How to build with sand

Most weary parents head straight for a sunlounger with cool drink in hand when they hit the beach. Not me. I like to arrive weighed down by an assortment of shovels, buckets, palette knives and plastic tubes in readiness for some serious castle building. And as the kids are a little older now, I have been hoping to encourage a similar level of enthusiasm for my favourite beach activity. Turns out, these two don’t quite share my architectural aspirations…yet. They would rather jump mercilessly on my carefully packed sand mounds rather than carve them into temporary pieces of fine art. But it’s early days and I’m not giving up on them. Our recent holiday on the gorgeous beaches of Langkawi provided the perfect opportunity to get hands-on with Sandcastle Building 101, and Miss Chu obligingly created a video to share what they’ve learnt.

To achieve sandcastle greatness, you need the right kind of sand. Sadly we don’t live near any beaches that meet the perfect conditions, so our forays into sand-engineering have been few and far between. Ideally, you need quite fine sand, free of debris and shells. If you’re being pedantic, sand particles which are more angular lock together better than very rounded particles. But we’re not quite at that level yet! You also need a lot of water. Damp sand particles hold together well because the surface tension of the water coating the sand creates little “capillary bridges” between the particles, “sucking” them together. Too little water and these “bridges” will be too few – the sand crumbles. Too much and the water pools rather than forming bridges, so the whole mass flows like soup. Heaping up wet sand, and then thumping it down hard to compress and drain the sand, generally makes it a good consistency for castle making. The girls like to test the strength of our mounds by leaping off them!

After that, it’s all down to a few basic tools, some artistic vision, and a lot of patience.


Getting my somewhat reluctant team ready for Sandcastles 101.


Getting started with sand sculpting!


This castle by Calvin Seibert is the kind of thing I aspire to get Team Chu making in a few years time 😊.       (photo credit:

During this holiday we tried out our new “sand shapers” which are a surprisingly cool tool for making spheres in the sand!


These really work! Quite satisfying to shave the sand away to reveal the sphere. Apparently they’re good for snow too.

Nevertheless, vision and patience can steadily evaporate in the tropical sun, so a rather more relaxing castle building option is the “drip method” a technique passed down from my dad and enthusiastically demonstrated by the kids in the video.

The Chu girls get drip-castling with Grandad

And as a reward for their hard work on the beach, I offered to bury the kids in sand, which they thoroughly enjoyed. After a job well done, we left them, helplessly trapped, whilst we headed off to the bar…

…ok not really, but I did think about it! Can’t leave these cuties behind though.


Team Chu at the end of the day…



  1. Looks amazing, will look forward to seeing future sand creations. We had a honeymoon stopover at Langkawi, it’s a beautiful place.

    • Still on the hunt for the perfect-sand beach! Lovely beaches on Langkawi but actually a few too many shells for sand-sculpting. Aiming to explore Australian beaches next 😀.

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