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The sandbox is supposed to be a safe play space that allows children to explore the edges of their imaginations and express their creativity fully. Unfortunately, without maintaining your sandbox properly, you could be putting your kids in danger of serious illness or injury. Most sandbox owners don’t give their equipment a second thought after installing it. This is a major mistake.
Sandboxes are notorious for attracting animals of all shapes and sizes to use as a nesting area and bathroom. This can lead to serious health threats in the form of parasitic infestations. The most notable parasite is the “Baylisascaris Procyonis”. This is a roundworm that generally lives in the intestinal tract of raccoons and produces many thousands of eggs that are transmitted through the raccoon’s waste. These eggs can survive in the severest of conditions; one study demonstrated that they could survive days in formaldehyde.
Raccoon waste is also surprisingly prevalent. A 2009 study found that more than 50 percent of backyards surveyed in the suburbs of Chicago contained raccoon waste. Another study documented a case of raccoon roundworm encephalitis (a serious brain infection) in a 7-year- old boy. “The child often played in an open sandbox in the backyard and had a habit of putting his hands in his mouth,” the study reported. It was discovered that soil from the sandbox contained B. Procyonis eggs. There are numerous dangerous parasites carried by many common animals like the raccoon that all share a commonality: they love to burrow into sandboxes.
To ensure that your sandbox continues to be a safe and sanitary play zone, it is important to use the 3-Step Sandbox Safety Checklist:
STEP 1: Enact a No-Food Rule
Eating in the sandbox is a major no-no. Allowing any chance for food scraps or crumbs to enter the sandbox increases the likelihood of animals and insects attempting to get in. Make sure all snacks are enjoyed outside of the sandbox.
STEP 2: Rake Your Sandbox Weekly
Begin by examining the surface of your sand looking for any obvious animal waste. Remove any waste found and dispose of it as you would pet waste. Remove any other debris that has found its way into the sandbox such as sharp sticks or broken plastic toys. Now, rake the surface several inches into the sand to disturb any burrowing efforts and uncover any additional waste.
STEP 3: Cover Your Sandbox When Not In Use
If you run a daycare or school, playground safety code requires that the sandbox be covered when not in use. This means that the cover must be in place in-between play periods and not just at the end of the day.
There are several varieties of sandbox covers but not all are effective or convenient. Some try covering their sandbox with a tarp but quickly realize that tarps constantly slip off the sandbox and are easy for animals to navigate around. There are fitted sandbox covers that come with many grommets and keep animals out but are tedious to apply. Nobody wants to spend time securing the grommets so the sand often goes uncovered, defeating the purpose. Weighted sandbox covers are a good third option.
Weighted sandbox covers are made of heavy-duty mesh with a chain sewn around the perimeter. They can be removed or applied in a matter of seconds by one person and stay on in the windiest of conditions. The mesh allows water to permeate and prevents water from pooling. These particular covers are an incredibly convenient solution that keeps your sandbox clean and ready for play.