While the image of sand and water may conjure up mental pictures of a relaxing beach vacation, these two natural items can easily translate into imaginative play activities for kids. Whether you are taking your toddler outside on a sunny summer day or are looking for an entertaining and educational way to keep your preschooler busy indoors on a rainy day, sand and water projects can help your child to learn, discover and explore her world.
You don't have to go to the beach to make sand castles with your little learner. Your young child can explore the basics of building with a sand castle activity. Use a plastic wading pool or throw a tarp down on the ground outside as a base for the castle. Scoop a pile of non-toxic play sand onto your surface and give your child a pitcher of water. Help your child to sculpt a castle, adding water onto the sand to make it more malleable. Add shells, craft feathers, twigs, leaves or any other creative items to make flags, windows or embellishments to the sand castle masterpiece. Take a photo of your child's work before you dismantle the sandy creation.
According to the experts at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, open-ended toys can spark a child's creativity. Instead of giving your child a defined product to produce, stage a free play sand and water activity. Fill a plastic tub with play sand or scoop it onto a tarp. Give your child a few cups of water, measuring spoons, rolling pins or any other type of manipulative to use. Encourage your child to explore both the sand and the water -- separately and by mixing it together. She can use the tools and additional materials -- or simply her own hands -- to make new discoveries, test out how the sand and water move or experiment with the items.
Instead of turning into a memory, an artsy sand and water activity can stick around for years to come. Purchase colored craft sand at your local arts and crafts supply store. Use the sand to create a brightly textured landscape or abstract piece of art with your child. Older kids can draw a simple landscape that includes a beach scene or an ocean with mountains in the distance onto a piece of cardboard. Mix a few sprinkles of water in with clear drying school glue. Adding more water makes the glue thinner. Have your child paint the glue and water mixture on the cardboard. He can spread the sand over the glue to create a colorful craft. Younger kids can try a more abstract approach by spreading the glue and water mixture in random patterns, and then adding a rainbow of colored sand over it.
Funnels provide kids with a simple way to change the quantities and forms of sand. Give your child a plastic tub of play sand, funnels in different sizes, a dropper or pipette and tap water. Ask your child open-ended questions such as, "What do you think will happen when you pour the sand into the funnel?" Have your child explore and experiment with the funnel. Encourage her to add drops of water to the sand before and after pouring into the funnel to see how it changes when it comes to the motion or shape.