Indoor sandbox fun for kids in winter

The Grandparents Teach, Too writing team.

While the sandbox is buried under layers of snow and frozen solid you can still provide sand fun indoors and keep a tidy house. It’s hard to believe but this recipe feels better than damp beach sand. It is soft and velvety, yet holds its shape when building castles and roads. It also adds moisture to dry winter hands.

Homemade Sand

You will need homemade sand (recipe below), spoons, plastic measuring cups for pails, plastic people and animals, small cars and trucks, Legos, and other plastic pieces like trees to make scenes.

Mix 8 cups white baking flour and 2 cups baby oil. Add a little more oil ( ¼ cup) slowly and mix if it feels too dry. The mixture should clump together when you hold it in your fist. Continue to mix well. The sand can be stored it in a sealed container or freezer lock bag. Do not mix with water.

Put it in a cookie sheet or several large cake pans so each child has a private sandbox. For easy clean up, place a large beach towel on a non-carpeted floor or table. Spilled sand will make the floor slippery. After sweeping, wash with dish detergent. If play cars get covered with sand or sand gets into toy crevasses, just brush or knock off the sand from cars with a paint brush and wipe them off. You can keep a special bag for small sand toys, especially for sand playtime. This silky sand will probably become your children’s favorite toy.


You can decide the kind of geographic features you will create with your child. Will it be your community, high mountains, Great Lakes, river basin, plains with roads, a cityscape with buildings and rivers, an island with a volcano or an imaginary planet? Will the period of history be time of the dinosaurs, castles, in the future? Where will your imagination take you? Many children like to act out a story they have heard.

Features might include roads through mountain passes, coral reefs, plateaus, an isthmus, islands, archipelagos, peninsulas, plains, basins or steppes. Water features can be a piece of paper colored with blue markers. Children can make wetlands for turtles and snakes, straits, oceans, gulfs, glaciers, deltas, lakes, bays, harbors, canals, channels, harbors for ships and a river’s source and mouth. Just choose a few that fit your plan. You will be amazed at the new vocabulary and understanding your young children will develop.

You can build, have conversations and make decisions together. You and the kids can use the geographical terms and start your favorite or imaginary story with plastic figures, cars and trucks. For more learning fun, see; through the seasons, live and podcasts, Facebook and Pinterest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.