Think Outside the Sand Box

Kids love digging holes and building castles with sand, but this ancient play stuff is packed with possibilities that go beyond the pail.



Think Outside the Sand Box

The warm sun beckons kids to head outdoors and hit that favorite place of play: the sandbox. With its cool, gritty texture and versatility, sand can bring out the scientist in all of us.

Playing with sand encourages kids to experiment and to exercise their scientific and creative thinking skills. So offer your child a bucket, a shovel, and a place to dig in. Add some water and a handful of questions, and you're ready to mix it up.

  1. Inspire your child's curiosity. Start by asking: What would happen if you mixed sand and water? What tools can you use to move sand? Have your child answer and then ask some questions of his own.
  2. Pack it in. Use a clear plastic container, rocks, sand, and some water to explore the concept of full. Ask your child to fill the container with rocks. Is it full? What happens if you add sand? Will it fit? Your child will be surprised to see that the "full" container can now hold an amazing amount of sand — and still have room for water!
  3. Go with the flow. Provide a variety of materials — sieves, funnels, colanders — that your child can use to compare water flow to sand flow. As she explores, you might encourage her to tell you what she notices and how it feels.
  4. Bury metal and magnets. Children love to use magnets with metal objects. But do they work everywhere? Invite your child to try hiding metal objects in dry sand to see if the magnet can find them. Later, add water. Will the magnet still work? What about in water?
  5. Plant seeds. Grow a garden using an egg carton. Have your child fill one row with sand and the other with soil. Bury a seed in each groove for a side-by-side comparison. Which started growing first? Which grew the fastest or the tallest?
  6. Sprinkle sand scenes. Have your child "draw" a picture with white glue and a Q-Tip, then sprinkle sand over it. When the glue dries, shake off the excess sand.
  7. Make a masterpiece. Invite your child to experiment with straw-blowing art using sand and watercolors. Provide him with plastic straws and have him try blowing dry sand across a piece of paper. Then add a few drops of watercolor and try it again. When the sand and watercolors mix, he'll have a beautiful picture.
Science & Nature Activities
Gross Motor Skills
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Outdoor Activities and Recreation
Sand and Water Play