In part one of The Sandbox I reflected on how open-ended sand is. Because of this, the type of materials offered, and the way the materials are presented will set the stage for sand exploration. Traditional sand toys typically include buckets and shovels, which are fine, but what other materials might spark the children’s creativity? As you think about what materials to offer, think about what the children are interested in. One year my son and his friends were into finding buried treasure. I hid small plastic jewels and plastic gold coins for the children to discover. They dug in the sandbox for days.
Are the children interested in:
- Dramatic play? – Offer items that the children can imagine with. Some great dramatic play items are plastic dinosaurs and animals, plates and spoons, small figures and other items that can spark their imagination.
- Nature? – Children can help you collect nature items to use in the sandbox. Pine cones, twigs and sticks, rocks, pine boughs and sea shells are all natural items that are usually easy to collect and replace when needed.
- Construction? – Whenever a construction project was going on close to the center, it would always awake the children’s natural interest. They would see what was going on at the construction site and want to recreate it. Providing items for the children to dig with, construction vehicles to transport the sand, and tools to move the earth will allow the children to recreate the construction they are witnessing.
- Loose Parts? – Loose parts are items that can be reinvented in many different ways. There are no rules with loose parts and they can be combined with other materials in interesting and creative ways. For example, PVC pipes from the local hardware store can turn into tunnels while aluminum foil can be the base for rivers and streams.
As you provide materials for the sandbox, consider how you offer these materials to the children. Does your presentation excite the children and offer an invitation to play?