eyes while playing with it. Keep a clean, unused wash basin and a bottle of sterile water handy.

About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.