Remember, it is not worth acquiring more figures if they cannot be adequately displayed. The image above illustrates a shelf which has TOO many figures! The figures in the image are too crowded and too many figures deep.

Sandtray Figure Display

Regardless of theoretical orientation, all sandtray experts agree, shelves should not be overstuffed. Overfilled displays make it hard for the unconscious mind to find the piece it needs. Provide plenty of space between figures so the client doesn’t have to work to find or remove the pieces from the shelf. Children need even more space between figures as they cannot be expected to exact the kind of care needed to expertly remove the figure without knocking others over. Display figures with children in mind.

Theoretical orientation often drives how clinicians display figures on the other hand. For example, classic sandplay therapists have a precise method and design by which figures are displayed, yet there is no consensus with non-sandplay therapists. Therefore, consider space limitations in tandem with theoretical expectations to determine the best design for your office. Identify your primary client base and organize figures based on their needs.

I recommend displaying a representative sample of less prominent figures such as insects, bugs, and domestic animals. Use bins, baskets, or drawer or kitchen utensils dividers on the bottom shelf or below shelving with overflow items. Consider three-tiered spice racks to provide height & visibility.

As your figure selection increases, ensure your selection remains BALANCED (see Homeyer & Sweeney for category listing) and the display is also balanced. You will likely need to adjust your display as you add figures. Each time you add a batch of figures, review the display and cull items which bear little utility.  Allow your display to flex and change over time in response to the needs of your clients.

At the risk of being unpopular…

If space is too tight, your only answer may be to REMOVE some figures and tighten your figure acquisition discernment process.  Consider donating old and unused figures to budding play therapists or your local branch/chapter of APT. OR take excess items home and start a personal tray collection!

Ron Marincic’s Sandtrays

See Ron’s Sandtrays for examples of high-quality trays. Ron is at the APT conference every year and every year he creates innovative sandtray items! I am a proud owner of two trays and stands! No, Ron did not pay me or provide any kind of incentive for this post! Visit

ron's sandtrays