Sandbox play provides toddlers with opportunities for social interaction, sensory development, motor skills development and pretends play. Although the benefits of playing in the sand are many, putting your toddler in a sandbox comes with potential health and safety hazards. Once you’re aware of the risks, you can take steps to provide a safe play experience for your child.

Toxoplasmosis

It’s important to cover a sandbox when your toddler isn’t playing. Otherwise, cats and other animals roaming the outdoors could use it as a litter box. Toxoplasmosis, a parasite in cat faeces, can spread to your child if he comes in contact with the faeces. Although a healthy child may experience no symptoms of infection, Kids-Health.org reports that the parasite remains in the body for life in a dormant stage. The infection can reactivate later on if the immune system becomes compromised. Toxoplasmosis can lead to death in a child whose immune system is severely weakened by AIDS or cancer treatment.

Playing Safely

Children playing in sand often are tempted to throw it, getting into their eyes or those of a playmate. Supervising young children during sand play can help prevent these kinds of mishaps. Toddlers require extra supervision, as many try to eat sand, which can contain toxic substances. Also, washing your toddler’s hands before and after he plays in the sand helps prevent the spread of infection. The 2003 June/July issue of “Healthy Child Care” recommends replacing play sand at least once every two years or whenever it becomes contaminated. Play sand — which is screened, washed and sterilized — is light tan in colour.