Children are always very intrigued by sand. They enjoy digging into sand, sifting it, making a hole in the sand and seeing how deep it can go, building things with sand, and funny enough, destroying the creations they have made by kicking them down.
The thought of allowing your children to play with sand can be quite harrowing if you are worried about the cleanup that comes after that. In fact, you are probably asking, “What is wrong with the other toys? Why must they play with sand?”
Research has shown that sand play is actually a vital tool in a preschooler’s life as it promotes several benefits.
What are some ways that sand play can help with your preschooler’s development?
Develop their fine motor skills
Have you stopped to look at your preschoolers in awe as they navigate the world of shovels, spades and buckets in the sandpit? How did their little minds figure out the method required to fill a bucket with sand?
A lot of hand-eye coordination goes into sand play as they learn to scoop sand with their spade and then pour it into the bucket without too much spillage. Other than hand-eye coordination skills that they are developing, there is also a lot of muscle work going on to acquire this new skill set.
Sand play as a social activity in preschools in Singapore
Since playing with sand is mostly an outdoor activity, this encourages your preschoolers to interact with other children, especially if the interaction takes place at kindergarten. This interaction is necessary for children as they learn to navigate the playground politics of sharing the limited toys offered to them while keeping the peace among themselves.
As sand play is an open-concept toy, so to speak, it encourages children to use their creativity to build, design or dig to get to their end goal. The social aspect of sand play is extremely beneficial to preschoolers, so much so that many playgroups in Singapore have begun to adopt this idea and create areas in their compound to cater to this activity.
Build attention and concentration in your preschoolers
As preschoolers learn and develop, one of the common complaints that many parents share is the lack of concentration and wavering attention of their children. All of these are quite common in the early years, especially when preschoolers are still learning how to regulate their emotions and navigate the world we live in.
When preschoolers are involved in sand play, they get the opportunity to touch the softness of the sand. The act of piling sand in a mountain, building sandcastles or simply pouring sand from the spade to the bucket involves a lot of concentration for the activity to be a success. In doing so, children are implicitly motivated to focus on their task so that they can achieve their goal.
When you see your children do that, encourage their efforts to concentrate by telling them that they have done well to focus so that they can complete their task. This reiterates the idea of the importance of concentration.
How can parents get involved in sand play at home?
Other than taking your children to the beach or playground with sand readily available, you can also prepare your own sand play set up at home for your children. All you need is a tub for the sand, some sand play equipment like shapes, spades and buckets, and a mat to contain the sand.
If loose, fine sand is not ideal for your household, look at purchasing kinetic sand, which functions the same way except it is less messy than regular sand.
Here are three easy sand play ideas for home use that you can do with your children:
1. Sand Drawing
Using a thin layer of sand over a flat surface (like an oven tray), ask your children to draw their favourite object. They can also trace the alphabet in the tray and this incorporates the learn-through-play idea at home.
2. Treasure Hunting
Hide some little treasures in the sand and get them to dig for it. The treasures that you have selected could follow a theme, for example, gemstones, dinosaur bones or the solar system. Once they have collected all the items, you can explore reading materials to expand their knowledge on these items and open up a world of learning away from the usual pen-and-paper worksheets.
3. Sand Art in a Bottle
With the use of fine sand, coloured dye and glass bottles, you can help your children to create their very own sand art in a bottle. Dye the sand and let it air dry completely. Once that is done, your children can pour the coloured sand into their own glass bottles with the use of a funnel and a spoon. This activity can help to further develop their hand-eye coordination, as well as their creativity.
Safety measures you should take with sand play
It is necessary to take some precautions when playing with sand, especially when it concerns the health of your children. In a public area, check that the sand does not contain any animal excreta, pieces of glass, cigarette butts or other rubbish. A good sandpit will have generally clean, fine sand for children to indulge in their play.
Go through some ground rules with your children. Remind them not to throw sand at each other. Keep a bottle of water on hand to rinse their eyes out just in case any sand gets into them. Baby powder is great to have as well. Rubbing some baby powder on their feet ensures that any sand will simply just fall off.
If you own a sandbox at home, ensure that it is closed with a lid after use to keep animals or insects out. After playing with sand, it is important for your children to ensure that their hands are washed thoroughly with soap before they move on to the next activity.
Written by Danielle Hee