Although sand play as a sensory play has been touched upon time and time again, I still wanted to bring it up on this blog because it’s very easily accessible to most of us, cheap and such a a great part of a healthy sensory diet. Your child is typically ready to play in sand between the age of 12-18 months (of course, bear in mind that every child is different, sooner or later is just as fine too!)
My criteria for allowing A to play in the sand pit at the neighborhood park was a crucial one to me: I allowed her to get her hands dirty when I saw that she had (for the most part) understood the distinction between playing and eating. It is important to note that mouthing is how children at this age explore things. If your kid is trying to eat dirt, or sand, it is because that’s part of their process of exploring. Not that I’m justifying eating the sand! I bring it up because once you understand why they do it, it may make it easier to deal with it!
As A learnt to eat different kinds of solids, she also learnt about taste, developing tastes of her own, she also learnt what doesn’t taste good. While I did not let her enter the sand pit for many months, she always knew the texture and feel of sand from here and there – on the steps of the slide, the slide itself, etc. For many months, she also tried to eat it. One fine day, I realized that she was just playing with it and not eating it. The very next day I decided she was ready to play in the sand pit, with her sand toys!
Eating or not, sand is a wonderfully sensory toy. You could start off by making a non-toxic sand pit at home using edible items such as roasted semolina (rava / sooji), or cornmeal. That way, even if your ever-curious child tries to mouth some, it isn’t the worst thing. Eventually, they will learn that there are way more fun things to do with the sand than eat it!
We also introduced sand toys at this stage. They don’t have to be fancy or sophisticated toys! sand toys can be as simple as empty plastic containers and extra ladles from your kitchen. Your little one will love trying to scoop out sand from the pit and pour it in the bucket! Of course, she may try to pour some on herself too. My little one pretty much needs a wash and a new set of clothes by the time she’s home, but so what! You could also take an old sieve and pour sand through it, or use a mould of some sort and wet sand to make sand sculptures. Using sand toys in the park has also introduced the practice of sharing to A, as she learns to share some of her toys with her friends at the park.
Sand play has become her favorite new addition to her long list of park activities. It’s a great form of independent play – of course, a huge plus in my book, giving us time to catch up on some reading or with some friends. I’m so happy she’s learnt how to play with sand. Do try it out !