How to Build A SandCastle

Sandcastles created on South Padre Island, Texas by Andy Hancock of sandcastlelessons.com
Sandcastles created on South Padre Island, Texas by Andy Hancock of sandcastlelessons.com | Source

Sand and Endless Creativity

Grabbing a fistful of sand whether wet or dry stimulates the senses and inspires a sense of calm. The gritty warmth as you walk along the shore is soothing on the feet. Letting sand trickle through your fingers,waving your hands through the sand as you sunbathe are relaxing activities while taking a break from the surf. Kids too love the sand when taking a break from swimming. There is nothing better then a warm summer day and wet sand to spark a child's creativity.

My son's and I have been regular beach visitors since their early years. Buckets and shovels in hand, they would dig and fill their buckets making rudimentary sand sculptures even at the tender age of two. As they grew older, so did the sophistication of their sculptures. My middle son can build for hours on the shore and when their cousins join in, there is always a sandcastle left behind after our visit!

Materials for Making Sandcastles

  • shovel for scooping and packing and to carve the basic form of the sand sculpture;
  • building trowels, painting knives, spoons and brushes for details
  • small bucket for shaping towers;
  • two-by-two for tapping out air;
  • paint stirrer for sketching and smoothing;
  • straws for blowing excess sand away;
  • measuring spoons and melon baller for making windows;
  • pastry knives for maximum detail and control;
  • paint scraper, fork
  • popsicle sticks can smoothly shape large areas so that you can carve clean turrets, towers, and rooftops
  • offset spatula and plastic knife for carving;
  • toothpicks are great for marking detailed trims and decorations, like windowsills or tiles.
  • large buckets for hauling water and building.
  • you can use anything from shells, stones, to plastic figurines for a finishing touch to decorate your sandcastle.

Building Sandcastles at Mike Weir Beach, Sarnia, Ontario

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Ingredients for Making Sandcastles

1. Sand

  • a beach with fairly fine sand as course sand with stones will spell disaster
  • sand with sharp and small grains;
  • sharp sand grains create a lot of friction
  • small grains of sand are easily compacted

2. Water

  • essential ingredient of any sand sculpture as it binds the sand granules like glue
  • water's surface tension creates bridges between sand grains connecting them together
  • too much water fills all the space between the grains, reducing the attraction between granules and making gooey sand
  • to ensure that the sand has just the right amount of water, use the squeeze test: take a good handful of sand and squeeze; if it holds its shape it is just damp enough to build with

Sand Castle Building 101

The basic sand castle is made up of four parts:

  1. base
  2. tower(s)
  3. walls
  4. arches

Additional components can be added after these have been mastered:

  • moats
  • turrets
  • bridges
  • staircases
  • your imagination is the limit as to what can be added

Sand Castle Base

The base provides a firm foundation for your sand sculpture. Piles of wet sand on a central area are wet down with water and hand-shaped. The edges are rounded and the top is flattened using your hand or paint trowel. Continue with your base until it is as large as you desire your sculpture to be. Using a paint stirrer or shovel, draw an outline of your castle in the sand base remembering to include the castle entrance in your sand sketch.

Towers of the Sand Castle

To ensure your towers remain standing tall or short use the following tips:

  • fill a bucket about 1/3 full of sand and then beat down on it to compact it and remove excess water and air pockets
  • repeat the above process twice until the bucket is full of well compacted, damp sand
  • find the ideal location on your base and turn the bucket upside down
  • tap on the sides to loosen the sand; do not tap too hard or the sand will crumble when the bucket is removed and not tapping hard enough will result in part of the tower remaining in the bucket
  • pull the bucket straight up
  • if you have been successful in your technique, you should have a long lasting tower
  • a second method of creating towers is to use the pancake method
  • for this, goopy sand you have dug deep for leaving pools of water in your hole, is best
  • scoop up handfuls of this sand and place on your base
  • flatten and jiggle to get rid of excess water
  • use increasingly smaller pancakes piled on top of one another using the same process as above to create your tower
  • as you add more pancakes, push down less and jiggle more to create a stable tower
  • a combination of both methods can be used to create an interesting array of towers!

Wall of the Sand Castle

To build walls, it is better to create bricks of sand piled on top of one another like seen on a house.

