ode to the sandbox

Since we’ve been back home, the boys cannot get their fill of the sandbox.  Time spent out of the sandbox is time spent waiting until it’s time to be back in the sandbox again.

I’m not sure exactly what the classification is for what this fulfills, but whatever it is, it’s significant.  It completely absorbs and engages every angle of their concentration for lengths of time no other toy or activity here can.  From the time we wake in the morning, and then sprinkled in between planned activities, both boys are in the sandbox.  Digging trenches, swishing sand, plowing fields, building roads, erecting bridges; it’s like the ultimate in creativity and messiness, blissfully spread on the ground ready to be pounced.

So while the sunshine still blesses us with its warmth, we’re skipping appropriate breakfasts and taking bread and jam to the sandbox with the shovels.  We’re donning our hats and socks and eating quick bites of noodles in stolen snippets before dashing back to finish smoothing the road.  Any mention of my intention to go inside and accomplish some sort of household task such as laundry or dinner is met with fervent pleas to come back and play in the sand.


But because peeing in the bushes is not a viable option for me, nor is fasting, I am inevitably met with vocal objections when I do go in.  No amount of explanations on the necessity of the errand can sink in.

So today I decide to engage the obsession.  While the baby slept, we tiptoed downstairs to create a canal.  Grabbing our small plastic boats and racing on tip-toe, we dove into the project.  While I was choosing to be excited to create a canal in cold, wet sand, Austin was genuinely delighted.  He didn’t even know what a canal was, but we were going to build one!

Throwing myself into trenching, I realized it wasn’t so awful.  With a hat to keep the chill away I bent down on my hands and knees.  My out-of-whack back behaved itself and allowed me to enjoy the dig.  As our canal lengthened, I found myself really starting to think.  This is a quality usually lacking in many children’s toys and activities…pure creativity, the opportunity for children to apply critical thinking skills.  An idea emerged to add a fork in the path.  There were visions of tiny fluorescent sailboats surprising us with their chosen direction.  I got to wondering what the statistical analysis would be for boats going left or right.  Ahh…just thinking the phrase “statistical analysis” was refreshing!

As the first tiny boat neared our “V” I realized that for some reason the sand wasn’t going to hold enough water to give me a chance to test my probability project.

While I was irritated and began to lose myself to dredging the river in hopes of creating current, Austin asked me what “dredging” meant as he picked up his shovel to help.  When we finally acquiesced to the futility of floating the boat, it was then that I realized that for him it wasn’t about making a functioning canal.   Maybe it didn’t need to be for me either.

It was about building something together.  It was about exploring and discovering, about mud, creativity, and companionship.  As the river slowly drained, the baby woke and joined us, the dredged mud took on a new life as strawberry pie, with enough for “everyone!”  The trench was reinvented as road, agility course for the baby, and material to build bridges over.

And just like everything else built in the sandbox, by tomorrow afternoon it will be a memory.

And we’ll be ready to create the next project.

Copyright 2010 Ginger Payton all text and photos


7 responses to “ode to the sandbox

  1. I really loved the picture of the bottom of the bare feet!

    What a wonderful moment in time, Bee. It’s OK to slow down and just dig. In the sun, and in the warmth. And BE together wondering how things work.

    Wonderful post, Bee. Loved it.

  2. So precious, Bee. Glad you were able to join Austin & create together at his level!

  3. Awesome post! I find these posts you make emotional because there is something pure and innocent about being in the sand and digging. It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s fulfilling! In a world full of “why’s” and “how’s,” it’s nice to be able to get in the sandbox, hop on the digger, and move one pile over three feet. My favorite thing as a kid (Mom can attest, I’m sure) was to get on the little scooper (“the diggoh, Mom”) the fling dirt around.

    Love it Gweeg 😀

  4. Ginger,
    This brings back so many wonderful memories for me, things I haven’t thought about for decades, thanks for reminding all of us about lifes simple pleasures and a time worth revisiting, a time when life was all about the sandbox, and the many lessons learned there.

  5. Yes, it is OKAY for adults to play in the sand!!

    There was this one spot at work where I had to flag for a couple of days (airplane hanger/taxiway) that had a ton of dirt and rocks just begging to played with. Over the course of 2 days I, along with the relief flagger, managed to build quite the little fortress. As luck would have it, the rains came the same day I brought my camera and washed it all away before I could get a pic of it.

    Instead of getting ticked off, I continued to watch out for the occasional airplane that would come out of its hanger and splashed in the big mud puddles…. 🙂

  6. What a great addition Angelique 🙂

  7. Some of my favorite memories as a mom with little kids, was to be outside – digging in the dirt, playing with water that got filled from the hose, building towers and using sticks and stones and lots of imagination. Yes, Jonny, you were the master “diggoh”!! Doing things together with your kids makes you realize how pure and unfettered children are. It’s so important to be there with them, to “oooh and aaahh” over their creations and, yes, make canals and try to figure out the “statistical analysis” (well, that was never my forte, but it certainly would be for YOU!!).

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