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Lately, my two boys have gotten really into hot wheels. Their new obsession has led them on a youtube winding road of kids playing with toys. One of their favorite youtube series is the Roaring and Racing with Hot Wheels Monster Truck Races. They absolutely love the animated races called by a professional announcer.
When the boys watch the races, they scream at the T.V. as if watching a live sporting event. Yelling, jumping, high-fiving one another when their favorite monster truck wins the race and earns the trophy. It cracks me up every time I see them screaming for joy over the winner.
Then last weekend my oldest asked for a “dirt box” so they could play race their own monster truck rally. I wasn’t quite sure what a dirt box was exactly. But after some discussion and very specific details from the kiddos, I realized they wanted a mini sandbox built out of wood. Did I mention I like to build things with my drill and saw? Why yes, I do own both a drill and a table saw.
- Wood Pallet or Scrap Wood
- 1″ Screws
- 2″ Screws
- Electric Drill
Use a wood pallet or any spare wood you have lying around
This was my first project ever using a wood pallet. I had stopped previously at a trucking company and pulled two wood pallets out of their scraps dumpster. I was planning to make a small back porch herb garden out of them. Instead, I decided to use one of the pallets for the boy’s dirt box since I already had it on hand. But any scrap wood you have lying around would work just as well.
Note: I discovered using single pieces of wood is much easier than taking apart a wood pallet. It’s hard to get those suckers apart!
How to Build a Small Dirt Box
Step 1. Take the wood pallet apart (careful not to split the wood too much) and remove all of the nails.
Taking apart the pallet was the hardest part of the entire project. Whoever makes pallets are some nail happy folks. Geeze! Some boards seem to have 8 or 10 nails hammered into it just because. I actually chose not to use several wood pieces because it was going to be too much work just to remove the nails. This step took me about 2 hours total. Using loose pieces would of course eliminate the entire issue and step.
Step 2. Sort the different sized pieces. There will probably be two different sizes. 3ft 3 inches (39”) by 3 ½ inches and 3ft 10 inches (34”) by 3 ½ inches. My pallet also had 3 or 4 pieces 2 ½” in (30”) by 3 ½ inches, which I ended up using as feet for the wood box. Any size pieces you have on hand will work as long as you lay them out to make a box.
Lay Out the Pieces
Step 3. Layout the wood pieces the way you plan to nail or screw it together. I started with two pieces laid out parallel to one another in a horizontal pattern. =
I then laid out 6-8 wood pieces in the opposite direction, parallel over the first two pieces to connect them and make a base. ∥
The boards should look sort of like this 𓏄 except without overhang on the ends. Next, saw down any board pieces that are too long.
Imagine a perfect square with no boards sticking out. Two on the bottom and 4-8 overlaying the bottom two vertically. This is the base template.
Screw the Boards Together
Step 4. Use 1” wood screws to secure the boards together. I used 2” screws for capping each side of the boards.
Step 5. Next, screw 2 boards to the base of the box as feet. I used the 2 ½” x 3 ½ boards since they were slightly more robust than the other boards and created a kind of stand. Use 2” wood to secure the 2 boards on top of the two bottom horizontal boards. =
This will keep the wood box from retaining too much water and make it easier to slide the box to another spot when you are ready to move it around the yard.
Note: It’s a good idea to rotate the dirt box around the yard to avoid creating a bare spot in the grass.
Step 6. Finally, use 4 wood pieces to cap the base. I used 2” wood screws to create the box sides. I screwed the 4 pieces halfway up the “feet” of the box for more stability. Be sure to pre-drill the holes to avoid splitting the wood as much as possible. The final product should look like a box.
Finish and Play
Step 7. Choose a spot to place your box and fill it with dirt or sand. I used the extra topsoil we already had on hand. I was able to make the entire dirt box for free since I had all the materials at the house. But honestly, the entire box should cost less than $15, including the sand and screws.
Step 8. Let the kids play! Getting dirty and being outside is good for our kids. I don’t mind the dirty clothes and hair when my kids are using their imaginations and getting along!