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Sand Play Develops Skills in Toddlers

by Tania Cowling | August 25th, 2014 | Development, Infants/Toddlers

boy in sandSand play presents a new world for toddlers to conquer. It becomes an all year recipe that combines the components of tactile experimentation and a wonderful opportunity to “make a mess.” But, parents don’t fret – this messy play helps the child learn new concepts, develop their motor skills, while having fun and stretching the imagination.

Sandboxes come in all shapes and sizes. The smallest sandbox utilizes a plastic dishpan of sand on a low table. This is wonderful for those rainy and cold days when outdoor play is not feasible. Outdoor sandboxes are perfect for play and getting fresh air as well. Whichever way you choose, just make sure to keep the sandbox clean for your child’s health.

Also, emphasize the rules of sand play with your toddler. Whether they are playing alone or with a friend, there should be no throwing of sand. Sand does not belong in the face or hair and by all means, sand does not belong in their mouths.

Getting to Know Sand

There are many simple sandbox activities to enjoy with children who love sand. Here are a few to try:

  • With dry sand, cover your toddler’s toes and feet. Peek-a-boo games with disappearing feet that shake back into view like miniature earthquakes are great fun.
  • Encourage your child to pour and sift sand from one container to another, a pre-math exploration. How about sifting sand through a mesh screen or sieve.
  • Have a treasure hunt for objects in the sand. Bury washable toys throughout the sandbox and invite the children to reach into the sand to find them. Have them describe what they feel before pulling out the toy. Encourage descriptive words if possible like, big, little, smooth, bumpy, and flat.
  • Making roads and other designs in sand has a hypnotic effect on young children. Smooth the sand with the hands or using sand toys (shovel or rake) and then make wavy designs and ridges. Bring out the toy trucks to follow these roads.
  • Make footprints and other imprints on dampened sand. Create pretend stories about the prints. Do these prints belong to a giant, fairy, animal, or superhero?
  • Think about making sand sculptures together. Containers can mold moist sand into castles. Add a trickle of water from the garden hose for a moat around the kingdom.
  • Wet, smooth sand is the perfect canvas to draw pictures or practice writing letters and numbers. It’s more fun than practicing on paper.

Clean Up Time

This may be the happiest or saddest time for toddlers. When children get involved with enjoyable play, they sometimes do not want to quit. Sand can be sticky to both the body and clothing so try these ways to get your toddler clean.

  • You can place water in dishpan containers on the ground so your child can walk through the water before putting shoes and socks back on. Also, this is a means to wash hands.
  • Do some dancing, jumping, and shaking to rid the sand from clothing. The toddlers love to “shake their sillies out” anyway!
  • On a really warm day, make it a run in the sprinklers day to get sand off their body and clothing. Have big towels ready to wrap around them before heading indoors.

Messing around in the sand is a great toddler time activity anytime!

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