For an outdoor sandbox, how feasible is it to use corn seed instead of sand?

I rather enjoy how corn seed feels compared to sand, but I have a couple of concerns:

  • Rot: How long would it last? How much of a difference would covering (with a pavilion) make?

  • Price: how expensive is it compared to sand?

  • 10
    After a little moisture, the corn seed won't be just seed anymore, but corn sprouts instead. This sounds like a all-around bad idea. Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 23:24
  • Don't worry about rot or sprouts. The squirrels will eat it all long before then. To prevent this, dip each seed in latex to completely coat it. (yes, this is a joke, dangitall!) Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 14:06
  • There's a farm near my town that does this. They have it covered with a roof much larger than the box. They may replenish the box throughout the season; I don't know. The kernels are dried and rock-hard, though, so they might put them through some treatment ahead of time rather than worrying about rot, birds, or replenishment. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 14:38
  • Last time I bought corn, it was $11 for a 50 pound bag; Sept 2015. Round here, bulk sand is $12 for 1000 pounds. Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 13:02
  • It's also really boring to play with. You can bind sand with a bit of water. Can't do that with corn seed.
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 2:10

3 Answers 3


So you want to spread a viable, sprouting, organic product several inches deep in a container exposed to the environment?

Hope you like birds, 'cause every flying creature for kilometers will be coming by for lunch.

Also hope you like small rodents, at least the seed-eating types. The local squirrels will love your place.

Also hope you are in a rather arid area. Rain will soak everything and it will start to rot, high humidity will cause things to start growing.

This might be practical if it is indoors. As in climate controlled. An open (or fabric) sided gazebo in the back yard is not "indoors"

  • 1
    Storing grain / corn seed is a difficult problem that becomes impossible when you leave it outside/inside with people playing in it. Sooner or later some organism will eat it, almost no matter where you put it. (Unless it's a harsh environment where children and even smaller organisms absolutely don't have access – or don't survive. )
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 6:38

Have you considered a pea gravel sandbox? It would have the same properties as corn as far as sandboxes go. Namely, you can't form it into castles, kids might swallow it, and it's more expensive than sand. However, it doesn't have issues like rot, water absorption, insect attraction, and bird attraction. However, if you want to go with corn, here's what I have on that:

The agritourism farm in my town has a giant corn box and it is spectacular. I asked them the following question:

I am thinking of building a corn box at home like the one you have because it is incredibly awesome and sand is awful. Do you buy feed to use or grow your own? Do you have to treat the kernels ahead of time or replenish them during the year? How do you prevent rot or birds just eating all of it? Is this completely not worth my time if I don't have access to a large volume of cheap kernels?

They responded with:

We buy the corn from Southern States in large bags. Much better than sand for sure! We do clean the corn and switch it out throughout our season. If you can it helps to cover to keep birds away.

Their corn boxes look like they have 1x6 boards for the sides but I can't tell how thick their bottoms are. They also have it under a roofed area that is at least twice as long as the box in both directions. There's nothing to protect against birds, though, unless they put on some kind of removable cover after they close. Even then, though, it appears they have to deal with rot and contamination since they change the box throughout the season. It's a very popular attraction for the kids, though, so it's probably worth it for their business to do so.

If you want to build your own, I recommend:

  1. Making the box be as tight a fit as possible. It might be worth buying a plastic liner or a pre-fab box with a lid.
  2. Keep it covered when not in use with as tight-fitting a lid as possible. If you go with a plastic liner and it gets water inside, it'll be trapped and you'll definitely get rot.
  3. Consider sloping the entire bottom of the box to a single point, cut a hole in the side, and install a check valve to let water out if it does collect. The coarse nature of the corn - as opposed to sand - should allow the water to flow freely.
  4. Churn the corn regularly to check for evidence of rot or other issues and replenish with fresh corn. This is the part that might hurt your wallet and it might depend on how well the overall design is.
  5. Spray kid-friendly bug repellent around the outside.
  6. Mix in cinnamon to help keep the bugs out.

Of course, some of these are good ideas for regular sand boxes, too, since they're prone to bugs and moisture issues.


Wet grain will give you one of 2 things, sprouting corn, which looses it's essential form and becomes a mushy substance. (aka corn mash) I don't think a "still" is a byproduct you intended. 2nd MOLDY CORN produces deadly Aflatoxin, nothing anyone in corn country (aka Iowa) get's close to, or messes with.

Sand, Sand, Sand, you could put pea gravel on the bottom to save mass.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.