Sand Play as an Indoor Activity for Toddlers

By Zora Hughes
Your toddler can enjoy sand play far away from the beach.

There's no need to go to the beach for your toddler to play with sand. By creating a sand table play area in your home, your toddler can play and explore with sand anytime. Sand play is an excellent sensory activity, as well as good fun. Toddlers can develop and refine cognitive, social, emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skills through sensory play, according to Angie Dorell, a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation validator. A little fresh sand in a container, along with toddler-friendly toys and tools are all your little one needs for hours of sensory fun.

Sand Play and Toddler Development

Sand table play is an excellent sensory activity for your toddler that can help with cognitive, language, physical and social skills. According to education curriculum author Diane Trister Dodge, cognitive skills are strengthened as toddlers investigate how they can play with sand and how it changes when you add water to it. Playing with sand also helps to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination when playing with toys in the sand. Foster language skills by introducing new vocabulary to your toddler as he plays with the sand, such as grainy, powdery, pour and dump. Dodge also recommends asking questions as your child plays with the sand to help make him aware and notice what he is doing with it. For example, ask your child about the design he drew in the sand, or help him figure how to pour sand into a bottle.

Sand Play Materials

Purchase several pounds of craft or play sand from a craft or children's store. Make sure the sand you purchase is a non-toxic, sterile sand, as some craft sand contains other materials that could be harmful for a child to ingest. Get a large, wide plastic container to hold your sand. It should not be so tall that your child cannot easily reach and play with the sand inside of the container. Place it on a sturdy table at a comfortable height for your child. You will also need small sand buckets, toy shovels, cookie cutters, plastic bottles and a variety of other household tools and toys that help encourage sand play. It is also a good idea to purchase plastic smocks, if you don't already have them, to protect your child's clothing.

Dry Sand Play

Encourage your little one to pick up the sand with his hands, and watch it slide through his fingers. Give him a small plastic spoon and paper cup to scoop and pour sand. You can also include sand pails, funnels, measuring spoons and even old socks to pour sand in and out of. If your toddler has any dump truck toys, he can lift the sand with those as well. Give him a toy garden rake to make lines in the sand. Hide objects in the sand for him to dig through and find.

Wet Sand Play

Wet sand is a little more versatile than dry sand for toddlers to play with. Pour enough water onto the sand so that it is damp and can easily be molded. Do not add too much water so that the sand becomes soupy. Show your toddler how to pick up the sand and mold it between her hands. Ask her how heavy it feels in her hand. Give her textured objects to make imprints into the wet sand, such as a potato masher and toy blocks, or have her drive a toy car over the sand to see the tire tracks. Draw her name in the sand, then help her copy it by guiding her finger across the sand. Help her make a sand castle using pails of various sizes. Let her place toy figures, such as animals and little people, for imaginative play.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.