Let’s face it, some days we just don’t get out of the house. On these days, by the afternoon, we have exhausted all of our toys and are starting to go a bit stir crazy. My son has a sand table in the yard which he loves, but again, some days, even that loses its appeal. For some reason, when I created “Beach in a Box” for him, it became an entirely new experience. (You will note that the photos were taken on various days, as we play with this often. In fact, we have even been outside in winter jackets and hats playing with this bin!)
I took a plastic container (that came with a lid for easy storage) and filled it with play sand. Then, I buried seashells in the sand (some purchased in the craft store like a starfish and some we found on vacation). On this particular day, it happened to be raining so I then pulled the car out of the garage, left the door open so we could watch the rain, and placed a mat down on the garage floor. I presented Beach in a Box to my son and handed him a shovel… silly Mama. He went and pulled out our basket of tools that we use with most of our sensory bins. This contains empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls, funnels, strainers, measuring spoons, containers of different shapes and sizes, and so forth.
In our case, the shells were a nice introduction to his beach, but they got in the way of scooping, pouring, and dumping, so out they came. In went the other tools, then the construction trucks, and then eventually my son. He really enjoyed burying his feet!
Although my son still enjoys playing with his Beach in a Box in this manner, I was curious what other experiences other than the “standard” ones we could come up with. A few weeks later, we went to a dinosaur exhibit at a local convention center. There, they had a sand pit with dinosaur bones buried in it. The only tool there was a paintbrush.
We couldn’t get my son away from this. So, upon returning home, I pulled out our dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the ones we had A) weren’t skeletons (which doesn’t really matter) and B) ended up being too big. Eventually, I found a pack of small dinosaurs in the store and also picked up a new package of paintbrushes for use in the sandbox (so I didn’t get his regular paint brushes all sandy).
I presented my son with his Beach in a Box, but I prefaced it by asking him if he knew of a paleontologist that could help me dig for dinosaur bones (for a silly song about being a Paleontologist, check out this tune by They Might Be Giants). His eyes lit up. And, I although I was trying hard not to push my own agenda, I reminded him that paleontologists had to be extra careful and gentle when excavating dinosaur fossils and, therefore, he might want to choose his tools wisely. I let him select from a myriad of digging implements: shovels, paintbrushes, measuring spoons, etc. He examined each of them carefully and, remembering the dinosaur exhibit, opted for the paintbrush.
He spent quite some time gently brushing the sand around the box until he discovered a hidden dinosaur, then would work diligently to unearth/excavate it.
Again, I didn’t have dinosaur bones, but it didn’t seem to bother him in the least. After a while, he got tired of being careful and the paintbrush got tossed aside and in went the shovels and construction trucks – they helped excavate too, but weren’t quite as gentle.
We have also hidden rocks (both regular and glass) in the sand and will be planning a “mystery day” soon where a compilation of random objects are buried.
Since sand can be difficult to clean up, keep a bottle of baby powder handy. It works wonders to get sand off hands and feet before they go touching your couch or running through your living room!
What do your children like to play with in the sand?
Check out these sand and beach themed activities for kids: