In an ideal world, all children would have the opportunity to play outside in a sand pit or splash around in puddles or go swimming in fresh creeks or the ocean. However the reality is that many children grow up in city apartments and do not have access to the great outdoors. Even if they did, creeks and the ocean are dangerous for small children because of the danger of drowning and of course pollution is a fact of life these days. Even rain puddles may contain toxic chemicals in the city. Parents may not have time to drive children to the country or the beach, so a viable alternative is the sand and water tray. The sand and water tray gives children a safe alternative way to learn by discovery using natural substances.
Most children these days have hundreds of plastic toys stacked up in piles in their bedrooms. These toys are designed to be attractive so that children beg their parents to buy them but often the children soon lose interest in them because they do not stimulate creativity. Water and sand may seem like poor alternatives but with the addition of imagination these two basic substances become magical and endlessly interesting. Sand can be sifted and poured, dug in and piled up. It can be turned into castles or caves or river beds or numerous other structures. Toy trucks can be driven around sand roads, boats can be sailed in water trays and a child’s imagination can run wild with just these two simple but magical ingredients: water and sand.
A sand and water tray can be used to learn simple maths. Give the child a bucket and a shovel or measuring cups and the child can see how much sand or water it takes to fill their containers. Give the child a sieve and they can spend endless hours sieving their sand and seeing what objects are small enough to go through and which are too large.
The sand and water tray can be used for art projects too. Children can wet the sand and make hand prints or press plastic objects into the sand to make patterns. They can take a stick or a kitchen utensil to make designs in the sand. Then they can wipe it out and start over again.
It is important to remember that all play is educational. When children are having fun, they are learning. It may be something as simple as how to cooperate and play with others. There may be art or maths or communication or social skills being learned but learning is always easier when people, little or big, are having fun.
It is also important to remember safety. Even small amounts of water can be dangerous. Children have drowned in a bucket. Sand and water trays are fun and educational but children should always be monitored during their play. Besides, they have more fun and learn more if you are joining in and having fun with them.