sandbox kid just hand

San Francisco Getting Rid of Sand at its Playgrounds

Don’t bother bringing a plastic shovel when you head to a San Francisco playground anymore. The city is getting rid of all its sand at all its local playgrounds.

You know why. Of course you do.

According to this fkabffdttn
report by Christin Ayers at KCBS
, the city regards sandboxes as unsafe. Suddenly. Connie Chan, a spokeswoman for Rec and Parks (which sounds backwards) says that, “We often face issues such as sharp objects, broken glass, even cat feces in our sandboxes throughout our playgrounds.”

Joe Frost, a professor who has written 19 books on play and playgrounds, once had his grad students call up doctors around the country to see if any had treated a child for a disease or parasite picked up in the sandbox, and none had.

Just sayin’.

The other no-more-sand justification Ayers said the department gave was that, “Back in 2015, vandals trashed Delores Park’s playground, leaving dozens of bottles strewn in the sand. So Recreation and Parks made a choice to start phasing out all of the city’s sandboxes.”

Which is sort of like deciding to start phasing out all the city’s puppies after one bit a Parks and Rec worker. I’m sure it was no fun for the department to deal with the vandalization, but now the vandals have won. That was easy! A few dozen bottles and they have changed the course of childhood for an entire city.

Sand is more than just fun, it’s actually educational. That’s why so many pre-k’s have sand tables. As Early Childhood News explains:

Why Play in Sand?

There is no right way to use sand. It invites participation; it permits children to make and test hypotheses; it stretches the imagination; it provides a potentially soothing sensory experience; and it is an excellent avenue for children to learn physical, cognitive, and social skills.

Because sand play is open-ended, the child determines the direction and path of his or her own play. This freedom then clears the way for the child to build developmental concepts.


But of course it shouldn’t require a thesis on “The Stimulatory Effects of Particulate Matter on Fine Motor Skills” for a city department devoted to RECREATION, for gosh’ sake, to realize that sand is a wonderful thing for kids. (And a terrible thing for dinner. But some disagree.)

We can make childhood so safe that kids turn right around at the park and go back home to make pixilated sand castles. I guess that would make Rec and Parks even happier — so many fewer “issues.”

Er…kids. -L



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45 Responses to San Francisco Getting Rid of Sand at its Playgrounds

  1. Laura July 27, 2017 at 8:12 am #

    I thought it was going to be because of carcinogens. We just bought a few bags of sand that had the “known in California to cause cancer” stamp on it, so we looked it up. The only cancer-free alternative is like $1 a pound, so it’d be $200 to fill both of our small sand boxes. You know, instead of $14.

  2. Tom July 27, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    I also heard San Diego was getting rid of sand at all it’s beaches.

  3. SKL July 27, 2017 at 8:41 am #

    I think sandboxes are gross. Cat poop. If they aren’t covered, get rid of them. 😛

  4. AmyP July 27, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    Huh. I had not actually noticed it before, but now that you mention it I have not seen a sandbox (outside of the ones in people’s yards) for years. Certainly none of the playgrounds my kids go to have them. Good thing I live near the coast, so there’s always somewhere to go if we get the urge to build a sand castle, but now I’m wondering if there maybe used to be sandboxes here and my area went through the same fate as San Francisco.

  5. James Pollock July 27, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    This qualifies as a “meh” for me.

    We had our own sandbox, and got rid of it for two reasons… 1) left the lid off the sandbox just once and at least two cats used it for a litterbox, and 2) neighbor kid threw sand in the face of my kid, got some in her eye, and it took two hours to flush it all out.

    If you want to play in the sand, go to the beach, not the park..

