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How to Build Sand Castles and Sculptures With Kids

Rehoboth Beach, DE Sandcastle Competition Entry

Rehoboth Beach, DE Sandcastle Competition Entry

Woman Sculpting Face at Rehoboth Beach Competition

Woman Sculpting Face at Rehoboth Beach Competition

Sand Castles and Sculptures Are Fun to Look at and Build

You arrive at the beach and are delighted to see that there's a sand castle contest going on. For a while, the children are content to watch the contestants build super structures for the competition, but then they ask you to help them build their own imaginative creation.

Do you know how to teach them the basics of building with sand? If not, or if you want to learn a few more tips that will be age appropriate for your child's building and sculpting activities, this article's for you. With a few simple tools, family teamwork and a basic plan the whole family can spend several hours playing in the sand.

But before we begin make sure the kids are appropriately dressed and protected from the sun. Light-colored tee shirts, sun hats, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen will help prevent painful burns that can ruin everyone's vacation. Also bring water and/or juice to keep them well hydrated and snacks to hold them over till mealtime.

Sand Sculpting Tools

There's no need to spend money on fancy sand sculpting tool kits, although most beach resorts will be happy to sell them to you. Great creations can be built with the following basics:

  • Plastic shovels
  • Various sized buckets and pails, cups and bowls
  • Tools for carving such as plastic knives, forks, spoons and spatulas
  • Pieces of string for shaving and shaping
  • Straws
  • A large plastic spray bottle filled with water (this should not be salt water as salt will clog the nozzle)

Helps Kids Make Friends

Helps Kids Make Friends


Reasons to Build Sand Castles With Your Kids

In addition to the main reason which is to have fun at the beach, building sand castles and sculptures together will:

  • Teach kids about teamwork and cooperation
  • Help stimulate their imaginations
  • Provide plenty of exercise
  • Teach them patience
  • Promote a feeling of accomplishment
  • Improve your child's self-esteem
  • May help your child make a new friend or friends at the beach
  • Teach your child a new skill
  • Give your child something to write or talk about when he/she goes back to school

Tips for Building Sand Castles and Sculptures

The following tips will give you a good start but remember that practice is important and starting out with simple designs is best if your kids are very young and/or this is your first attempt at building since your own childhood.

Before starting, decide as a group what structure you want to build. A castle? Starfish? Shark? Whimsical Shark with an arm sticking out of its mouth? A mermaid? A themed grouping such as Breakfast at the Beach (sunny-side egg, bacon strip, pancake with pat of butter and syrup)? Or one of the sculptures shown in the photos in this piece?

Once you have agreed on what to sculpt or build you need to keep the following basics in mind:

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  • Location: Choose one that's three or four feet back from the previous night's peek for the tide line. You can usually tell the tide line by looking for a line of debris such as ocean plant residue or a shelf of sand that was carved by the water.
  • Use Plenty of Water: Follow the adage, "Add sand to water, not water to sand." A great foundation starts with plenty of water, so have the kids start hauling buckets of water and have them pour it onto the dry sand that you want to build on. Assign one person to start piling the wet sand up and begin packing it as high and wet as possible. Once the pile is the desired height (usually two to four feet) start pouring a 50/50 mixture of sand and water from each pail. If blended properly, it will pour like mud and start to firm up within a few seconds. You are now ready to mold the structure into the basic shape you've decided to create.
  • Carve from the top down. Visualize your desired creation as you start to carve and remove anything that's not in your design plan. You can create bricks or stones by cutting lines then blowing out the loose sand with a straw (make sure your eyes are covered to prevent getting sand in them).
  • Preserve your creation for a while longer by spraying bottled water over the entire castle or sculpture.

Awesome Captain America Sculpture

Girl Working on Turtle

Turtle Sculpture

Mouse Castle & Cheese

Hide-N-Squeek Mouse Castle Rehoboth Beach Contest Entry

Hide-N-Squeek Mouse Castle Rehoboth Beach Contest Entry

Age Appropriate Tips for Building Sand Castles and Sculptures

The following tips are great for kids that are 3 to 4 years old:

  • Provide plenty of help and supervision.
  • Keep structures simple, such as a fish or turtle.
  • Use very wet sand, re-wetting it with the spray bottle as needed.

Tips for kids that are 5 to 8 years old:

  • Add some details.
  • Suggest they use small toys or figurines or shells and stones to create more interesting features.
  • Take a picture or make a video of their creation to document its progress.

Tips for kids that are 9 to 12 years old:

  • Encourage them to build taller, bigger castles and sculptures.
  • Encourage them to use the Internet to find pictures of what they want to build.

Rehoboth Beach, DE 2011 Sandcastle Contest

All of the above photos in this article were taken at the 33rd annual Sandcastle Contest in Rehoboth Beach, DE. About 70 to 80 teams participated in the event and competed in two categories - Adults (age 15 and older) and Children (age 7 to 14.) The event is so popular that some contestants have been participating in it for the past 15 to 20 years.

This author confesses that she never entered a sandcastle contest, as she is artistically challenged, but she does enjoy making rudimentary sand castles at the beach and greatly admires anyone who can make sculptures and castles as grand as the ones seen at the Rehoboth Beach Sandcastle Contests.