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Secrets of super sand castles

You’ve seen the amazing designs before. Perhaps it was in a photo of a sand castle competition or maybe it was in person at a beach somewhere. But those breathtaking castles? They are really something…


Make your kids think you’re really something this summer with these tips for making your own super sand castles.

In your mind, all the sand castles that you and your kids make are detailed masterpieces. Except in reality, they are more like lumps with shells and sea grass for decoration, right?

Step up your sand castle game this summer with these simple tips for creating awesome sand castles from some renowned experts.

It’s not about the tools

Ed Jarrett, the current Guinness World Record holder for the tallest sandcastle who is currently working on breaking his own record, once decided on vacation that he wanted to create something spectacular for his kids in the sand at a Disney resort at Walt Disney World. And he did. Using only a little pail, shovel, straw, plastic knife and spoon, he carved Mickey Mouse the Sorcerer.

When it comes to building fabulous sand castles, you don’t need fancy gear, Jarrett says. “I am very basic — I use a couple of carving tools,” says Jarrett.

Some of his favorite tools? Any tools used for clay carving (found in craft stores) and an offset spatula (for smoothing without getting knuckles in the way).

Seahorse - Team Sandtastic

Mark Mason is the lead instructor for Team Sandtastic who works out of the Boca Beach Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Boca Raton, Florida. He says that for a bucket, you can use a five-gallon bucket with the bottom cut out, and a piece of wood for a tamper can be helpful too. He says to pack sand in it upside down, about 3 to 4 inches at a time. “We’re packing sand inside a bucket and turning it upside down — tapping the sides and pulling the bucket off — then carving that bucket shape into the desired shape. But we’ve got a large bucket [that is] too heavy to flip once packed — so we’ll be packing it upside down,” says Mason.

He also likes using kitchen tools for carving such as melon ballers, measuring spoons and straws.

Go for the right sand

Beyond the tools, the sand you use is also critical to good sand castle building.

“They want to find the sharpest sand possible. They want to dig down into the moist sand and they should be able to make what I call a sand ball. If they can make a sand ball, that’s probably a better sand,” says Jarrett.

You are looking for a sand that will hold together when moist, says Jarrett. “That’s something they can really challenge to do arches,” says Jarrett.

Get in there

So you have your tools, the right sand and you’ve created your block to work with by tampering down that five-gallon bucket. What now?

“Start with your largest tools first and ‘block out’ the basic shape of your design,” says Mason. “This is what people find to be the hardest part and one should not be afraid to really move some sand at this stage. Try not to just draw on the bucket shape. Remember: there’s lots of sand out there — you don’t need to save all the sand you just pounded up. The bucket can be reused again and again.”

Get in there, and start creating a shape for your design.

Good designs to try

What kind of design should you and your kids attempt? That’s entirely up to you. But if you want to build confidence and skills, start with something on the simpler side that you can really be proud of.

Jarrett says that a good design to start with is a birthday cake, which is easy and fun to create and decorate.

Another idea? “You can do little villages with paper cups,” says Jarrett.

Castle image courtesy Ed Jarrett, Seahorse image courtesy of Team Sandtastic from the Boca Beach Club

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