  6. Suze July 27, 2017 at 9:21 am #

    At the public playground in my neighbourhood, there is sand underneath all of the equipment so kids can dig freely and play in it. They’ve been like that since my son was little and I used to take him there. Oh, and by the way. When I did take him once, I noticed something ‘brown’ on his jeans. Took a better look and he had been digging around some cat poop; probably left by the many feral cats roaming out neighbourhood at that time. It was gross; on his clothes, hands but I scooped him up, took him home and cleaned it off. He didn’t catch any crazy disease; he was fine. I endured the worst of it because I knew what it was and had to clean it off; he didn’t. He was just playing.

  7. Vicki July 27, 2017 at 9:31 am #

    James: It’s easyfor you to say to go to the beach – did you ever consider that not everyone lives near a beach?

  8. Workshop July 27, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    Asking for sanity from San Francisco is like asking a hammer to perform Madame Butterfly.

  9. Crazy Cat Lady July 27, 2017 at 9:47 am #

    I lived south of San Fran. And the bigger issue I saw at the local park was the things ADULTS put in the sand. Namely, hot coals from their BBQs. For some reason, people felt that it was okay to put the hot coals in the sand that was around the playground. I never did have a kid burned, but did pour water on more than one on a Monday morning when we went to the park. The solution would have been to have a hot box to put coals in so people didn’t feel like they had to dump them in the sand or the bases of trees.

    I stopped going on weekends because it was so crowded. High housing costs in my area meant that the parks would have parties non stop all weekend because people had tiny houses and yards. Lots of bad behavior by kids and adults…it was easier to avoid them so I didn’t have to be annoyed by the trash, the coals, the branches broken off of trees and tagging.

  10. James Pollock July 27, 2017 at 9:57 am #

    “James: It’s easyfor you to say to go to the beach – did you ever consider that not everyone lives near a beach?”

    You’re so right. I forgot how far San Francisco is from the ocean.

  11. Scott F. July 27, 2017 at 10:53 am #

    So, today it’s sand. Is anyone keeping a list?

    I’m thinking about opening a childhood museum to showcase all of those soon to be forgotten items that were formerly part and parcel of the childhood experience. Imagine the lines of people waiting to plop down $12 to view the dangerous Frisbees, skateboards, lawn Jarts, monkey bars and now (GASP!) sand. Heads will shake in disbelief as they marvel at the inhumanity and wonder how anyone survived childhood before 2010.

    We do this all to chase the illusion of safety. Like smoke, we can grasp all we like, but we’ll never catch it.

  12. Helen Armstrong July 27, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    James, don’t be so obtuse! I’m talking about the people who don’t live near the ocean, and who will also probably be losing the sandboxes from their parks, especially once word about what’s happening in San Francisco gets out.

  13. Miriam July 27, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    I grew up on a farm in Nebraska (miles and miles and miles from any beach) and we had a sandbox. The farm cats also used it. When we found their deposits, we’d just toss them outside the old railroad ties that formed the box and kept on playing. (That’s what older siblings and cousins taught the younger ones to do.) Then when we came in, we washed our hands before eating lunch. (That’s what Mom taught us to do.) We all grew up healthy.

  14. SKL July 27, 2017 at 11:53 am #

    I managed to survive 50 years without ever playing in sand at a playground. It wasn’t a thing when I was a kid.

    We did have a sandbox at home when I was very little. I’m told I developed some sort of rash from playing in the sandbox, which is why my folks pulled apart the sandbox and never got another one.

    My kids do play at a park that has a volleyball net with sand under it. They played in the sand (along with cigarette butts etc.) a few times. I don’t notice any great benefit they got from doing so. 😛

    Sand on the beach is a whole nother thing. That’s nature. And one would assume the cat poop would not be all concentrated in one area on a long beach. 😛

  15. John B. July 27, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    ((((Sigh))))…..another “one-step ahead” person strikes again.

  16. Theresa Hall July 27, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    Even though I hate how the sand on beaches is filled with cigarettes butts. Hardly anyone pollute Sand boxes at playgrounds. Vandels mess up one box and they all got to about Overkill.

