Building a sand castle on the beach is a classic summer family activity.  For those who are a tired of the standard castle and moat, there are some simple tips and tricks the experts use that can help anyone develop their sand sculpting skills and impress their friends and family.

Mark Mason is the owner of Team Sandtastic, a professional sand sculpting team recognized as one of the best in the world.  They’ve won numerous competitions and hold the world record for the tallest sand castle ever hand built.  From August 26 – Sept 4, their work will be on display at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort as part of Sandtastic Weekends.

Even if you’re not planning to go pro, Mason offers the following simple tricks to take your sand sculpting to the next level:

Make the most of household items

You likely already own most of the best sand sculpting tools available.  They are common household goods that can typically be found in your garage and your kitchen.  In the garage look for a 2-foot section of a 2”x4”, small paint brushes and gardening spade shovels.  In the kitchen, look for spatulas, melon ballers, cake icing spreaders, measuring spoons, straws and wooden shish kabob spears.  All of these are great carving tools.

Use a bigger bucket

If you want a bigger sculpture, you’ll need a bigger bucket.  Those plastic children’s sand buckets offer the right idea – put sand inside a bucket and turn it upside to start your sculpture – however they aren’t nearly big enough to get a good starting block to carve.  Instead, take a 5-gallon bucket and cut the bottom out.  Filled with sand, the bucket would be too heavy to flip. But with the bottom removed, you can pack it with sand from the bottom up once you place it upside down in the sand.

Sand consistency is important

As you pack your sand, be mindful of the consistency.  The sand should be wet, but not too soupy and not too dry.  Pack in the sand 3 inches at a time, tamping it down with the 2”x4” piece to make sure it is packed in tightly.  Keep adding sand 3 inches at a time until you’ve filled your bucket.  If your sand consistency is good, you should be able to tap the sides of the bucket with your piece of wood and remove the bucket to have your starting sand block.

Tell a story

As you decide what to create, remember that creating a collage of several shapes is easier and more interesting than holding yourself to one shape.  Instead of a person saying, “It’s a dog,” try to get them to say, “It’s a dog that’s dug a hole where a you can see a snake has been because there’s a snake coming out of a hole on the other side of the plot and it’s biting at the dog’s tail.”

Visitors can watch the pros and learn tips directly from Team Sandtastic as part of Sandtastic Weekends at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort Aug 26 -28 and Sept. 4 – 6.  The event will feature 100 tons of sculpted sand, sand sculpting clinics, amateur sculpting contests, speed sculpting demonstrations, food, entertainment, games and more.  For more information, visit