Lift the cover off of the sandbox and watch the children use their imagination to build amazing castles, tunnels, and bridges. Children are not the only ones who love to play in the sandbox …so do insects and animals. Once installed, a sandbox should be regularly maintained; it should be covered when not in use and raked regularly to remove leaves, debris, clumps, or other foreign material. If the sand gets wet, it should be thoroughly dry before it is covered, using a cover made of a permeable woven mesh material (instead of a rigid cover or plastic tarp which trap moisture and encourage the growth of bacteria and mold.) ASTM guidelines recommend that sandboxes be covered.
Another very important reason for covering your sandbox is to avoid infection from the parasite Toxoplasma gondii . Yours, your neighbor’s, and wild felines regard your backyard sandbox as a litter box. Cat feces can contain the parasite Toxoplasma gondii , a single-celled protozoan that lives and reproduces only in cats who hunt or are fed raw meat. Young children, who explore their environment by touching and tasting everything around them, may ingest the parasite by eating clumps of sand or simply touching their mouths while playing with sand that has come in contact with infected cat feces. Covering your sandbox will help to prevent infection. When a child becomes infected with T. gondii, the parasite can form a cyst that can affect almost any part of his/her body including the brain and the heart and can cause serious complications, paticularly because.children’s immune systems are undeveloped. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis can include muscle pain, blurred vision, fever, and headache; the symptoms can last for weeks, though, fortunately, all can be treated with medication.
Sand box covers come in many shapes and types. Ultimately, the cover you want is the one that will work best for you. Here are a few tips to help you select a good sand box cover:
- Pick a sand box cover that is easy to put on and take off. Some covers have lots of fasteners which means it take a lot of time to install—which just might discourage its use.
- Pick a sandbox cover with a mesh top; water won’t accumulate, making the cover heavier and harder to remove or become a breeding place for mosquitoes.
- A weighted sand box cover stays in place on windy days.
- Avoid cheap plastic or vinyl tarps. They never work.
You can order a custom-made weighted sandbox cover or you make one yourself using nylon thread, sufficient yardage of woven plastic fabric, a large embroidery needle, and four lengths of heavy chain (the chain is used to weight the edges of the cover). A sandbox cover like this is easy to install and store and will provide you and your children with clean, safe, and happy sandbox playtime!