Monday, June 6, 2011

what children learn in the sandpit

 "What happens if they just play in the sandpit all day?" - A question you might be familiar with if you offer a program where outdoor play is available to the children all day long.

Last Friday we had a group of children who did just that.  And this is what happened:

  • They had the time to really sink their teeth into a project.  
  • They used their large and small muscles as they moved their bodies in different ways.
  • They co-operated and communicated with their friends - forming and sharing plans and ideas and  working together to carry them out. 
  • They explored concepts such as cause and effect; volume, measurement, depth, weight, absorption and balance.
  • They built their own levers.
  • They faced obstacles and challenges and overcame them - or not - maybe next time.
  • They asked questions.
  • They made predictions, observations, estimations,comparisons and experiment.
  • They thought of other resources to help carry out their plans.
  • They used different tools.
  • They tried on different roles - builder, plumber, creator of the universe.
  • They had the opportunity to feel powerful and in control of their own world.

  • They had conversations.  
  • They made connections.  
  • They watched and learnt from their friends.
  • They drew plans and maps.
  • We talked about topics as diverse as water level and how workers in ancient Egypt moved large rocks.
  • They learnt that even builders need to break for lunch.
  • They had fun.
Perhaps the question should be "What won't children learn if they play in the sandpit all day?"


  1. Everything you write is so inspiring. Today is no different. I, too, am seeing the benefits of playing in the sand. I actually just linked up a post to thos weeks It's Playtime about our sand mountain. Please don't ever stop sharing your insights into play based curriculum!

  2. Love this article Jenny :) So so true!

  3. Brilliant Jenny! Well done! Have you displayed this somewhere prominant for your parents to read?

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone - and no Karen I haven't but that is a great idea.

  5. Looks like fun! I remember as a child playing in a huge hole in our front yard that was there because a pipe was being fixed. I remember having hours of inspired lots of imaginative play!

  6. Wait for this - one school I've been working in has just created a massive sandpit with 70 tonnes of sand being put in this week. Then there's going to be a celebratory sandpit party. How exciting is this - for 3-12yr olds.

  7. I am linking up to your post- our sand is beach sand- but fun and educational too!

    that is the post link- if it doesn't work right- you can find it at

    the original post was created for Outdoor Play link up - but they work so well together! glad i found you - new follower & fan!

  8. I wish I was in that sand pit right now!
    Because I am in an urban school, I made one of the sensory tables a sand pit, with water, rocks, sand, sticks etc..
    Only problem is that it starts smelling. Sometimes I throw a little dish soap in there to hide the smell (I'm not sure if it is eliminating it.) Any suggestions?

  9. YEA! This is great! I'm going to share this post with some fellow teachers!

  10. You've made such great observations about the children's learning and I think this is a great testament to the importance of lengthy periods of free play for young children.
    Also, you've made me want to get out there and play in the sandbox. :)

  11. Wow that is the neatest thing, my kids would be in hog heaven! They play for hours in the sand turtle we bought them.

    Thank you for sharing these pics.