10 toy building materials: best play sand alternatives

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  December 19, 2020

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In this article I want to take a look at all those fun construction toys. But not to see which ones are the best, because there are a lot of fantastic toys, such as from Bruder.

No, today I want to look at how you can play with it without using playing sand.

Best play sand alternatives for your construction toys

Some don't have a garden, and it's not different always playing outside again.

So here are my top picks to keep your kids entertained with their excavators, trucks, cement trucks and more.


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Best play sand alternatives to construction toys

These are my top picks, in no specific order:

Building blocks as an alternative for playing sand

Building blocks as an alternative for playing sand

Of course, this is the first thing that came to mind, conjuring up the old box of blocks again!

Not only do they fit in many of the construction vehicles you have, but you can also stack them nicely, or in the truck put them down and drag them along.

Small PVC tubes as an alternative to play sand

Small PVC tubes as an alternative to play sand

I was thinking about these because I had seen them in the hardware store, and they are not only perfect as an alternative to play with sand, but you can also use them perfectly together outside, when the weather is nice.

You can pick up a few tubes with your machines, but you can also tie them together and lift them.

Plus they have the ultimate construction site of course look for your toy construction site!

Large PVC tubes as an alternative to play sand

Large PVC tubes as an alternative to play sand

If you have larger excavators and cranes, larger tubes might be more fun; I found these nice curved ones.

Also nice to use together with the smaller ones because they could fit in to make a long tube and let some of the following alternatives fall through, such as the plugs or the beans.

Duplo blocks as an alternative for playing sand

Duplo blocks as an alternative for playing sand

Which family does not have them, the Duplo blocks. And if your child hasn't had a smaller brother or sister to hand them over to and is bored with these blocks, they can suddenly become cool again by combining them with trucks and excavators.

Duplo blocks with excavators

Suddenly they enjoy playing with it again and maybe even building a crane.

Black beans for toy tractors

Black beans for toy tractors

There's something about dried black beans that just feels really good, and I've used them before in a sensory play bowl.

Nice to pick up and slide through your hands and they can of course be transported by the toy kids tractors.

A disadvantage with these is that they are somewhat round, so on smooth floors they can still go in all directions, but a lot easier to clean up as sand everywhere.

Beans as an alternative for playing sand

Beans as an alternative for playing sand

By beans I do not mean the dried black beans, but the beans of a game that you may still have, in this case Party & Co.

A perfect size for easy cleaning.

But chips or points pebbles or even dice from other games can of course!

Plugs for construction toys

Plugs for construction toys

Another nice idea, and completely in the construction theme, are the soft plugs to fix screws in the wall.

They weigh next to nothing so you can safely drop them on the floor, are not too round so they don't fly everywhere so quickly, and you have them in different sizes to make it suitable for different sizes of building toys.

Just don't forget to clean them up because those pins can be quite annoying to stand on accidentally.

Bouillon cubes as construction toys

Bouillon cubes as construction toys

If you want a fun and fragrant farmhouse, bouillon cubes are fun to play with, plus they come in all kinds of cheerful colors.

I thought the golden one was suitable as hay bales to go with the toy farm to use.

Corn for use in farm toys

Corn for use in farm toys

And corn, of course, is an essential part of a good farm game.

You can very well use dried corn in your game. The grains are not round so they are less likely to spread on the floor than, for example, the dried black beans.

Ikea wood as construction toys

Ikea wood as construction toys

Last on the list are the Ikea sticks. I call them that because everyone knows them from the old trusted cabinets that you have to assemble yourself.

You can use leftover sticks that you may still have, or you can buy them in bags at the hardware store.

You can shovel them, pick them up with the tap and the best thing is to put them inside the "mud" as a fence, or take them outside in the garden for the earth.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child, he came into contact with everything around games when his mother started the Tin Soldier in Ede. Since 2016, he and his team have been creating helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.