  17. Mrs. B July 27, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    Wonder if they are going to replace it with the awful colored melted tires for safety reasons….the melted tires have horrendous health concerns as well. They heat us and put off toxins that young kids are affected worse.

  18. Dean Whinery July 27, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    I recall that one large California shool district put sand boxes around all playground slides and swings to make them safer to use. Do playgrounds still have slides and swings, or have they been replaced with bubble wrap?

  19. Donna July 27, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    The fact that all San Fran playgrounds have signs that say adults must be accompanied by children (or at least did a couple years ago when I was there); that is something to complain about. This; not so much. None of our local playgrounds have sandboxes and I haven’t felt that my child leads a deprived life because of it. It’s never occurred to me that playgrounds should have sandboxes. Seems kinds gross just for the cat reason.

  20. Gina July 27, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    I sat at a park and listened to a group of toddler moms talk about which parks had wood chips instead of sand because it’s “so much cleaner, i hate sand in my house and my car”.
    The kids, in the meantime, were building with sand and having a great time.
    Wood chips cannot be built with.
    I’ve seen the occasional cigarette (never seen cat poo) and tossed it in the trash, but I would NEVER want to have a playground without sand. I built 100 square foot sand pit in my yard as well.
    We have scorpions here and I have never heard of a child bitten by a scorpion in a sand area.

    If you don’t want mess, don’t have kids.

  21. lollipoplover July 27, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    I credit the little sand box (with cover) that we had right below my kitchen window as a sanity saver for when my kids were little and I needed to cook meals. They LOVED their sandbox. We also had a favorite park with a very large sandbox area that entertained the younger ones while the older kids climbed and explored the playground.
    It’s no longer there, and the favorite park went through renovations to make it safer and improved, and now according to my kids, it’s not fun and never crowded. Gone are monkey bars, zip lines, and most of the swings. And the giant sandbox is just mulch, which probably has more chemicals abd dyes than sand.

    I wonder if sand art at country fairs is next?!

  22. A Reader July 27, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    As much I think their reasoning is ridiculous, can’t say I wouldn’t be thrilled to have no more sand. I HATE sand and usually frequent playgrounds that don’t have it because I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t go to the beach either.

  23. Abigail July 27, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    We were living in a suburb of Sacramento when they began phasing sand boxes out 4 years ago. It was sad for my kid. We loved that our local park had it all and we didn’t need to convert our own backyard when we started a family.

    Kids were able to interact in a way that doesn’t happen outside otherwise. While toys were still brought to the park, the collaborative play was never the same.

    If we aren’t committed to using public facilities and teaching respect and the value of them to our children through that exposure then we will lose services. I hope my own children will remember our experiences when they are teens and make decisions that preserve parks and actually leave them better. For their friends who didn’t get those lessons, my kids may serve as the first guidance.

  24. elizabeth July 27, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    My parents have pics of me playing in sand and stuff with a friend. I had a tendency to make friends with random people (who were likely as odd as me, but i digress). I never got sick. And at one park i liked, the sand was right below the equipment (well, it was more like kitty litter). I used to dig tunnels and see how far, deep, and wide i could go before they collapsed. Sand is fun.

  25. aebhel July 27, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

    I’ve never even seen a public park with a sandbox; I always assumed it was because of the inevitable stray cats using it as a litterbox, which is both gross and pretty impossible to prevent unless you have someone monitoring the place to make sure the sandbox is covered after people are done using it. We’ve had to clean cat feces out of our sandbox at home more than a few times when my daughter left the lid off, and it really is pretty goddamn disgusting. Is this really a common thing?

  26. Rebel mom July 27, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

    I grew up with sand as the base in many parks (or wood chips) so there were kids digging everywhere and having a great time. It’s amazing how absorbed and focused you can get just messing about in sand. This new plastic stuff makes me sad. It’s so boring and dull. And toxic.

