The benefits of sand play for toddlers

A great guest post from Simon Staton about how sand play can aid your child’s development in lots of different ways.

Christmas is over and it’s time to look ahead to warmer, drier times (yes, really!) … Now is the best season to prepare your summer schedule and come up with new ideas to keep the little ones occupied. Sand play is fantastic in aiding a toddler’s development and it’s such a fun activity to boot.

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Outdoor play is a natural and fun way to keep busy, and it helps in all aspects of a child’s growth and education. It is something that comes naturally to all children and they love it… so we need to keep encouraging it in as many ways as possible. A great way to do this is through sand play: it’s a fun and unique activity that can be enjoyed by everyone… parents included! Amongst its many therapeutic benefits, sand play has a very beneficial influence on the coordinative, interactional and creative aspects of your child’s brain.

Sand play benefits coordination

Playing with sand develops and teaches bilateral and hand-eye coordination. These are the two critical coordination skills that you use every day and it’s something we learn in the first few years of our life. When your little one is first learning the ropes you will notice how clumsy they can be and how over time they learn, improving with every step.

So how can sand play help? When playing with sand, the basic activities usually revolve around creating: this can either be filling buckets and making castles or drawing and writing in the sand with sticks. Doing these activities will train and encourage the use of hand-eye coordination otherwise known as visual-motor integration. In the long run this helps your child to read and write, to play sport and even to tie their shoelaces.

Through grasping, moving, holding and lifting, and many other movements developed through sand play, you will begin to introduce hand-eye coordination at an early and vital age. But it doesn’t stop there! These activities also teach bilateral coordination. This is the ability to use both sides of your body symmetrically. When your child rolls a rolling pin over dough or lifts themselves up with both hands, they are using bilateral coordination; it is the skill of applying equal pressure and moving both arms and legs together. It is something that we take for granted but without it we would all be incredibly clumsy.

Why not introduce tools to your sand play sessions to help the development of these areas? By digging and lifting you will not only help aid coordination but help muscle growth and motor skills…and it’s also a lot of fun!

Encourage interaction through sand play

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Interaction is another important aspect of our life. It not only helps us to communicate but also changes how we look at the world. For a child interaction is completely new, and as soon as they start to talk they start to learn rapidly.

There are different stages to a child’s interactional development: seeing, questioning, reflecting, doing and learning. It’s actually a process that we use in all areas of learning. I am sure you have all been bombarded with questions as your children start to look at the world around them, and it is because they are so analytical. They use this same process when learning to communicate and make judgements with and towards others.

Sand play is often not a solo activity; it can be enjoyed with parents, siblings and friends. Whether at the local playground or a play date at the beach, it is a great way to socialise and it teaches more than just interaction.

Sand play with other children teaches both cooperation and teamwork, usually when children play it is imaginative and based around role-playing. Sand offers a world of imagination for a child and through the use of jobs and goals they will learn basic skills that will prepare them for the future.

Artistic creation is everywhere!

Art is all around us, and children can see it. From the trees to the plants, there is a never-ending supply of artistic influence and opportunity for creation. It’s vital to encourage your child’s artistic skills and allow them to express themselves as much as possible.

There are many ways to do this, not just through play but in everything you do with your little ones. Sand is a great material to use with your art projects, you can add glue, food colouring or water and make structures and portraits. Why not add shells and other materials found at the beach to liven up your creations?

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So is play important?

I would like to stress the importance of play in a child’s routine. Not sitting in front of the TV or playing games on a console but getting outside and being active. It means fresh air, nature and fun! There are many ways to do this and sand play is just one of the possibilities. If you would like more tips and ideas or have any questions about the benefits of sand play then feel free to leave a comment or email me on simon@gardengames.co.uk

Visit my sandpit website for more advice relating to sandpit safety and for help buying a sandpit for your garden.



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