Do you remember the last time your child was playing in the sand and how you reacted? Then, you may be one of many parents who cringe at the sight of your little one frolicking in wet sand at the beach or get distressed at the thought of skin infections. Well, sand play is not all that bad. This article shows you how it can actually help in your child’s development.
We all know that playing outdoors and taking in the fresh air is a great way for children to experience nature and build their stamina. And, here’s more good news -- research shows that activities like scooping up wet sand, feeling it in our palms, writing or making patterns in the sand pit can work wonders for her physical and mental health.
We list some amazing benefits of sand play for your child
1. Aids in physical development
There are different ways in which your toddler can indulge in sand play. When he uses buckets and scoops, the effort of pouring it from one bucket to the other and lifting the sand into a toy truck develops his gross motor skills. It also strengthens his muscles. Moreover, the effort of grasping and holding the toys boosts his fine motor skills. Sand play also aids in hand-eye co-ordination.
2. Expands imagination
Building a sand castle on the beach or creating bridges in the sand pit is not a mere activity but an important way to build your child’s imagination. It is a good way of challenging her creativity. Simple toys such as cars, animals and other props can encourage her creative genius further . “Sand is a toy and the less a toy does, the more a child will learn. There are hours of fun and learning to be explored with sand as it promotes and encourages creativity and imaginative play, sensory and language skills,” says Dr Vikas Satwik, consultant paediatrician at Motherhood Hospitals.
3. Helps express emotions
According to Pramila Balasundaram, Founder-Director of Samadhan, an NGO that works with intellectually disabled children, sand play is a form of psycho-analytic expressive therapy because it allows children to express their trauma and emotions without having to verbalise their thoughts. “It is a valuable tool for personal and emotional development. Playing with free-flowing sand poses no restrictions, as they can do whatever they want with it. This way, children get an opportunity to communicate non-verbally. Sand play also relaxes and calms down children who are angry, disturbed or traumatised,” she adds.
4. Promotes social interaction
Since playing in the sand is mostly an outdoor play, where your child may be playing alone or with other children, he gets a chance to develop his social skills. Pre-schools or sand pits in the playground have slides and swings, where a lot of children play. Social interaction is inevitable here. Your child will learn to wait his turn, share his toys and buckets, and make conversation. Visits to the beach as a family provide an opportunity for your child to interact fruitfully with adults.
5. Builds attention and concentration
One of the biggest problems parents and teachers face while disciplining children is the lack of concentration and wavering attention. Many children find it difficult to focus on a particular thing for more than a few minutes. “We increasingly see even small kids being hooked to electronic gadgets such as the smartphone or tablet while parents are busy. This, in turn, greatly affects their attention span as they are distracted easily. Sand play involves touching the soft sand, feeling its texture, piling up and making buildings. This allows the child an opportunity to do different things with it. Such an activity helps them focus on the task at hand and improves concentration,” says Anupama Ramesh, a pre-school teacher.
6. Improves cognitive development
Learning to write on the sand and make shapes and patterns on it teaches children important concepts of language, problem solving, etc., and aids in cognitive development. Many children may initially find it restricting to write in a book and to hold a pencil or crayon, but find it easier to write and draw patterns on the sand, as a part of play.
7. Builds immunity
Researchers point out that children who go outdoors to play in the sand or grass, and with twigs are healthier than those raised in a sanitised, indoor environment always. A little dirt will help your child’s immunity and make her less vulnerable to illness.
Some precautions to take during sand play
- Make sure the sand in the pit is clean and not exposed to animal excreta.
- When taking your child to the beach, choose a clean space and always be around him.
- Supervise your child when she is playing at a sand pit in a playground. You can also join them in the fun.
- Check for broken toys or other sharp material in the sand which can cause injury.
- If your child is very young, make sure she does not put sand into her mouth.