The Importance of Sand Play in the Foundation Stage
Play is not a break from learning. It is the way young children learn. The importance of sand play for young children is fundamental. Sand play provides the opportunity to develop small muscle coordination and eye hand coordination. It also provides for cooperation and stimulates verbal communication. It is an activity which allows for the relaxation of tension. To begin with, the outdoors is the best place for young children to practise and master emerging physical skills and to experience the pure joy of movement. Therefore, sand in the climbing frame area is a safety must but it also provides much, much more.
The earliest forms of play in childhood are functional play. A child will use an object for the same purpose over and over again. Through this repetition the child gains confidence in his abilities which will encourage him to do new things. Filling a bucket with sand and then dumping it out and filling it again is an example of functional play. During this type of play, children typically strengthen fine and/or gross motor skills as well as logic thinking.
Children have always been intrigued by sand play. They dig in sand, sift it, build with it, pour it, enjoy the feel and smell of it, pretend with it, and explore how it moves. Sand is well suited to the explorative and imaginative nature of young children.
Why Play in Sand?
Because sand play is open ended, the child determines the direction and path of his or her own play. This freedom then clears the way for the child to build developmental concepts.
According to constructivist theory (Piaget, 1945), children have an inner drive to build an understanding of their world as they explore and interact with materials. Concepts about how the world works are built gradually and become increasingly complex as the child enters a rich learning environment and exercises his or her freedom to play.
There is no right way to use sand. It invites participation, it permits children to make and test hypotheses, it stretches the imagination, it provides a potentially soothing sensory experience and it is an excellent avenue for children to learn physical, cognitive and social skills.