Confession time: I've never been very good at building sand castles. I never could figure out how some folks were able to carve out elegant-looking structures from the sand while mine looked more like condemned shacks ... after demolition. But now I know the secrets, and I can't wait for my next trip to the beach to try them out. Here's what you need to know to make a sand castle you (and your kids) will be proud of:

Savvy supplies: Skip the plastic forms and other trinkets and keep your sand castle supplies simple: a shovel and a bucket is all you need to make a killer castle.  

Get wet: What's the secret to incredible sand castles? A little water. According to the World Sand Sculpting Association (yes, there is such a group) it's all about getting the right mix of sand and water to make everything mesh. Start by digging a small hole in the sand and filling it up with water. Use this wet sand to build your castle.

Flatten, don't pound: Resist the urge to pound, push, pat, pack or pummel your sand castle into submission. Instead, make a number of small sand patties and gently place one on top of the other, reducing the size of the patties as the castle goes up to make a tower. To make castle walls, scoop up a double handful of sand and gently form it into a "brick." Then stack your bricks next to and on top of each other to the desired thickness and height.

Carve it out: Once you get all of your patties and bricks where you want them, gently carve out your castle.  Carefully skim away sand to make cone shapes, roof overhangs and arches. Carve from the outside in to avoid chipping and breaking.

Now you're ready to build a jaw-dropping sand castle during your next trip to the beach. Just don't forget to let your kids in on the fun, too!

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.