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January 12, 2012

A Sandbox-Inspired Change of Heart

When Jacob graduated from the Tot Lot

to the “big kid” playground four blocks down, I didn’t dread him using the tire swings, the balance beam, or the slide that’s taller than I am.

Not this slide. I'm not that short.

In part, because I didn’t see some of these things existed. In larger part, because I had already located a more worrisome piece of equipment: the sandbox.

I suppose I played in sandboxes when I was little. I remember my family having that turtle model when I was younger, the one where the sand is within the space that would be the shell. In fact, I think there was a lid painted as a shell. Anyway, I don’t remember playing in that particular box, but I must have.

Even though sand boxes are not foreign to me, for some reason I was under the impression that sand is meant to be played with only in the summer. Right off the bat, this sandbox confused me. We started going to this playground late summer/early fall, and even as the days got colder, there were always kids in it. Would they remove the sand in the winter? They turn off the fountains outside of summer, and aren’t sandboxes mainly a way to let city kids know what the beach looks like? Who goes to the beach in New York in the winter?

The first week we went to this, the Third Street playground, I conveniently decided it was time to go take our walk each time Jacob began to show interest in the sandbox. Friday, I finally caved, but that weekend, John had the same impulse.

He consciously started Jacob on the opposite end of the playground, hoping the little man would want to play with anything and everything but the sandbox. Our Peanut has a pretty good sense of direction, and both of us soon surrendered to his choice.

It’s pretty cold outside now, but the allure of the sandbox for Jacob hasn’t waned. On the contrary, I’ve had a change of heart. Initially, my major concern was how much sand we’d take home with us, but as long as it hasn’t just rained, the sand brushes off of clothes and shoes very easily. Plus Jacob thinks it’s funny if I bang his shoes together to knock off any lingering grains.

The sandbox is just about the only place Jacob sits still for more than thirty seconds. He sits, stands, scoops, and sifts for ten, fifteen minutes at a time. And while he’s doing that, I get to hang out with the other kids there. Like the five-year-old yesterday who was looking for gold doubloons. If you find any, kid, let me know.

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