Summer Activities: Super Sand and Water!
- Grades: PreK–K
What happens when children pour water through a funnel? They begin to understand science and math concepts such as flow, force, gravity, and volume. What happens when children mold sand to create a tunnel? They develop skills in areas such as problem solving and predicting. They also gain knowledge about absorption and the properties of sand and water, and what happens when they are mixed together. Sand and water encourage children to use everything from science skills to creative thinking skills. But most of all they are just plain fun!
Before introducing the activities, try these ideas to get children thinking like a sand and water scientist:
• Bring a large, see-through plastic container, a bag of rocks, and a bag of sand to group time. Ask children to fill the container with rocks. Is it full? What will happen if we add sand to the container? Will it fit? Children will be surprised to see that the "full" container can now hold an amazing amount of sand.
• Bring a heavy-duty sandwich bag filled with water to group time. Invite children to feel it, talk about it, and brainstorm how water can be used. Then, with a trusty dishpan underneath, ask children what will happen if you make a tiny hole in the bag. What will happen if more holes are made? Will the water flow differently? Once the water is safely in the dishpan, ask children to predict what will happen if you put in a piece of paper. Is there a way to make the paper float?
• Take children outdoors so they can combine sand and water to explore wet sand. How does it feel in your hands? What kinds of things can you do with wet sand that you can't do when it's dry?
Using the Activities
Science activities with sand and water naturally lead to all kinds of fun extensions into other curriculum areas. Here is a suggestion for each of the activities you'll find in this section:
Build math skills into the "Water Paintings" activity. Invite children to measure the evaporation of water in a cup. Ask children to place plastic cups of water in a number of places on the playground and inside. (It is easier to see if you put food coloring in the water.) Use a marker or a piece of tape to mark the height of the water in each glass. Throughout the next few days, visit the glasses and mark the current level.
Add weight exploration to the "Float a Boat" activity. Invite children to try to sink a boat instead. Ask them to predict how many cubes, coins, or stones it will take to sink a particular boat. Test out their ideas. Which items sank the boat fastest? Why?
Add descriptive vocabulary skills to the "Sand Table Investigations" activity. Ask children to brainstorm words to describe dry sand and wet sand. Write these in two columns on chart paper. How are the words the same or different? Invite children to use the words in a "Sand is..." poem by listing the words and reading them just as they would a poem.
Add some creative expression to the "Go with the Flow" activity. Invite children to create straw-blow water paintings. Use water mixed with food coloring or very wet watercolors. Children drop a few droplets of paint on paper and then use a straw to blow the paint around to create a picture. What happens when the colors combine? What would happen if we did this on paper towels instead of drawing paper?
Build music skills with the "Mud Pies and More" activity. Add a song to the process. You can sing "Patty-Cake, Patty-Cake," or make up a mud song, such as "Mud, Glorious Mud" to the tune of "Food, Glorious Food" from the play "Oliver." Invite children to suggest lyrics that describe the joy of playing with mud.
Investigate nature with the "All Soaked Up" activity. Invite children to use their sponges to experiment with the rain cycle. Ask them to pretend their sponge is a cloud. Let them use a sprayer to lightly spray the sponge with water so that it's damp. This is like a "cloudy day." Invite them to squeeze the sponge to see if any water comes out. Then ask them to spray the sponge cloud so that it fills up with "water vapor." (It will start dripping a light rain shower.) Ask, "What will happen if you squeeze your cloud sponge?" Yes, a rainstorm!
- different containers
- plastic tubing
- sorting tray
Conversation Starters and Questions
A few well-placed questions can start a multitude of conversations. Try these sand and water questions to spark the wonder of science in your children:
- How many words can we think of to describe sand and water?
- What would happen if you mixed sand and water?
- Who and what need water to live?
- How many ways can we change sand?
- How many ways can we change water?
- What would happen if you left a dish of water in the sun?
- What tools can you find or create to move sand or water from one place to another?
- Can you find a way to make play dough float?
- What would happen if we painted the sidewalk with water?
- How can we use magnets and different metal objects in the sandbox or sand table?
- Will a sponge float or sink when placed in water?
- How many different ways can you use a sponge?
- What if you dug around in the sand with your hands and looked for things, all while keeping your eyes tightly closed?
Expand on the sand and water activities in this section, or involve children in your own sand and water activities, to help them build skills in:
- Temporal relationships
- Problem solving
- Sensory integration
- Social interaction
- Creative expression
- Hand-eye coordination
- Fine motor coordination
Exploring Water with Young Children by Ingrid Chalufour and Karen Worth (Redleaf Press)
50 Fun and Easy Brain-Based Activities for Young Learners by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic)
Learning Through Play: Sand and Water by Susan A. Miller, EdD (Scholastic)
Sand and Water Play: Simple, Creative Activities for Young Children by Sherrie West and Amy Cox (Gryphon House)
More Sand & Water Activities in this section: