Physical development: Against the grain

Revisit your sand trays with these new ideas to promote concentration, hand-to-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills. Children can also get to grips with how tools can effect changes to materials.

Sandcastles Made Simple: Step-by-step Instructions, Tips, and Tricks for Building Sensational Sand Creations by Lucinda Wierenga (Stewart, Tabori & Chang Inc)
Sandcastle by Philip Bunting n The Sand Horse by Ann Turnbull (Allen & Unwin)
Sand Play! Super SANDsational Ideas by Terry Taylor (Dover Publications)
Wet and dry sand; small construction vehicles; small planks of wood; pebbles and stones; sand moulds; small spades and trowels; cardboard tubes; small world people and animals; shells; pine cones; tree bark; feathers; fossils; rocks; shallow tray; glass beads; tiny plastic shes; sieves; colanders; net bags; aquarium nets; ingredients for sand play dough; ingredients for kinetic sand; Mr Potato Head parts; sticks; pipe cleaners; googly eyes; variety of loose parts.

Key vocabulary
Sand, wet, dry, build, mould, dig, press, trail, pour, sieve
Key learning points
Learning to control and co-ordinate small movements n Handling different sand toys and tools
Using tools to effect changes to materials
Playing with malleable materials

In addition to developing fine motor skills and hand to -eye co-ordination, these activities also include digging, moulding, pouring, sifting, and scooping sand, and manipulating a variety of equipment and tools effectively.

Playing and exploring
Children explore a small world building site in the sand tray
They have a go at building and moulding a group sand sculpture together
They use fingers, hands and equipment to dig holes and tunnels

The building site
Take small world play into the sand tray. Use small construction vehicles such as diggers, concrete mixers, tip- up trucks, lifting crane, scoop and steamroller. Observe children making tracks in the sand with the vehicles as they play. Provide thin planks of wood for vehicles to drive over bridges. Add pebbles and stones to the sand for the construction vehicles to move. Handling the equipment will develop the children’s small muscle control and coordination.

Sand sculpture
Show children some examples of sand sculptures on Google images. Sand sculpture generally starts on the beach or in the sand pit but try some smaller scale art in the sand tray. Give children wet sand, and provide a variety of moulds and shapes for them to use. Start with a castle and invite children to work cooperatively to build a giant sand castle.

Tunnels and holes
Invite children to make holes and tunnels in the wet sand using just their fingers and hands. Then add equipment such as small spades, trowels, or cylinders and tubes to make bigger holes. Provide small world people or animals for children to hide in the holes and encourage story telling.

Sand play dough
Make some sand play dough by adding sand to your normal play dough recipe (see below). It should turn out soft and squishy but with a good weight to it for moulding and printing. Provide lots of different textured items for them to press into the sand dough. Try natural materials such as shells, pine cones, tree bark, feathers, fossils and rocks.

Sand trails
This activity requires a thin layer of dry sand in a portable shallow tray. Ask children to use their ngers to make trails in the sand. Invite them to follow or retrace a friend’s trail with their own nger or stick. Take care to keep to the track.

Fishing in the sand
Another activity for the dry sand involving pebbles, glass beads or tiny plastic fishes. Ask children to use sieves, colanders, net bags from fresh fruit or aquarium nets to sh through the sand and nd as many hidden objects as they can.

Active learning
Children are motivated to make a sand castle or animal sculpture
hey make kinetic sand and mould it into a variety of shapes
They are challenged to find or ‘catch’ the most ‘ fish’ in the sand tray

Challenge children to build specific structures in the sand tray using the small vehicles in the building site. Can they build a new house for the three little pigs? Or build a safe wall for Humpty Dumpty?

Organise a sand sculpture competition in your setting. Invite children to create their own models in the wet sand tray or outside sand pit. Choose a category such as sand castle or sand animal. Decide if any props such as sticks, stones and feathers are permitted. Remember to take photos of all the nished art works.

Homemade sand play dough
Mix together 1 cup of plain our, 1 cup of fine sand, 1/4 cup of salt, 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon of glycerine (optional) in a bowl. Then add 1 cup of oil and 3/4 cup of boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon until it combines into a dough. Leave dough to cool down and then knead before letting the children handle it.

Kinetic sand
Make some kinetic sand with the children using 5 cups of play sand, 1 1/2 cups of corn our, 1 teaspoon of washing up liquid, 1 cup of water, and mix all the ingredients together. Place the homemade kinetic sand on a portable tray. Talk about how it feels different from normal wet sand.

It’s great for moulding shapes and making the sand stick together. Provide parts for children to make Mr Potato Heads using potato shaped balls of sand.

Motivate children by organising a shing race or competition. Invite four children to choose a piece of shing equipment (see above). Use a timer and see who can nd the most items hidden in the sand in 30 seconds.

Creating and critical thinking
Children create new sand creatures using kinetic sand
They find new ways to play in the wet/dry sand just using their hands
They use loose parts for open ended play in the sand

Ask children to make their own creative models out of the homemade kinetic sand. Provide children with feathers, sticks, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and make their own sand creatures.

No tools provided
Try leaving the sand tray with just sand in for the day. Challenge the children to think of ways they can play, build and use the sand without any tools at all except their bare hands.

Sand and loose parts play
The sand tray is a good environment for children to be involved in open-ended loose parts play. Provide children with access to a rich variety of loose parts, natural materials and man-made objects. Ask them to think about different ways to play using these materials in the sand tray. They can involve, handling, hiding, finding, joining together, imaginative play, building, and much more.

In your sand pit 
Take the sand play outside and immediately you will observe larger movements and see sand activities evolve. Many of the previous activities can
be modifed or even enlarged to suit outside sand pit play. Add larger equipment such as buckets and spades, involve children in digging holes, burying toys, building walls, group sand castles and sculptures, and so on. Let children enjoy the feel of sand between their toes without having to travel to the beach. By sitting in the sand pit they can immerse themselves in the sand play in a more physical way.

EYFS Early Learning Goals
Children will demonstrate Personal, Social and Emotional skills as they work cooperatively together to build a group sand sculpture or make the kinetic sand, and at the same time, develop fine motor skills and coordination. They can demonstrate that they can count reliably with numbers from one to 20 when they count up the items found in the ‘Fishing in the sand’ game (M). There are also opportunities to explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with design, texture, form and function (EAD).

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