This post was first published in June 2009 when Childhood 101 was only a month old. With the sun shining in our backyard today, I thought it was a great post to revisit for some encouragement to get the kids outdoors!
Many Mums I know groan when they see their child heading for the sandpit, thinking of the mess they know will be hidden in sand shoes, pant cuffs and pockets and traipsed through the house. But sand and mud have wonderful, messy creative qualities that make them extremely popular with toddlers and preschoolers.
They provide a lovely tactile, sensory experience and are believed to promote emotional wellbeing as well: it is very relaxing to slosh in mud and run sand through your fingers.
So Mums, today I challenge you to embrace this potential messiness and let the kids get busy in the sandpit!
10 Super Sandpit Ideas
1. Cook mudpies: drag out some old pots and pans and baking trays, a sieve and wooden spoons, measuring cups and measuring spoons. Add a tub of water and away you go. If you have a plastic toy home corner stove all the better for cooking those mudpies.
2. Create a garden: spades and rakes, kid-sized gardening gloves, a watering can, some plant pots and artificial flowers (to save your clean sand becoming filthy with soil from real plants). Feel free to add fairy figurines for an added fantasy play element. You’ll find examples here and here.
3. Bird sanctuary: Plastic birds, plastic insects, branches salvaged from the garden. And why not make some binoculars from cardboard rolls too.
4. Build roads: add flat, long wooden blocks, cars, buses, airplanes and helicopters to create roads up mountains and down into deep valleys.
5. Old Macdonald’s Farm: bring the inside outside by adding your child’s plastic or wooden farm animals and some wooden or plastic blocks for building enclosures. Offcuts of artificial turf or green and blue fabric add another level to the play as children can create grassed areas and ponds or dams.
6. Construction zone: sand is great fun with trucks and tools, add a hard hat and a fluorescent safety vest to really play the part.
7. Pouring: provide different types of pouring jugs and bottles. Include funnels and clear plastic tubing for an extra challenge.
8. Fantasy lands: add the figurines your child already enjoys – pirates, my little ponies, fairies, cowboys, dinosaurs – to create your very own fantasy land.
9. Host an archaelogical dig: hide small dinosaurs or clean, dried bones collected in the kitchen under the top layer of sand. Add water to the sand and pack it down hard, place a weight on top and allow to dry overnight. Next day, provide sieves, spoons, small shovels and paintbrushes for brushing away the sand.
10. Waterfalls: plastic plumbing pipes and guttering, sieves, sand wheels, and funnels added to buckets and spades make for some great problems solving as children make channels for water or sand.
How do your children most like to play in the sand?
- Making Our Wooden Sandpit
- The Joy to be Found in a Pile of Pots
- Creating a Mud Garden
- 9 Ways to Encourage Indoor Kids to Play Outside