Sand, Water, Sensory Play in Early Years

Sensory play is so important for children, Children love to get hands on with activities it allows them to create, innovate and use their imagination.

Children learn about the world through their senses, their first response to sand and water is a sensuous one, they touch, pat, swirl, smell and stroke it, sometimes for very long periods, taking pleasure just in the tactile experience.

It brings in the foundations of mathematics and science when the children are learning through self directed play. Also language development by having the experience, being able to use the descriptive words and personal, social, emotional development skills.

According to Early Childhood news:

Why Play in Sand?

‘There is no right way to use sand. It invites participation; it permits children to make and test hypotheses; it stretches the imagination; it provides a potentially soothing sensory experience; and it is an excellent avenue for children to learn physical, cognitive, and social skills.’

What Can Children Learn From Playing in Sand?

Sand play promotes physical development. Large muscle skills develop as children dig, pour, sift, scoop, and clean up spills with brush and dustpan. Eye-hand coordination and small muscle control improve as children learn to manipulate sand accessories.

Sand play also promotes social skills. When children work together at the sand table they are faced with real problems that require sharing, compromising, and negotiating. A group may engage in dramatic play as they “cook,” construct roadways, dig tunnels, or create a zoo for rubber animals. As children take on roles associated with their dramatic play, they learn important social skills such as empathy and perspective taking.

Lets look at the practical side and how you can implement it at home or school Sand and Water play.

Mathematical concepts can be developed by the sand and water play by;

  • Using sand can develop mathematical concepts and language, e.g. heavy, light, empty, full, big, little

Why is this bucket of water heavier than the sand bucket? Does it have more or less? Can you empty the sand bucket and fill it with a little water?

  • Conservation – how much will this bucket hold

Is it full or 1/2 full?

  • Make shapes and patterns

What shapes can you draw in the sand? Can you draw 2 circles and 3 triangles, how many shapes are there now? Can you draw a rectangle? Why is a square and rectangle different?

  • Provide boxes and materials of different shapes and sizes to compare weight and quantity

If you fill the cereal box with sand and biscuit jar with sand which one hold more/less?

  • Look at the differences between wet and dry as a means of looking at weights Language

What happens when you fill a cardboard box with water? What happens when you fill it with sand?

  • You can help to promote mathematical language such as – heavy, light, empty, full, long, short, big, small in relevant contexts

When you hold the shopping bags which one is heavier/lighter? (Why)

  • Look at your home environment to develop language, especially positional words – small object in front of big object, behind, in, on Dough (The use of dough can help to develop a mathematical understanding for pre-school children.)
  • Develops mathematical language – short, long, fat, thin

Language development in this area can be developed by the sand and water play by;

  • describe the properties of water/sand e.g. rough, smooth, sticky, wet
  • extend vocabulary associated with sand play e.g. pour, fill, empty, full, soft, bucket, sand wheel, sieve, mould dig, tunnel, rake, smooth, names of sand toys, splashing, pouring,
  • describe their actions and the actions of others e.g. pushing, pulling, scooping
  • ask and answer questions
  • describe similarities, differences and changes for floats/sinks
  • recall and report back at group times
  • develop pre-writing skills e.g. making patterns, marks
  • make up stories using additional props such as play people, farm animals, vehicles
  • talk about their experiences in the sand from displays of photographs or books about sand play
  • have access to a variety of stories e.g. The Beach, Lucy and Tom at the Seaside

Personal, Social & Emotional Development

  • work independently
  • co-operate, take turns and share equipment
  • respect ideas of others
  • experience the therapeutic value of water play
  • learn how to use water safely – understand rules for water play
  • talk about where water comes from
  • enjoy the sensory nature of water adding colours, other items e.g. glitter, varying temperatur
  • learn how to work as part of a group e.g. holding funnel whilst another child pours
  • extend imagination through the addition of other resources e.g. boats, wood, sea shore items
  • become confident at carrying out a range of activities in the water e.g. pouring, blowing bubbles
  • explore personal hygiene e.g. using soap, washing dolls, clothes

Children will use there imagination to build sand castles, make animals shapes, further develop their senses. All this will help build the experiences they have to look at real life learning and concepts for the foundations of early years education.  Next time your child is playing in the bath, outside with water, sand or at the beach look at how they interact with their peers, use the bucket and spade think about the different area they are developing whether it be mathematics, science, language or social skills.

Looking for resources and activities to complete sensory play;

– (global based) contact the office to find local distributors look for their sand, water trays, buckets, spades, funnels, measuring tools etc, great resources for developing early years.

 Pinterest – Activities and resources for sand and water play

If you have feedback please leave a comment or let me know what you have been doing in your classroom.

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