Playing with sand provides many learning opportunities. Rather than spending a fortune on plastic toys, you can, with a little effort, create a dream world for your developing child. A child can start playing in sand from the day he/she can sit up comfortably. The sooner you expose him to sand, the sooner he will get use to the touch of sand and learn to enjoy it.
I can only see the red lights coming on when I speak about sand! Many parents at my workshops will not allow their children to play in the sand, as they will get dirty. This approach might cost you a fortune on therapy once your child shows signs of tactile defensiveness and experience social and learning problems later on in life. There are far more benefits to sand play than dangers. Make sure you cover the sand pit so that the neighbor’s cats will not be able to use it as a litter box. I cover mine with shade cloth. Apart from that you can add hands full of coarse salt, bought at your local hardware shop or supermarket, to the sand pit to help preserve it from all sorts of bugs and germs.
As in the case of with water play, sand play is most therapeutic to children, ranging from 6 months to 10 years or even older. Sand play is a right brain, non-verbal activity and can develop communication skills, thinking skills and problem solving skills. Sand play is also important for very active children and helps to increase concentration span. Whilst playing with the sand your child also develops important mathematical concepts. He/she experience the difference in wet and dry sand; experience the weight differences of the different buckets and spades as well as the differences in size and length of the different sand castles. My son started his engineering skills while building bridges and passes in the sand pit, trying to imitate the road to Cape Town.
Apart from developing all these skills, sand provides excellent ways of stimulating imaginative play. Add a few farm or wild animals to it and leave them to create their own world. Make sure your child is covered with sun screen and has a hat on, as the time will soon go by.
If you are not keen on the sand pit idea – be creative. Use an old ice cream container or even something bigger and hide some interesting things for your child to dig out from under the sand. During winter time an older child can start forming letters and numbers in a tray with a shallow layer of sand. Or let him draw pictures.
Children older than three, three and a half years of age, might share lots of happy memories in the sand pit – sharing instruments and co-operating in creating a town, a jungle or a castle. Provide them with buckets full of water to add to the fun.
Sand pits are also ideal places to have treasure hunts for children’s parties. Hide the treasure ahead of time and then divide it into zones. Each child has a little tooth pick flag with his name on and use this to pick his favorite spot. Everyone should then dig for their treasure. Have a little something in each plot for every child, but one big prize for the winner. In stead of hiding sweets that could lead to more hyped up party goers, you can hide plastic toy animals or even different puzzle pieces which they can use afterwards to have more fun. Be prepared to have sand all over the place.
Life has become so busy, robbing us of all the wonderful opportunities that money cannot buy. Create a sand pit today and be sure to give your child one of the best gifts ever and one that will last many, many years.