There’s nothing quite like watching a baby play in the sand for the first time. Watching her eyes widen as she scoops it up and slowly lets it trickle through her fingers is nothing short of magical. Sand play is not only fun, but also quite valuable as well. Sand play provides countless developmental benefits to infants and toddlers. Regardless if it’s at the playground, in a sandbox, at a sand table, or at the beach, playing with sand can provide a lot more than a good time! Check out the many benefits of sand play below.
Sand Play Builds Sensory Development
There are three key sensory areas that are strengthened through sand play:
Tactile Sense – This is your child’s sense of touch, pressure, temperature, and detection of vibrations. For example, when she discovers the difference between warmer sand in the sun and cooler sand in the shade, she’s exercising her tactile senses.
Vestibular Sense -This is her ability to understand how her body moves and balances over surfaces. For example, kneeling in the sand with a shovel in her hand helps her to understand how to move her weight around without toppling over.
Proprioceptive Sense– This is her awareness of her body parts and how they work in her surroundings. When we navigate a crowded room or walk on an uneven surface without looking down, those are examples of our proprioceptive and vestibular senses working together. Pushing a toy truck through the sand or pouring sand from a bucket are both examples of activities that strengthen these senses.
Sand Play Promotes Physical Development
Playing in the sand is terrific for developing motor skills, building hand-eye coordination, and strengthening muscles. Your child exercises her fine motor skills when she learns how to properly hold a shovel in her hand. And her gross motor skills get a workout when she attempts to lift a bucket filled with sand. Almost every movement is significant to her physical development when engaging in sand play!
Sand Play Builds Creativity and Imagination
There are endless creative possibilities when it comes to sand play! You can go the traditional route of building sandcastles, moats, mountains, or bridges. You can arrange sand into different shapes. You can change the texture of sand by adding water. Your child can create her own little world in a sandbox! Provide tools or toys, such as cars, buckets, shovels, or animals to really let her imagination run wild.
Sand Play Develops Social and Language Skills
Playing in the sand is an enjoyable form of independent play, but it’s also a great way for her to interact with others. When toddlers share sand toys or dig a hole together, they’re not only practicing social skills like turn-taking and collaboration, but also using problem-solving and language skills as well. Plus, achieving a goal together provides a great sense of accomplishment they can share with friends!
Sand Play Boosts Immunity
If you’re the type of parent that cringes at the idea of your child getting dirty, you’re not alone. Keeping them clean and healthy is all part of the job! However, research shows that kids who play outdoors in the grass, sand, or dirt have healthier immune systems than kids that are constantly in sterile, indoor environments. Playing in the sand can actually boost their immunity.
That said, it is important to always inspect the sand thoroughly. If you’re going to the beach, a playground, or a sandbox, make sure the sand is free of debris, such as broken glass. Check for animal droppings or anything else that produces harmful bacteria. If the sand smells funky or appears to be an odd color, it’s probably best to skip the sand play that day! If you’re hoping to build a sandbox or sand table in the backyard, there are a few brands that are safe for kids that you can find online or at your local hardware store.
- Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand
- Safe Sand Natural White Play Sand
- CoolSand Deluxe Bucket Kinetic Play Sand
- Jurassic Mojave Beige Play Sand
- ACTIVA Scenic Sand
- Be Good Company Natural Sand
Be sure to check out the sand activities in our BabySparks personalized development program!