Ideas for Sand & Water Play for Preschoolers

Updated February 21, 2017

Sand and water play activates the senses of sight, touch and sound. According to Penn State's Better Kid Care website, preschoolers use their imagination and develop social and functional skills when they participate in these sensory activities. They also learn new vocabulary and scientific concepts, such as floating and sinking. You can organise several activities that include sand and water play. The Bright Hub website recommends setting up various stations that children can rotate through.

Make Believe With Water

Allow children to have free play time with water to explore and use their imagination. Provide them with a water tub, toy dishes, plastic cups and containers, spray bottles, plastic dolls, food colouring, funnels and other materials. Preschoolers can pretend that they are grownups washing their baby doll or doing the dishes or that they are firefighters putting out a blaze. They can add food colouring to the water to see what happens or observe the water flowing through a funnel. Children will practice motor skills as they fill and empty containers. You also can give them plastic containers with varying sizes of holes in the bottoms so they can observe different rates of water flow.

Free Play With Sand

Set up a large container of sand and provide children with buckets, wheels, salt shakers, shovels, rolling pins, stamps, plastic forks and funnels. Preschoolers can make sand castles or different designs in the sand. They can listen to the sand as it pours through a funnel. They may use their imagination and pretend they are planting a garden or working on an archaeological dig.

Bubble Activity

Mix a half cup of liquid dish detergent with two quarts of water in a large basin. Provide children with homemade bubble blowing devices, such as straws, plastic bottles with their bottoms cut off, plastic berry containers, wire hangers and funnels. Preschoolers will observe different-sized bubbles with each tool they use.

Treasure Hunt

In a large basin filled with sand, bury different treasures for children to find. You can hide marbles, coins, plastic rings, toy cars or stickers stored in plastic eggs. Make sure each child has a chance to dig and seek a treasure.

Float and Sink Activity

Fill a large basin or kiddie pool with water. Provide preschoolers with different items, such as corks, rocks, pumice bars, wood, apples, coins and keys. Tell children to guess which items will float and which ones will sink. They can then test their predictions.


Through observing preschoolers during their free play times, you may come up with more sand and water activities. Penn State, for example, suggests if children are vocal about pirates, that you organise a craft activity for kids to make boats that they can play with in the water basin.

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About the Author

Michelle Brunet has published articles in newspapers and magazines such as "The Coast," "Our Children," "Arts East," "Halifax Magazine" and "Atlantic Books Today." She earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies from Saint Mary's University and a Bachelor of Education from Lakehead University.