Why sand & water play is useful to children

Updated April 17, 2017

According to the 2002 position paper of the Association for Childhood Education International, entitled "Play: Essential for All Children," play "is an essential and integral part of all children's healthy growth, development, and learning across all ages, domains, and cultures." Playing with sand and water is not only something that children love to do, but also something that can help their development.


Sand and water play is not just for the beach. Take opportunities to help your child play and learn with water at home in the bath, the kitchen sink, or, in nice weather, in a paddling pool. Sand play at home requires good weather and a backyard.


No special toys are necessary for water play. Use a strainer, a sponge, jugs and containers, a whisk, or other objects you have on hand to teach children through play with water, according to Topmarks Education. Recyle boxes and food containers to use as sand moulds that will help your child develop manipulative skills. You can even recycle a tire for an eco-friendly homemade sandbox. Of course, remember the plastic bucket and shovel.

What Children Learn

From simple, enjoyable play children learn a wide range of skills, beginning with motor skills and hand-eye coordination from pouring water and fashioning items in the sand. They start to learn science from the behaviour of water when it is poured from one container to another and from floating and sinking objects. Sand play can help with counting and measurement skills, shape comparison, and "less" and "more" concepts.


While you are teaching your child early math and science concepts through sand and water play you are also helping him improve his vocabulary and communication skills. Ask him questions and get him to make predictions about the behaviour of water as it moves from one container to another of a different size or shape. Take two objects and ask your child which will sink and which will float. Your child's curiosity will make teaching science in this way easy.

Social Skills

Children learn social skills from sand and water play. Sandbox play with other children requires cooperation and sharing even as role playing stimulates the imagination. Imaginative water play can include teaching concepts of care and hygiene by bathing a doll in a basin.


Sand and water play stimulate creativity. Show your child how to make shapes with sand moulds and patterns in the sand with her fingers or objects like combs or a small plastic rake. Put some sand on a tray for indoor use and make learning to trace letters and numbers more fun. Sand and water play activities are things you can do with your children that combine fun, learning, creativity and time together.


Always supervise children playing in or with water.

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About the Author

Elise Moore has a master's degree in English. She enjoys writing about party planning and has greatly expanded her knowledge of the visual and plastic arts while researching articles for various websites.