Play Sand in Your Garden: Everything You Need to Know

Sand in Your Garden

Sands are not created equally. Although they seem plain and simple, there’re many things to know to choose what’s best for your kids and for gardening. Obviously, we want safe sand for our children to play with and a kind of sand that’s much needed for your landscape project.

Play sand is very fine ground that will cause more trouble if you add it to your soil while gardening, contrary to regular sand, which is used to amend some soil and provides good drainage. Also, avoid mixing clay or beach sand into your soil as they will hamper the access to water, oxygen, and nutrients that the plants need.

In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between play sand and regular sand, and more ideas about soil. We’ll also explain to you which one is the best to use and what to avoid for your landscape projects.


Play Sand vs. Regular Sand

Play sand is very finely ground, goes into complete cleaning and screening, and is the best sand for children who like to build sandcastles. On the other hand, regular sand, also called builders’ sand, doesn’t go into the refining procedure and is used for concrete works and gardening.

It’s important to learn about sand, from exploring it to sanitize it, especially if you love gardening or landscaping and have kids who like playing in the sand outside or sandbox indoors.

  • Play sand

Play sand is often beach or ocean sand with high salt content. It’s a very fine grain that can cause a lot of trouble if you add it to your soil and plants, regardless of the amount you pour.

Play sand undergoes thorough sifting and cleaning procedures to extract harmful substances and dust. It’s blasted with pressurized water that turns the sand grain tinier. These are sold in bags at garden centers, toy centers, and hardware stores.

Common types of play sand:

  • Caribbean Beach Sand – White, like chalk, smooth, and without any added colors.
  • White Safe Sand – Made from feldspathic sand, without silica or quartz, and best for sandcastles.
  • Fun Sand – Comes in various colors, also great for sandcastles.
  • Sandtastik – Comes in various colors, soft and smooth, and can be used for indoor and outdoor play.


Not all play sands are the same. Test the play sand through dust and sugar tests.

Regarding the dust test, if the sand is not properly cleaned, it will turn the dust clouds, which means it’s unsafe for both kids and adults. To conduct this test, go outside, fill an empty container with 4 cups of sand, pour the sand into a plate, and if any dust appears, the sand is not correctly washed or filtered.

For the sugar test, use a kitchen strainer to scoop the sand, strain it, and look at what is left. If there are many large particles left in the strainer, it’s not as fine as sugar and unsuitable for sandcastles.

Play sand should be cleaned regularly, which luckily, is very easy to do. To clean play sand, use fine-tooth rakes to clean and extract dirt or small and large sandboxes to remove harmful particles. Sanitize the play sand by spraying white vinegar, bleach, or cinnamon mixed with water while raking the sand.

Play sand has a hazardous effect when inhaled by children. Indeed, the fine ground crystalline silica of play sand produces dust that’s poisonous for kids. Silica is carcinogenic and causes silicosis, a serious disease caused by particles of silica embedded in lung tissue. Play sand also contains asbestos tremolite, a carcinogen that results in lung cancer, based on the Sustain Lane website.

  • Regular sand

Regular sand creates pockets of oxygen to breathe life in tired roots that are newly transplanted or roots that are freshly sprouted from well-cared-for seeds. The larger rock material in coarse sand or regular sand also helps water to drain away from roots, so that your plants will not get submerged in water overnight or for a long time.

Natural sand is commonly used for construction and doesn’t go through the same refining process as play sand. It is rough and commonly used in foundation and concrete works. It fails in sand tests since it contains dust and differently sized particles.

This type of sand is produced through the effects of erosion and weathering, which break into different kinds of rocks. Some of the produced rocks include fine-grained and rounded edge pieces. White beach sand contains ground-up limestone, while the white sand of New Mexico is pure gypsum. Finally, arkose sand is mainly formed by feldspar of granite.


What Is Soil?

Soil is considered one of the major natural resources, along with air and water. It’s made of various things, but the three main components are minerals that come from nearby, organic matter, minerals originating from the scraps of plants and animals, and the living organisms that live in the soil.

Soil is porous, holds water, and contains fine particles that are little in size and packed together. This makes the soil much less penetrated and water can sit on top of it.

Soil provides structural support to plants used in agriculture and their source of water and nutrients. It mainly varies in chemical and physical properties. Methods like leaching, weathering, and microbial activity combine to form a whole set of different soil types.

Each type of soil had specific strengths and weaknesses for agricultural production. The six main types of soils are clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky, and loamy.


Quality soil is essential to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other plants. Thus, it is important that you know what type of soil you have in your garden. Read our article to know about the 6 types of soil and how to tell what yours is


What Is Best to Use for a Landscape Project?

Sand is most significant and excellent to use while taking over a landscape project, from filling a kid’s play area to stabilizing walkways and installing gameplay surfaces for outdoor sports. It can be used for countless purposes.

  1. Sand

It is used for several landscaping projects. The three common uses of sand include:

  • Concrete – Sand is typically used to make certain types of concrete-like walkways, outdoor seating, edging, and many more.
  • Between Pavers – Those are useful if you’re constructing a paver pathway or patio, or for leveling and filling the space in between the pavers. Sand helps avoid shifting and breaking and makes the pavers stronger.
  • Outdoor area – The most distinct use of sand is for kid’s play areas. Play sand is great for sandboxes and flooring underplay materials. The fine particles of play sand remain in play areas and make the surface soft for outdoor sports, such as beach volley. For greater durability, add a layer of gravel underneath the sand.


  1. Compost

Compost is an organic animal and plant matter that has decomposed. It’s not a substitute for soil but an additive that improves soil quality. Compost is high in nutrients and best for amending topsoil for a garden.


  1. Garden soil

Garden soil is topsoil boosted with compost and other organic matter and is very nutritious, which benefits vegetables and herbs. It has a heavy texture and holds water longer than potting mixes. It’s also more affordable than potting soil and can be homemade or purchased.


  1. Black dirt

Black dirt is not recommended for most garden plants. However, it is ideal for filling a low area, creating pathways, or preparing your yard for sod. Black dirt gets its color from its large amount of organic material, mostly coming from composting plant matter.


What Not to Use for Your Garden?

When gardening, avoid adding beach sand or clay sand to your soil as these hamper the access to water, oxygen, and nutrients coming from soil that plants need. Besides, don’t use synthetic fertilizer and pesticides. Instead, create your own compost and organic pest control spray for a healthier garden.


  1. Beach sand

Beach sand contains silicon dioxide or quartz. Plants can’t find oxygen and water when mixed with beach sand, contrary to plain coarse sand from the garden center.


  1. Clay sand

Clay sand has been dried and filtered for children and landscaping areas but doesn’t provide pockets for sufficient air and nutrients that plants need to grow in a garden.


  1. Synthetic fertilizer

This kind of fertilizer contains chemicals that are dangerous to plants. Rather, use natural fertilizer and make your own compost for a healthier garden.


  1. Any type of pesticide

Pesticides destroy plants and kill the beneficial bugs that your garden needs. Instead, support greener methods, like companion planting and making your own organic pest control sprays.



You can’t choose precisely what type of sand you need for your task unless you conduct research. Each type of sand provides distinct properties and uses. For instance, play sand, like beach sand, has a fine grain and is perfect for building sandcastles.

Meanwhile, regular sand has larger particles and is best for concrete works and landscaping projects. When gardening, you must use coarse sand in all concrete works and for improving the soil.

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