Castles in the Sand

Sandcastles are the stuff of fleeting imagination and summer fun.

By FamilyTime


Building sandcastles and carving other fantastic creations on the beach is a fleeting pastime that continues to intrigue both children and adults.

Why not make this the summer you and your kids build the most fanciful castle ever?

The Right Sand
The best sand for carving is fine grained. It packs well, holds moisture, and is only minimally impregnated with shells, stones, or similar debris.

Not every beach boasts great sand. When you dig down into it, consider yourself lucky if the sand is still fine grained when you hit water. If not, you may have to sift the sand or skim it from the beach's surface.

Getting Started
Sandcastle experts start by packing sand into mounds. The firmer the sand is packed, the easier it will be to carve and the longer it will last.

To begin, dig with a shovel down to the water level and dump the sand into a pile. Use your hands to pack the sand. Don't be gentle; use some muscle.

If the sand is not wet enough, fill pails with water and mix the sand with it. Wet sand is absolutely necessary.

Although you build the mound of sand from the bottom up, carve and shape it from the top down. Carve towards the center -- just as you would if you were sculpting stone.

Use carving tools such as flat-bladed knives, small shovels, pastry scrapers, and spoons to shave off thin layers of sand. This requires patience, but it pays off. Plus, tools create straighter lines and flatter surfaces than hands and are better for fine work.

Final Touches
These make all the difference in the final effect. They include shallow arches carved into the sides of the castle, small windows poked into the upper walls with wooden craft sticks, and exterior staircases.

Don't neglect the landscape around the castle. Pancake turners can flatten roadways and walkways. Combed sand resembles fields and meadows. Fashion small trees, walls, and hedges. None of these touches has to be perfect by itself, but when set in context of the larger castle or building, they will create an overall impression.

Necessary Tools

Before you leave for the beach, comb through your kitchen drawers and garden tools to collect useful tools for crafting your sand castle.

A lightweight, long-handled shovel with a small scoop is ultimately useful. Short-handled shovels may be easier to find, but for anyone who plans on more than one castle, a long-handle prevents sore backs.

Otherwise, rely on "found" tools. You don't need fancy carving tools (although some sandcastle fanciers have special sets), but they should be tough and maneuverable. Kitchen knifes, pastry scrapers, cheese slicers, spoons, forks, and spatulas are all good choices.

Save the Memory
Building a sand castle and other creations is a family affair. Younger children can help with simple tasks and older ones will become fascinated as the building takes shape. Everyone will have ideas and pet projects. Some like moats, others towers, and some the road leading to the fort.

Once it's done, gather 'round the castle and take a number of pictures to remember it by. The waves will wash it away by morning. At which time you can start something new!