Summer Sand Play


Sand play tickles the senses and also promotes physical development. Sand is a material that allows children to explore their creativity and imaginations. The beauty of sand is it’s found almost everywhere and can be played with outdoors, as well as inside. Using sand, children can work together to construct roads and buildings, building eye-hand coordination and social skills. Below are a few ideas for hands-on art with sand that promotes learning.


Reading Readiness

Make sandpaper letters for tactile reinforcement with young children who are just learning their letters. Cut out large alphabet letters from poster board. Spread glue over the letter and then cover with sand. When thoroughly dry, invite children to touch the surface and feel the texture. Together say the letter and its sound. For a game, challenge children to close their eyes and see if they can guess the letters by touch.


Sand Science

Try looking at sand from the beach versus sand bought for a sandbox. Hold a magnifying glass and compare the grains of sand. Are the grains the same size? Is one sand rougher or smoother than the other?

How does water affect sand? Dry sand sifts easily through the fingers, but it’s hard to grab onto. Wet the sand and ask these questions: Is wet sand heavier than dry sand? Does it flow through your fingers? Can you form it into a shape? Set out containers and cookie cutters for children to mold forms and cut shapes into the sand.

Simply Sand

Have children squeeze white glue onto heavy paper forming random designs. Sprinkle sand over this paper and shake off the excess. When the artwork is dry, children can use crayons or paints to add color to their designs, or use colored sand for a different look.


Make Colored Sand

Fill paper cups half full with sand. Add water to cover the sand. Place a few drops of food coloring and stir with a plastic spoon letting this mixture set. Pour off the water and spoon the sand onto a cookie sheet to dry. Use the colored sand in art projects.

Beach Scene

Make a beach scene by filling a small jar with sand. Arrange shells, twigs, and small pebbles inside. Place the lid on securely. Decorate the lid with paint and glue beach shells on top. Children could use colored sand in this project for a bright or striped effect. Set on a shelf for all to enjoy.



Beach Combing

It’s sand castle season, and whether a child sculpts his palace on the beach or in a backyard sandbox, using combs and kitchen utensils help level a building site or just make nifty designs in the sand.


Young children have a natural love for sand play. Adults can build on this interest by providing kids with the necessary props, asking questions to spark thinking skills, and making sure children have ample time to play with this intriguing natural resource.

Tania Cowling is an author, former teacher and freelance writer who lives in south Florida.