  • scoop sand of the same consistency as used in the pancake method of building towers
  • place the sand on the desired location of your base and form rectangular blocks
  • use the same jiggly/patting motion to expel the excess water
  • continue the above steps to create many bricks, stacking them side by side and then on top of each other to create height; overlapping successive layers of brick as seen in house brick will provide a more stable wall which will remain upright for longer

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An impressive sand sculpture.Sandcastle of Himeji castle
An impressive sand sculpture.
An impressive sand sculpture. | Source
Sandcastle of Himeji castle
Sandcastle of Himeji castle | Source

Arches in a Sand Castle

Arches create a stunning look to your sand castle giving them a realistic ambiance. They can be used to connect towers or provide unique doorways and windows.

  • gently tunnel through a wall using a carving tool to shape your arch
  • arches can be carved into towers using carving tools to provide the look of windows or you can tunnel part way into a tower to give your window a more realistic look
  • melon ballers or measuring spoons can also be used to 'scoop' out lookout windows creating a natural arch from the shape of the scoop
  • straws can be used to blow away excess sand

What would you build a sand sculpture of?

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For the Love of Building Sand Castles!

Building sand castles on a warm summer day is an engaging activity to spend with someone you love or a close friend or relative. The next time you plan a beach visit or vacation don't forget to pack a sand sculpture kit. Include a camera and don't forget to take pictures of your sand castle or sand sculpure before the waves, wind, weather or new beach visitors wash it away!

Works Cited

Fraser, Donald. Peterborough Kids. Building Castles in the Sand. June/July 2012.

Leibowitz, Wanda. Yahoo Voices. Sandcastle Building 101: Professional Standcastle Tips and Tricks. June 5, 2007.

marthastewart.com. Summer Living. How to Build a Sand Castle. 2012

sandinyoureye . Sand in Your Eye. How to Make Sand Sculptures. 2009.

Year of Science. Stories, Scientists and Careers. Sandcastle Science 2010-2011.

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Comments 11 comments

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

Great hub with lots of good pictures and tips for building sand castles.

I live in southern Delaware and love to attend the annual Sand Castle Contest in Rehoboth Beach to see the exquisite creations that the contestants have built.

Voted up and interesting.


harmony155 profile image

harmony155 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Impressive!


GClark profile image

GClark 4 years ago from United States

Great article and illustrative photos - voted up! While have been to beaches in the United States and in Europe, somehow have never encountered much in the way of sandcastles - usually just young children playing in water and sand. Will definitely seek out in the future. GClark


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Happyboomernurse, glad you enjoyed the hub. We are back to the beaches of southwestern ON again this summer and I hope to update with more specific pictures of techniques via my kids creations.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks harmony155!


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

GClark, hope you get a chance to see some pro castles over the summer. But I often find a lot of charm in the creative effort of kids!


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

I agree, Himeji sandcastle is spectacular. My kids have a blast no matter how the project turns out but with patience and practice, we could all create some spectacular sand sculptures.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

What a wonderful hub! Right from the beginning you captured the joy of playing in the sand, an experience I hope every child can have. And equally important, an experience that adults can continue to have.

One of the most magnificent sand constructs I ever saw was in Los Angeles, CA, in a mall. The sand castle designers and constructors worked for days to build a beautiful fantasy. At the end of the "show", all the sand was removed by mechanical means, not at all like the water taking away the construct at high tide. Magical in every way!

I so appreciate your introducing me to sand castles in Canada. I'm a Jersey shore girl, knowing nothing about sand at lakes, only about sand at oceans.

What a super hub. Voted every positive way.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Sally's Trove, Thank you for the very positive feedback. So glad you enjoyed it. My boys will be enjoying the beautiful Lake Ontario beaches very soon. More sweet memories for all of us.


theclevercat profile image

theclevercat 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Terrific hub! Last year I went to the sand castle competition in Revere Beach, MA and the sculptures were fabulous too. The detail was mesmerizing.

I found especially useful the list of tools at the beginning -- lots of people (myself included) forget to bring stirrers and straight tools. Spoons and other utensils as mentioned are really invaluable. Thanks so much for the detailed look into sand castle building!!

Voted up, awesome, useful, and of course... beautiful!


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks CC. So glad to have you visit my hub. My kids and I spend at least a week at the beaches in Sarnia, ON where my folks live. Even as teenagers they love to play in the sand!

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