Sand & Water Play

by Dana Smith Bader
Hits: 53

Sand and water go together like peanut butter and jelly, and they offer hours of fun for little ones. By scooping, pouring, moulding, and exploring children can benefit developmentally, and enjoy extended independent play. Of course, that makes the beach the ideal playground for a child – not only can they splash in the water and build fairy tale sand castles, but also they can hunt for shells and explore the sea life habitat. However, you do not need to live near a beach for your children to enjoy the benefits of sand and water play. With a few simple supplies, you can set up a sand and water wonderland right at home in your garden or even on your apartment balcony (with supervision, of course).

To motivate you to make a mess with sand and water, let’s look at some of the developmental benefits. First, sand and water play introduces mathematical and scientific concepts such as sinking, floating, and changes of state (from dry to wet), and exploring sand and water gives children opportunities to practice measuring and to understand concepts such as more, less, bigger, smaller, and equal. When playing with sand and water, while they scoop, sift, funnel, and pour, children also improve eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Sand and water play centers also provide plenty of opportunities for sharing and socializing, and the sensory experience can calm overexcited children and help others to vent anger or frustration.

Sand and water play also helps children learn to follow rules and instructions. For instance, children need to learn to keep the water in the water table or container, keep sand in the sand table or container, wear an apron while playing with water, and avoid running in the sand and water areas. As the children learn to follow these simple guidelines and instructions, they also learn to manage their behaviour and improve listening and impulse control.

As a parent, in addition to teaching the rules and guidelines and setting up the center, you can also be an important facilitator to your child’s learning. For example to extend your child’s thinking, you can ask important questions like, “What will happen if we . . .?” or “What does the sand feel like when you . . .?” You can also help your children find answers to their questions about sand and water through books, websites, and other resources. Most importantly, you can help your child brainstorm new and inventive ways to have fun with sand and water.

To get started, you just need a few simple supplies and a dedicated space for the setup of the centers. You can start with a large bag of play sand, a couple of large, rectangular plastic trays, and some water and child aprons. You might also want to get some plastic spades, spinners, moulds, and large cooking spoons or ladles. Next, you need to set up two or three different centers for your children to explore. My favorites include one tray of wet sand for building castles and using the moulds and one tray of dry sand for scooping and putting through funnels and spinners. A couple of medium-sized toy dump trucks are also good additions to the dry sand tray. You can also bury small shells or plastic toys in the dry sand tray for a fun treasure hunt. After you set up the sand stations, you need to set up a large tray of water as well. In the water tray, you can add floating balls and a ladle for your child to scoop out of the water, and you can even add dish soap for a bit of foamy fun. Fish gravel is also a fun addition to the water tray because children really enjoy the sensory experience of scooping the colored gravel out of the water.

Whatever you do, be prepared to set aside time every day for a bit of fun with your child and to make a bit of a mess. Depending on your children’s ages, you may also need to supervise the play continuously, or you may be able to let them play independently. Also, make sure you change things up every once in a while just to keep the water and sand stations fresh, clean, and entertaining for your children. You might even want to add a bit of role play and pretend you are going to the beach one day. Be sure to wear your swimsuit and sunglasses, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

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