By George Fox
Cover your sandboxes folks. Don’t go through the shame, worry and hysteria of a fecal CATastrophy. Check out my build of a simple and cheap solution that takes care of a number of sandbox sins.
I have a ton of good memories playing in a sandbox when I was a kid so I wanted to give my son the same opportunity.
I made a square sandbox in the backyard last spring. I thought I did it right. I used a weed barrier, pressure-treated 2 x 8s and 1.5 yards of fill-sand from a local landscaping company. Not planning for a cover was a mistake.
I quickly noticed the feline “deposits”. I probably should have made the site off-limits, but hey, maybe I’m a bad parent — I let my son continue to play there after I removed the offending bits.
I reminded him to keep the sand and his hands away from his mouth and hoped for the best. He’s almost four and doesn’t put things in his mouth anymore so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Of course, we also wash hands before meals.
There are several issues with covering or leave a sandbox uncovered. Cover it with a tarp or other water/air barriers and you might be creating a Petri dish for bacteria and mold. A tarp will sag making a puddle for mosquitos to lay eggs in. Leave it uncovered and the neighborhood cats will relieve themselves in it. Gross! Store-bought covers often won’t fit a homemade box and they’re expensive.
Here’s my solution. Thanks to this blogger Valerie for the idea. The beauty of this build is how water, sun and air can circulate while cats won’t have easy access to the sand. Also, the material blends nicely with the aesthetic of my house and it keeps out all kinds of other yard debris including leaves, grass clippings and sticks.
Here’s what you need! (Total ~ $50)
» Shade material 6 x 15′ ($35)
» 2 x 1-1/4″ PVC to span both sides ($3.78 each)
» 4 x 1-1/4″ PVC end caps ($0.78 each)
» String for stitching – we used #18 braided nylon mason string ($3)
» Sail sewing needle or other large needle
1. Measure the width and length of the box to cover
2. Cut the PVC to the length of the shortest side
3. Cut the fabric to longer side (allow 8 inches extra on each side for the loop and to drape over the end
4. Pin and stitch the fabric around the PVC. Credit must be given to my wife for an excellent job hand stitching the loops.
5. Push on the end caps (they should stick on without any fixative)
Risks of Toxoplasmosis
The folks at the CDC explain the risk of Toxoplasmosis from cats feces. The symptoms if untreated are pretty severe including but not limited to learning disabilities and blindness. They recommend covering sandboxes and hand washing when in contact with infected soils. Most of their warnings surround gardening and properly cooking meat so I’m thinking infection from a sandbox isn’t super common.
Should I remove the bulk of the sand and replace it? Should I bleach the sand? Since I’ve removed all of the visible feces and put a cover on — am I good to go? I’m guessing any parasites would have died over the winter right?
I’m looking for some reasonable advice here people. It goes without saying that I’ll bring it up at our next pediatrician visit, but a blood test is probably not a bad idea since he may have been exposed and the symptoms can often look similar to the flu.
George Fox is a Spartan, a Michigander, and Web Producer for CBS 62/CW50 in Detroit. When I’m not working on content for the CBS Local websites, I’m probably hanging out on the boat, at deer camp or spending quality time with the fam. Follow George on Twitter @GeorgeJFox.