Germ Illustration

Cleaning and Disinfecting Play Areas and Toys

Sensory Play Tables

  • Sensory play tables can be a source of spreading infections from one child to another. Close supervision is essential.
  • Have children and staff wash their hands before and after sensory play.
  • Sensory play tables can be filled with water, sand, or food for indoor play.
  • Sand and water play should be avoided for children with chicken pox.
  • Cover sensory tables when not in use.

Note: Sensory play tables are not to be used during an outbreak of communicable disease due to the risk of disease transmission.

Water Play Activities

Water play can also be a good medium for spreading infections. The following will reduce the spread of infection:

  • Have children and staff wash their hands before and after water play.
  • For infants and toddlers, individual water containers (such as plastic basins) are recommended.
  • Use individual containers for all children rather than a shared communal water play table; they are more easily sanitized between use and are less likely to spread illnesses.
  • Use municipally chlorinated water for water play. Do not add bleach, vinegar or other disinfectants to the play water.
  • Choose tubs with smooth, non-porous and non-corrosive surface with rounded edges and corners for easy cleaning.
  • Fill the water play tub with clean tap water just before use.
  • Change the play tub water at least once each day and more often if necessary.
  • Clean and sanitize all toys used in water play tables after each use.

Note: A child with a skin infection should not be allowed to play with other children at a shared water play table. Water play tables are not to be used during an outbreak of communicable disease due to the risk of disease transmission.

Sanitizing procedure:

  1. Empty the water and thoroughly scrub all surfaces of the tub with detergent.
  2. Rinse off the detergent with clean water.
  3. Apply a sanitizer solution following the manufacturer’s directions OR use an intermediate (200 ppm) bleach to water solution.
  4. Sanitize for at least 1 minute of contact time or whatever the manufacturer recommends.
  5. Allow the water table to air dry.

Indoor Sandbox

  • Using prepackaged, sealed and labelled sand (silica free) in the sandbox ensures that there are no harmful organisms in the sand that may affect the children while they are playing. Spraying the sand with a bleach and water solution does not effectively disinfect it.
  • Do not use regular soil or potting soil.
  • Do a visual check of the sandbox daily before use. This ensures that there is no contamination of the sand by food or other objects.
  • Do not allow eating or drinking of snacks/food while children are playing in the sandbox. This can lead to children ingesting the sand and other contaminants.
  • Replace sand on a regular basis.

Note: Do not use sandboxes during the outbreaks of communicable disease.

Outdoor Sandboxes

  • Install a secure cover on outdoor sandboxes when not in use.
  • Check sandboxes and sand in play areas daily for animal droppings, broken glass, or other hazardous items before children go outside to play.
  • Scrape or rake out droppings and surrounding sand, place in a plastic bag and discard in the garbage.
  • The eating of soil and sand by children can lead to a serious health hazard known as toxoplasmosis. The effects of this disease can range from brain injury to pneumonia and death. Discourage children from consuming or placing any articles contaminated with sand in their mouth. Ensure that pregnant staff are not changing the sand or removing feces from the sandbox.

Other Sensory Tables

  • All toys used in sensory play tables should be cleaned and disinfected at least once per week, or more often if required.
  • Clean and disinfect sensory tables with an intermediate level disinfectant at least once per week and more often if required following the sensory play (see Child Care Environmental Disinfection).

Food Items Sensory Tables

  • Have children and staff wash their hands before and after using the table.
  • Use only dry food materials in play tables. If the food material becomes wet, it must be discarded and replaced.
  • Discard and replace food which is contaminated.
  • Clean area beneath the play table daily. Discard any material which is spilled on the floor. Spilled material must not be placed back in the sensory table.
  • Discontinue use of food items used in the play table in the event of a rodent or insect infestation.
  • Keep sensory tables covered when not in use.
  • Ensure dry food items used in the sensory tables are kept no longer than one week and then discarded.
  • Ensure all toys used in the sensory tables are cleaned and disinfected at least once per week, or more often if required.
  • Clean and disinfect sensory tables at least once per week and more often if required. (see Child Care Environmental Disinfection).
  • Supervise children around the sensory tables containing beans, corn, etc. as they may be a choking hazard for children.

Craft Material

  • Ensure all materials used for crafts are non-toxic, including markers and glue.
  • Avoid materials that may be choking hazards such as balloons and Styrofoam.
  • If there is no label or enough information to decide whether it is safe, contact the manufacturer. The company’s phone number or address should be on the label. Also, ask for a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). The MSDS gives specific information about flammability, toxicity and ingredients.
  • Ensure egg cartons and trays previously used to store food items (e.g. Styrofoam meat trays), as well as toilet paper rolls, are not used for crafts, as these items cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Discard grains and cereal products after one week of use. If they become wet, discard immediately.
  • Discard playdough after one week of use, sooner if necessary.

Last modified: February 19, 2020