Today I’m sharing how to make a rock box, as opposed the a sandbox. Sandboxes are so 1998.
When Owen started playing in our landscaping mulch and the dirt in our vegetable garden, I told Brad we needed to make him a designated outdoor play area to load his trucks up with materials.
Why a Rock Box?
We went with pea gravel for a couple reasons. One being that rocks are less messy than sand. If Owen tracks a couple rocks in it’s no big deal– I can grab them and toss them in the trash or back in the rock box. If we went with sand I know I’d have to go through a whole routine of cleaning him off before coming inside, and even then I doubt I could get all the sand off of him.
Another reason is because there are some indoor/outdoor cats in our neighborhood, and I didn’t want a cat mistaking Owen’s sandbox for its litter box. As a kid I remember finding cat turds in the sandbox at my grandma’s house. So gross and forever unclean.
How to Make a Rock Box
Prep the Area
We began by digging up the grass in the area beside our patio. We came out 3 feet from the house to match the flowerbed we installed last summer on the other side of the patio.
Frame the Rock Box
To withstand the elements, we chose decking boards. The measurements came out to 36″ x 85″. Brad used three 3-inch screws to connect the boards.
Then, he fashioned some stakes from a couple 1″ x 2″ pieces of wood. He nailed them into the outlining boards with a nail gun.
Because the ground wasn’t level, we had to cut off a corner of the the longer board.
We used a mallet to drive the spikes into the ground until it was level.
At this point we had a dirt box.
Add Landscaping Fabric
In case Owen attempted to dig to China, we put down landscaping fabric so he wouldn’t mix the dirt in with the pea gravel. We secured it with some pins that came with the fabric.
Rinse the Pea Gravel
Pea gravel is pretty dirty directly from the bag, so I wanted to rinse it before putting it in the box to cut down on the dirt and sediment.
We drilled holes in the bottom of a bucket to create a large colander of sorts. In hindsight, I would’ve made the holes larger.
After trying different methods, I determined the following to be the best. I would fill the bucket with half a bag of pea gravel, add water from our garden hose until the water was an inch or so above the rocks, stir the rocks and water with a leftover piece of 1″ x 2″, tip the bucket to let most of the dirty water pour out, and repeat 1-2 more times. The final time I let the bucket set for a couple minutes so the rest of the water could drain out of the holes we drilled.
Add the Pea Gravel to the Box
Once the pea gravel was (mostly) clean, we dumped it onto the landscaping fabric in the rock box.
We ended up using 8 bags of pea gravel.
Rock Box Toys
And here’s how it looks now– complete with vehicles and measuring cups.
Owen loves his rock box. The morning after we unveiled it to him, I got him out of his crib and he immediately ran to grab his shoes so he could go outside and play in the rock box.
He’s done a pretty good job of keeping the rocks in the box. Although when he attempts to exit the box too quickly some tend to fly across the yard.
For perspective, here’s how the rock box looks in relation to our patio.
Part of the reason we chose this location is because it’s well shaded in the afternoon and evening. I wish it was more shaded in the morning when it’s cooler, but since it’s shaded later in the day it means Brad can play with Owen when he gets home from work.
The toys in the rock box are a mix of old and new. The biggest dump truck was a 5-piece set I picked up from Target. The red truck, yellow dump truck, and green tractor were Brad’s toys when he was a kid. The red measuring cups are from Dollar Tree. And the smaller monster trucks were also a Target find.
I need to get a plastic container with a lid to store his toys in so they’re protected from the rain. In the meantime, we’ve been shoving them under our grill cover.
Keeping the Rocks Dry
We got a (very fancy and high class) tarp to cover the rock box with when heavy rain is forecasted. Before we invest in the tarp, we were using a plastic painter’s tarp so we’re clearly moving on up. Only the best for our child.
We figure whenever we sell the house, whoever buys it can scoop the rocks out, remove the wood edging, plant whatever they want in the space, throw some mulch on top, and it’ll look just like the flowerbed on the other side of the patio.
In case you’re wondering, here’s a breakdown of the costs:
pea gravel … $2.68 per bag times 8 = $21.44
decking wood … $13.14
1″ x 2″ wood … $7.16
bucket … $3
landscaping fabric … already had
We’re looking forward to spending more time outside with these two hooligans this summer.
Check out my other toddler-related posts!
What do you think of the rock box?