    I see people here commenting on how it’s gross to find poop in the sand to which I say, eh. There’s fecal matter in your FDA inspected meat and pus in your FDA approved dairy products. You just can’t see or smell it. Life is unavoidably messy. Quit fooling yourself that everything is antibacterial. Don’t try to ban anything even remotely real/dirty/not ensconced in plastic wrap.

    I say keep the government out of decisions like this. Leave the sand areas alone and let them stay. Wussy parents can choose to avoid those parks. Problem solved.

  27. SKL July 27, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    You can’t keep the government out of a public park.

    The government decided to stop spending on sandboxes. If you all want a sandbox the government can’t touch, install one in your backyard.

  28. Lightbright July 27, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

    I actually don’t like my kids exposed to the crystalline silica.
    (I’m neither here nor there with the other “safety” concerns).

    The alternative is quite expensive and may be what Laura posted.
    We are one of those lucky people to live near a beach, something I don’t take for granted.

  29. Vaughan Evans July 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    If I were a parent that children should NOT throw sand at one another.

    This is to protect the eyes of the other children

  30. Free range kid, free range mom July 27, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    I am sad for San Fran. Happy that where I live there are still plenty of parks with sandboxes, including one by my house which has sand underneath about how of the playground area.

    This video shows a Newton, MA playground that is all sand. Loved this playground! But it is now being ‘redone’. I fear sand will be gone.

  31. ezymel July 27, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    Oh! ho ho. Another rule or law to make it harder for children to enjoy the cool smoothness of sand. Just think, a child who sifts through sand, taking a handful and scattering it. Yes, I know there are vandals who throw sharp objects into the sand and make it hard for anyone to enjoy the true nature of having parks, the beauty with trees and flowers, small lakes, the peacefullness of hearing the birds chattering and just seeing friendly people who enjoy parks. So, now they take all this away because vandals just love damaging property, cluttering the parks and to make it sometimes unsafe to enjoy yourself. It is unfortunate, that younger kids to teenager’s sometimes do this. I am sure they grow out of that stage. If not, then there can be criminal activity later on in life. I guess when I was a kid, my cousin and I, passed a car with the windows open. It so happened both of us had a dish of mashed potatoes which we took from when we were eating lunch. Why would we do something as dumb as that? Who knows. While passing the car, we threw the patatoes on the front drivers seat and ran like hell so we wouldn’t get caught. I guess at the time, we were vandals. That was the only time I did this. I grew up into a nice, worthy person or so I think. lol I think that if kids can get away with that and continue vandalism, then it becomes a major problem. Today, it becomes more than vandalism. It can become a crime.

    Now, think of the beach, having sand where anyone can play. Do you think that a law be passed to get rid of all the sand? I think not. You will find all kinds of junk, including sharp objects. Lots of kids go to the beach. Of course it is smart to wear sandals to protect your feet from the hot sand and sharp objects. Why not let the sandboxes stay in parks and stress that they have to wear sandals? Of course they would to wear gloves as well so they don’t cut cut or stabbed with any foreign objects in the staned. Lets go one thing further. Why not have them wear a face mask and body armour so they can be well protected. I am being facetious here so don’t take me litterally.

    The point I am trying to make is that you can expect that but I believe it is not the norm. Let children play in the sand as they enjoy it but just watch if something is found that doesn’t belong there. You can’t watch everything. That is the way society works.

  32. Donald July 27, 2017 at 6:44 pm #

    A safety consultant has a job of advising how to make things safer. They have to keep doing this in order to make a living. Also, a safety bureaucrat has a job of implementing change in order to make things safer. They have to keep doing this in order to make a living.

    These people WILL NOT STOP until there are enough of us to say so.

  33. Emily July 27, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

    The preschool playground at the YMCA here consists of a giant sandbox inside a fenced area. Around the sandbox is all pavement, so the kids can ride around on scooters and tricycles, but that’s pretty much it, except for a shaded area with quieter toys underneath it. There used to be actual playground equipment in the sandbox, but it was removed for “safety reasons.” Now, I don’t live in California, but if there was a similar rule here, then eliminating sand would literally mean removing the entire playground for the preschoolers at the YMCA.

