1. Open-ended play all the way
Sand is the perfect play medium for children of every age, no matter their skill or cognitive level. Very young or underdeveloped children can simply sit in sand and take in the texture and qualities of the medium while older children with more sophisticated thought processes can use sand for exploration and creativity.
2. Imaginative play
Sand play is the perfect opportunity to expand creativity and boost imagination as they build all kinds of sand structures.
3. Good for physical development
By digging, pouring, sifting, and scooping sand, children use their upper bodies and arms in ways that many of their other toys do not require them to work. If the sand becomes wet, it becomes even more difficult to scoop and manipulate, further flexing their muscles and improving strength.
4. Builds social skills and confidence
Meeting in a common sandbox encourages interaction. Sharing, negotiating and compromising are all learned as they play individually or together.
5. It promotes cognitive development
Children learn the inherent physical properties of sand by playing with it and by comparing wet and dry sand. They can also learn the theory of the conservation of matter as they pour sand from one container into another and compare the amount of sand that fits in each. While playing in sand, children will learn to problem-solve as they try to figure out how to prevent their towers from continually falling over or their moats from collapsing in on themselves.
6. It teaches mathematical concepts
Using containers of various sizes and shapes helps to teach “more than”, less than” and “equal”. Through trial and error children will be able to make predictions about which containers will hold more or less sand. Providing measuring spoons or cups could help children learn more specific measures as well as other mathematical terms such as “empty” and “full” or “heavy” and “light”. Over time children can learn how many scoops of different sizes it takes to fill a container, an early precursor to learning teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups.
7. It encourages scientific experiments
Bury metal treasures for children and provide magnets. Children will learn about magnetic force while going on a treasure hunt. Set up a rope and pulley system for children to move buckets of sand up to a table or across a sandbox to teach about levers and pulleys. Punch holes of varying sizes in plastic bottles for children, and watch as they discover the differences in holes sizes. Provide other objects for children to construct their own scientific experiments such as funnels, ramps, and rolling pins.
8. It incorporates artistic expression
Encourage children to draw pictures in the sand, develop elaborate sand castles, and create interesting molds from household objects in addition to buckets. As children experiment with the properties of sand and create their own buildings and towns, they can decorate the objects with stones, leaves and flowers that they find in nature. Playing music while children work and play in the sand is another opportunity to encourage children to sing along.