Kid Activity: Sand Play


Sand play is fun for any age, either on the playground at the sandbox or at the beach, try out this new activity from The Games Lady!

By Barbara Sher, The Games Lady


We know that children pay attention when something is novel. We also know that children on the spectrum sometimes have difficulty with changes. In these sand games, you get to merge these needs by providing exciting new ways to play with sand and give kids the opportunity to enjoy changes.

These games began when I was sitting at a table with seven preschool children, almost all of whom have been diagnosed with autism. I was having them take turns digging into a box of sand and pulling out one of the plastic animals that were buried in the sand. It is a common sensory game which incorporated social turn-taking, language development and tactile stimulation. The game was going well, but by the third round I could sense that they were finished, so I changed the game.

“Pick up the sand and make a waterfall,” I sang as I lifted up a handful of sand and let it trickle out in the lovely way sand does. The kids perked up and everyone excitedly had their turn. I sang a simple song so they would learn that their turn lasted as long as the song, and then it was the next person’s turn.

(tune: “Are You Sleeping, Brother John”)

Making a waterfall

Making a waterfall

With the sand, with the sand

Watch it falling down

Watch it falling down  

Again and again

Again and again

After a few turns when the novelty began to wear off, I changed the game again and sang a new song:

(tune: “London Bridges”)

Make a circle in the sand, in the sand, in the sand.

Make a circle in the sand Look how Jessie (child’s name) can!

Everyone wanted a turn to stick their finger deep into the sand, make a circle and hear their name praised. Again, they were clued into how long their turn lasted by the length of the song.

The tasks kept changing and I’d make a song to go with the new movement. I knew the kids liked hearing the instruction sung and I also knew they didn’t care if the song rhymed or my singing was off key.

Sometimes the game was about transferring sand back and forth from one hand to another; sometimes it was about putting sand piles on the table and writing letters on them.

The last game was pouring water in the sand and poking holes.

(tune: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”)

Poke poke poke a hole Poke it every day

Poke and poke and poke and poke

Poke the day away

The kids loved all the  games and I knew, as a therapist, that there was also social awareness, bilateral movement, letter and shape recognition, attention focusing, finger isolation and other skills going on.

But for them, it was just plain fun!

Previously published in Sensory Focus Magazine Fall 2015

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