The legacy of sand


If you haven’t heard, sand is a hall of famer.

Really. Sand has a place in the hall of fame. In 2021, The Strong National Museum of Play celebrated sand as one of its inductees to the National Toy Hall of Fame.

To be fair, it’s an honor long overdue. From boxes in the backyard to castles on the beach, sand is one of the most amazing toy options you’ll ever find.

Sand is quite likely the original toy. Perhaps not. Maybe the original toy was a stick, a stream, a rock, or some other incredible combination of time, place, initiative and creativity. Or maybe someone saw an apple on the ground and kicked it. The point being, sand has been around since the early days and has plenty of ways to fall into the definition of a toy.

For me—and this essay—I don’t want to debate sand, or even dive much further into it. Instead, I’m trying to connect with you on the ideas of what are the best items when it comes to relaxation and play. Not by brand or such specifics, but by general concept. Does it have to be the greatest and most advanced video game system available? Does it need to be purchased? Or… can it be a great book, a tree, or three pennies and a flat surface for a game of table hockey?

I don’t believe fancy and formal and visiting a store is necessary. I would contend that folding up a sheet of paper into a football, sitting across from a friend, and then engaging in a contest with no higher stakes than bragging rights for the afternoon is every bit deserving of a place on the top of a list of great toys as just about any other thing you could mention.

Now, yes. Absolutely. Watching the development of the latest and greatest technologies, especially as it advances how we learn and amuse ourselves, is incredible. Some of the games that have spanned generations are awesome. But to go back to that stick I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago… if it makes you smile and enjoy a bit of time, maybe even creating bonds with a friend or two… what is it that we actually expect from toys that could possibly be much better than that? In fact…

How about a tree? First, there’s that stick. Came from the tree. Then there’s more. We can climb the tree. We can pile up the leaves from it and jump in. We can use it as a base for a game of hide and seek.

For some reason, I chuckle when I see technology come to a grinding halt. Power goes out. Terry and I might turn on a transistor radio, light a few candles and play some cards. But we see example after example of folks going bonkers trying to keep tablets and phones charged, and having all sorts of troubles with kids that don’t understand why the WiFi is down. The funny part is playing cards and listening to the latest news or some music while hearing stories from friends sitting in their cars trying to charge their phones.

(Side note offering a slight bit of support. Recently, two friends were making fun of the GPS in my car. The joke was that I had a standalone unit. Why couldn’t I catch up with the times and use my phone? Well, as I reminded them, one had recently had troubles on a long drive when their phone battery was exhausted and they didn’t have a cord to recharge it. And, once the other was going through an interesting stretch of merges, exit navigations and lane changes in a city he wasn’t familiar with when someone called him and his phone shifted from the GPS app to the call. I agree with them, phones are great technology. But sometimes tools work because they serve a specific function and nothing else. So, yeah, back to sand.)

It would be hard to imagine many things that could be considered a toy with as lengthy a history as sand. And yet, there it is, with as simple a foundation as you could ever create, providing hours of amusement in an incredible variety of settings.

You don’t see a lot of sandboxes in backyards any more. (I also don’t recall the last time I drank from the hose.) And that’s a shame. Because sometimes in order to appreciate and reach the greatest of heights, you have to acknowledge and consider the foundation upon which it was built.

Now… who wants to grab a couple of buckets to help me fill the moat around this castle?


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