  34. Artyom July 27, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

    And there we were, playing with stuff laying around after the war… Post war kids in Europe, especially the east, played around making fires under ammunition. And now sand is dangerous?

  35. lollipoplover July 27, 2017 at 9:31 pm #

    I’m still incredulous that sand is now a “danger”. We grew up with it and so did my kids.

    My kids are older now and don’t play in sandboxes, but my daughter just built a sandbox for inside her chicken coop. She read that chickens enjoy dust baths in fine sand and it keeps their feathers in pristine condition and also helps prevent mites and other health problems. The hennies love it in this heat!
    But it’s a danger to kids now…can’t wait to tell her this one.

  36. Anna July 27, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    Gotta love the wording: “EVEN cat feces.” I mean, duh! Obviously cats will poop in your sandpit, as they have ever done.

    For the record, I’m actually surprised there were no reported cases of picking up parasites from sand. I remember my siblings and I being dewormed several times because we’d gotten worms from eating sandbox sand. Anybody else over forty remember? You know, the medicine that turned your poop bright reddish-purple for a few days? I thought it was a pretty standard rite of childhood back then, and I don’t think there were any long-term ill effects.

  37. Miriam July 28, 2017 at 12:14 am #

    The sand in the park in the clip did look kind of not fun (not clean). Not fun as in its not fine, with so much guarbage in it. But I think that cleaning it regularly and changing the sand is way cheaper than 3 million dollars or how much it cost to re-do that other Park they showed. And it’s boring. To a park that doesn’t have sand nor grass nor sticks nor pinecone – you need to bring your own toys. And it’s again parents controlling what the kids will do (according to their budget – what toys tgey bought – or ability to carry stuff).
    I hate sand in the house (like everybody), but it’s fun and relaxing in the hands. The fact that all babies love it – means it’s good for them (yeah, I know, they love sugar too, and sugar is bad… But, hey, if they had sugar as little as they have sand – it wouldn’t be an issue…).
    As a child – I don’t remember much from the playground except for sand. My daughter loved the sand, and I hated it, in her diaper and everywhere). So we went in the afternoon, before bath. Not in the morning, before her nap. She still brings sand in her shoes from school. I get annoyed that she is so diligent in cleaning her boots and emptying them INSIDE the house (she’s 6 now, she should know better), but I guess I should be happy that she still has sand. Maybe sand in Canada doesn’t have enough months of sun to get dirty (too cold in the winter and/or covered by snow), but at least the government can’t get rid of snow in the playground and everywhere. Although it IS dangerous (may be yellow from dog pee, very cold and may cause frost bites), but for now, they didn’t find a way to get rid of it. Although throwing snowballs is banned in schools (I think someone threw a snowball that had a stone in it, without knowing, and hurt another kid. Or something).
    Cat poop is disgusting, but just toss it away and wash your hands. AND one of the dirtiest things that is in your home is your cell phone. With (human) poop bacteria and what not. So if you decide not to touch your phone – go ahead and ban the sand too.

  38. Donald July 28, 2017 at 2:58 am #

    “I’m still incredulous that sand is now a “danger”.”

    Whether or not it’s dangerous has little to do with it. The safety bureaucrats have to justify their existence. They provide solutions. They then dream up a problem to go with their solution.

    We’re spending millions of dollars on safety. Meanwhile, the economy is struggling with financial ruin. Remember the character played by Brad Pitt? “40,000 people die when unemployment goes up by 1%”

    Are these bureaucrats really trying to make people safer or are they only feathering their own nest?

  39. James Pollock July 28, 2017 at 3:43 am #

    “I’m still incredulous that sand is now a “danger”. We grew up with it and so did my kids.”

