Sand is an affordable and versatile material that provides hours of creative and open-ended play for your little ones. Whether you’re playing in a sand pit, a sand table, or even moulding shapes from a packet of kinetic sand, there are endless sand arts and crafts activities you can try out. Here are some of our favourite sand play ideas.
An old favourite, but this activity never tires. Simply hide some toys or prizes in your sand pit and then let the children find them by digging them out with their hands, or with a spade or other implement. You can choose different themes for your treasure hunt depending on the time of year, so you might hide shells or plastic fish if you’re setting up a beach activity, then let them collect their prizes in fishing nets or buckets. At Easter, why not hide a few eggs in there? A dinosaur dig is a perennial favourite for any budding paleontologists too.
This activity works best if you have a combination of wet and dry sand – you can use spray water bottles to add moisture to most of the sand, leaving a section of dry sand to be carted around the construction site. Simply dig out foundations and roads from the wet sand, add some road traffic signs and toy cars or dumper trucks to move around the sand. Use building blocks or Lego to create structures in the sand and your littles ones will be busy for hours.
This is a really calming activity that centres around creating swirling patterns in the sand, using a variety of tools such as rakes or combs. If you have a collection of shells or even coloured buttons, then you can decorate your swirls in a mosaic-style pattern which will look beautiful.
Who says sand must stay in the sand pit? You can make fantastic sand art pictures by using a squeezy glue bottle to create an outline of a picture on a piece of coloured paper. Then simply sprinkle your sand on top of the paper, using a shaker if you prefer, and leave it to set. Let the loose sand fall back into your container and you’ll have created your very own sand picture. This is also a great way to practise letter formation for pre-schoolers, either writing their own names or individual letters.
Decorative sand jars
For this activity, you’ll need to collect and rinse out some old jam jars, as well as using either coloured craft sand or being willing to add dye to normal play sand. Using a spoon and a funnel, encourage the children to carefully add layers of sand to their jar before screwing the lid on tightly to keep as a decorative ornament.
If you can’t go to the seaside, why not bring the beach to you? It’s simple to set up your own holiday resort using a sand box or even just a deep tray. Use a range of natural materials including small pebbles, larger rocks, sticks, shells, seaweed and then a collection of toys such as boats, fish, dolls and Lego to create your own scene. You might even add water to see what happens when the tide comes in!
Make a bracelet or a necklace by mixing 6 tablespoons of sand with 3 tablespoons of craft glue squirted directly onto the sand. Mix this together until it feels like wet sand, then form 12 bead-shaped balls. You’ll need to gently shape and squeeze the mixture to create a single bead which should be roughly 1cm in diameter. Gently push the skewer through the middle and then leave to dry before moving on to the next bead. You can leave your sand beads plain or paint them before threading onto a string to complete your jewellery.
Make sand slime
If you have a tub of play slime at home, then tip it out and mix it with a heap of sand to create your sand slime. Not only will this look grainy and more natural, but your children can also have lots of fun burying their toy snakes, dinosaurs and crocodiles into the slime, pretending that it’s quicksand. You can keep your concoction back in its original container or in a ziplock bag if you prefer. The sand may settle to the bottom over time but can easily be mixed back into place when you next play with it.
This is another simple sand play recipe using just two ingredients: sand and shaving foam. Squeeze a generous amount of shaving foam out into an empty tray or box and then mix in your sand. The consistency will be light and fluffy, like whipped cream. This activity is the perfect surface for driving diggers, trucks and tractors through, scooping up the sand foam and depositing elsewhere.
Train tracks in the sand
If you have a collection of sticks you’ve been wondering what to do with then this is a fun little activity for any train enthusiasts. Use the sticks to create your own train track in the sand, using long sticks to create two parallel lines and then breaking off smaller sticks to form the width. Simply place your track in the sand and run your trains up and down on them.
Make sand sunflowers
You’ll need brightly coloured yellow and orange sand for this activity, which can be achieved by dyeing the sand if required. Simply mix your coloured sand together and place in a large yellow bowl. Swirl the colours together for the best results. Then use some petals from the garden to place around the outside of your sand, to produce a sunflower shape. These look beautiful displayed inside, or outside so long as it’s not windy!
Whether it’s mixing, gluing, painting, or shovelling, there are so many ways that sand play can be combined with arts and crafts to provide hours of entertainment for both you and your little ones. We hope you enjoy your next sand play session!
Alongside stories, you should also be reading a variety of non-fiction texts with your child such as information books about the human body, plants, dinosaurs, or the solar system. It’s always best to choose topics that will pique the interest of your child at this age. As your child begins to learn phonics, see if they can point out high-frequency words such as ‘I’ or ‘the’ which they may recognise, or ask them to try and decode a simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word such as ‘cat’ in the text. This can be done by sounding out the individual letters first and then learning to blend them together to create the word.
Once your child begins to read comfortably by themselves, it’s critical that you don’t stop reading with them even in the years that follow when they progress to chapter books. Continue to have in-depth conversations about the characters, the plotline and make comparisons with daily life to keep your child engaged and on track for a lifetime’s love of reading.