The Importance of Sand Play - Part II

What Do Children Learn from Playing in the Sand?

It feels funny…it is hard and soft…it is mushy. Sand is an extremely sensory experience. If a child has never experienced playing in the sand, a child needs large blocks of time to explore their new environment before the play can be purposeful. Initially sand play looks aimless when actually children are building an infrastructure for a more organized level of play. Do you remember building castles and motes? Do you remember building dams and racing against the water to make the bridge?

Our role as we support children while playing in sand is enabling children to ask open-ended questions. Our responses help children solve problems, which are scientific in nature. Helping children observe the properties of sand and how sand interacts with water and other mediums are key interactions and enable children to think and become little scientists. Here are some questions that foster thinking:

  •     How could you fix or change that?
  •     What else could you do?
  •     What would happen if you …?
  •      Is there another way to …?

Sand play supports the emotional needs for children while enhancing their social skills. Sand play can be very soothing for children, the way it runs through their fingers, the repetition of pouring and moving sand…repetitive experiences are soothing for children and can be meditative.

When children are playing and working together they are faced with real problems that require sharing, problem solving and negotiating. Sand play supports children’s mathematics and scientific thinking as they put sand through funnels and swing the funnel from a pendulum. They love to hide magnets in the sand and find buried treasure. As they fill multiple containers beginning to understand that volume can stay the same in different shaped containers. The use of sieves, pipes, pulleys and buckets enhance wonderful thinking and problem solving.

Children have a natural affinity for sand play. Teachers can intentionally build on the interest by providing children with new props, asking appropriate questions and scheduling ample time to explore.

Can you really dig a hole to China? Let’s find out!

Post by Steve Zwolak