A Sand Tray Therapist’s dilemma in 2020…if I am returning to office how do I both keep my clients safe AND provide the optimal tools for emotional expression, processing, and healing? I can’t tell you how many times that this has gone through my mind.
For some therapists they are leaving the sand all together and finding alternative ways to engage with clients. I can’t tell you how much this makes my heart hurt as I know there is so much POWER in the sand. Check out my articles HERE for creative ways to use sand tray for virtual sessions.
BUT this isn’t about virtual, this is about the real life in office work of Sand Tray. Let’s focus! For some they are sanitizing between clients like this three part video series HERE, HERE, and HERE, or using UV lights or wands to disinfect. A billion years ago when I was in office at the cusp of everything shutting down, that was me. The disinfecting spray between clients that is. I can tell you – it is truly exhausting and leaves your sand a bit wet and less than idea if you have back to back clients who want to work with the sand. Who can relate?
Enter a third option: individual sand tray kits! I am a bit sand tray obsessed, so I actually have a stockpile of these AHHH-mazing square storage totes (the ezy Karton Storage Container 6.3QT to be exact) for $2.00 at Target. TWO DOLLARS! Okay, now you can understand why I grabbed 15 or so ish of these when they were still on the shelves. But alas they are out of stock everywhere I have goggled.
SO when the topic of how to navigate returning to in person sessions (now or in the future) came up in one of my group consults I wanted to create a round up of all the different ways to play (inexpensively of course) in the sand tray with individual sand tray kits. I also LOVE this idea for sending kits home for children to engage with and am in the process of creating take home "loaner" sand trays.
With this concept you could either have a mini-sand tray for each client that only they use or touch, or several kits that get sanitized at the end of each day. Either way this seems like the happy marriage between safety and technique! The cons to this approach is that the tray will likely be smaller than your large tray but the pros are that clients will get to touch, feel, and create with real sand.
Okay so here goes!
The Extreme Budget
The first option I wanted to roll out is the cheapest option at $3.33 per tray. These trays are actually 14” plant saucers (found HERE) with sturdy plastic. These are a great economical option but they only come in clear plastic and not blue. It also has a smaller lip at 1.4 inches, so be prepared for the spillage!
On the theme of plant saucers the Classic Saucer HERE is both blue, sturdier plastic AND has a larger lip at 2.13 inches! It also comes in economical at $5.99 per tray. If bigger is your game, these saucers HERE are larger at 14 inches and have a 2 inch depth. These ones come in a four pack at $21.99, so around $5.50 they are also a less expensive option. The cons are the color is more earth/terracotta tone and not blue.
The other mention-able rounds are the 13” blue activity tray HERE from Constructive Play Things (1 ½ inches deep) at $7.99 and the 13” (1.4 inches deep) Carlisle Bar Tray HERE at $8.61. The last one is the most expensive round, however all of the above have varying shades of blue, so it might be personal taste and style!
One of the most economical and larger trays I found is actually a serving tray coming in at 15” x 10” and 1.5 inch depth. The serving tray, found HERE, is a beautiful blue and is $16.99 for a three pack, coming in at around $5.66 per tray! As the forth least expensive tray it is definitely a fantastic option if you want the classic square feel of a tray.
The Nice And Deep
This one found at Walmart HERE is $14.44 for a 4 pack of varying shades of blue and is only around 3.61 per tray, which is pretty darn cost effective. This tray is 11.75 inches by 16 inches and 5.25 inches deep. This one is by far the deepest and could be a great fit if you serve littles that might need a bit deeper of a tray for containment!
The Double Decker
This option HERE is pretty unique in the fact that the bottom can serve as a try and the top can hold miniatures. It is really a compact option if you are like me and have a larger variety of miniatures that might go in the tray. The downside to this tray is that it is clear and not blue on the bottom. At $36.62 for a four pack is a bit more expensive at $9.16 per tray. It measures in at 14.38 inches by 10.75 inches per tray and is in total 7.63 inches deep, so about 3.8 inches deep for each tray.
I have saved the best for last! This one is hands down my favorite (and I actually own five of these too *slight blush*). I LOVE to use them for family trays or when I do a progressive tray series, so these have been in my collection for quite some time. I have no doubt if these are the trays for you that they will become a valuable tool long after the need for separate trays.
The Really Useful Box tray from Office Max is a really great size at 14 ½ inches by 10 ¼ inches and at 3 ¼ inches deep it can hold sand in the tray pretty well. Did I also mention this tray has a snap on lid? At $8.99 with an additional 20% off coupon offer going on now it is a low enough price to add a bunch to your cart without breaking the bank. Miniatures can be stored inside to make an efficient and stackable kit. Its blue color is also a plus!
If you are looking for a bit better of a deal, check out these similarly sized Sterilite Totes at $39.99 for 6, coming in at $6.67 per tote. The downside is that they are clear, however you could put a blue sheet of paper underneath to give it the blue color.
And there you have it - 10 great options for creating individual sand tray kits! Here’s to (safely) not leaving the sand behind! At the end of the day you need to do what you feel is safe (including agency, CDC, state, etc. guidelines) BUT I wanted to offer another option for keeping true to the sand as well as safety!
P.S. This sand tray is one I whipped up this morning. Interpret as you see fit!
Do you have any products that you love for mini sand trays? Drop a comment and the link below!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.