Where is our sandbox?

Something caught my attention in this children’s playground in our neighborhood, where my kids used to play long years ago.

Sandbox replacement

Back then the slide was made of metal, but the new one works just fine. However, back then the slide ended in a large sandbox, which was a major attraction in its own right. Kids would dig, build sand castles, mess around and have fun.

Not any more, as you can see: the sand has been replaced with some green rubbery material. This must have seemed a great idea – clean, easy to maintain, resilient and safe. However, consider this line from Wikipedia:

Sandpits encourage the imagination and creativity of children by providing materials and space to build several structures such as sandcastles; use toy trucks, shovels, and buckets to move the sand around; dig holes and bury objects, etc. In other words, the sand provides a medium in which children can pretend to explore, construct, and destroy the world in three dimensions.

With this ersatz version, kids can do none of these things. They can stay clean and hygienic, certainly; and safe, so nobody gets sued.

Still,my kids, and my own generation, and countless others before it, have managed quite well with the sand.


2 Responses to “Where is our sandbox?”

  1. 1 Justin James

    The problem with sandpits is that cats use them as bathrooms. It not just a matter of kids getting a bit dirty, it’s a matter of a kid putting a piece of cat feces in their mouth.


  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    No doubt, Justin. But there were cats in my time too, and I grew up okay.

    It all goes to the tradeoff – keeping the kids hospital-clean vs. letting them experiment and experience. There are pros and cons to either approach, and striking a good balance can be elusive. In the case of the sandpit, I honestly think we overshot the mark: we sacrificed a key childhood experience to avert a marginal problem – especially since today parents keep a close interaction with their kids more than in previous eras, so they’re there at the sandpit to intervene the first few times the kid tries to stuff the wrong morsel – or just plain sand – in their mouth. And kids are fast learners…

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