Free-Range Kids

San Francisco Bureaucrats Ban Sand at Playgrounds

The Recreation and Parks Department needs to get its priorities straight.


Daniel Ingold/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom

Don't bother bringing a plastic shovel when you head to a San Francisco playground with the kids. The city is eliminating sand from all of its local playgrounds.

According to Christin Ayers at KCBS, the city regards sandboxes as unsafe. Connie Chan, a spokesperson for the city's Recreation and Parks Department, claims, "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 of them had ever treated a child for a disease or parasite picked up in the sandbox. The result? None of the doctors had ever treated any child for any disease or parasite picked up in a sandbox.

According to KCBS, the city also justifies its no-sand policy on the grounds 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."

But that makes about as much sense as phasing out the city's canine population because one dog bit one city worker.

In reality, sand is more than just fun stuff for kids. It also offers numerous educational benefits. That is why so many preschools have sand tables for the kids to play in.

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.

It shouldn't require a thesis on "The Stimulatory Effects of Particulate Matter on Fine Motor Skills" for a city recreation department to realize that sand is a wonderful thing that benefits children of all ages.