    I spent some time living near the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area. At that time, there was a thing called “sandboarding”… a popular junior-high school woodshop project was to make a sandboard (it’s a piece of wood, usually pine, about 2 feet long and 6 to 8 inches wide, with a curved lip at one end and formica or polycarbonate plastic laminated on the bottom.

    You walk up to the top of a dune, put down the sandboard, stand on it, and attempt to remain standing on it until you reach the bottom of the dune. What a beginner quickly learns is exactly how sandpaper works. You can recognize who has recently taken up the hobby by the extent of the “sand rash” they have when they come to school the next morning.

    “Whether or not it’s dangerous has little to do with it”
    This is true enough. The question is, are sandboxes popular enough to be worth the expense o maintaining them in public parks. Apparently, in SF, they aren’t. Fun fact: Last weekend, I had a garage sale. It put out a big box of beach and pool toys… there were molds for making sand sculptures and castle parts, a floating ring-toss game, sinkers to retrieve from the bottom of a pool, buckets and sand shovels. Nobody wanted to buy it. After the sale was over, I put in an ad on Craigslist offering garage sale leftovers for free. Nobody wanted these old sand toys even for free.
    I live in suburbia. While we do have parks (natural growth, empty fields, playgrounds) the demand is for athletic fields. In my youth, it was all about baseball fields, later the priority switched to soccer fields, and currently, the demand seems to be for lacrosse fields. Over in the big city, the demand is not parks for children, but parks for dogs. Out in the rural areas, people prefer to provide their own outdoor recreation resources, and prefer lower taxes ans no provision of public facilities at all.

  40. Nicole R. July 28, 2017 at 9:13 am #

    Please forgive me (and delete this) if it oversteps. – I’m NOT trying to put this on the same level as the subject of the original poem! But the first thing I thought of was this format. We so often excuse individual steps when, if we saw them all at once, we would not.

    First they came for the seesaws
    And I did not speak out
    Because we never had one of those anyway
    Then they came for the monkey bars
    And I did not speak out
    Because there were other things to do anyway
    Then they came for the merry-go-rounds
    And I did not speak out
    Because they were so hard to push anyway
    Then they came for the sandboxes
    And I did not speak out
    Because sometimes they were dirty anyway
    Then they came again
    And there were no children there
    To save from anything

  41. Aaron July 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    The greatest hazard in San Francisco’s parks is the kids themselves. Why don’t they phase THEM out?

  42. Kimberly Albertson July 29, 2017 at 2:33 am #

    @ Crazy Cat Lady — where south of San Fran? I’m in the San Jose/Campbell area.

    As for the sandbox story, I’m not totally surprised to see this taking shape in San Francisco, I’m just more curious what area of the city actually instigated this decision. There are some neighborhoods in the city where I wouldn’t go within fifty feet of a sandbox because I’d be afraid of what might be in the sand.

  43. EB July 30, 2017 at 9:12 am #

    Next, they’ll go after day cares and schools, because children are exposed to pathogens there. Oh, wait . . .

  44. katie August 1, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

    It amazes me these idiots have decided sand is dangerous and must be banned….but SUVs can be driven by their idiot drivers. Ban SUVs not sand!

  45. Groggle August 3, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

    I live in San Francisco, about a block from a park that still has sand. This is a park I would never walk barefoot through, let alone let a kid run around in, due to broken glass and hypodermic needles.

    Now, perhaps one could complain about the city’s failure to keep them clean. I live right here by the park, and my sidewalks are the same. There are city workers as well as guides employed by a local business group that clean up daily, and there are more needles and glass within a couple of hours. You’d need permanently-stationed guard-janitors to keep them clean.

    And I saw this published on Reason; I’m pretty sure I know what the reaction there would be to the city paying for that.

    So what is the city to do? Waiting for lawsuits from parents whose kids are jabbed by needles or glass seems suboptimal for everyone concerned. Fixing our opiate problem isn’t exactly straightforward, or the responsibility of Parks and Rec.