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Sand Boxes & Child Development

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Sand Boxes & Child Development
The sandbox is an effective toy for your child's development. Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

You know your little one has a lot of fun when he's in the sandbox, but he's also learning. Playing in sand boosts several aspects of development, making it an ideal activity to include in your regular rotation. An outdoor sandbox or an indoor sensory table provide similar benefits, which lets you choose a space that works with your home.

Physical Development

All the moving around your child does in the sandbox boosts muscle and bone development. When he stands up and sits down, reaches for toys and scoots across the sandbox, he's using his large muscle groups, which increases gross motor skills. As he picks up the shovel or rake, scoops sand into a bucket and digs his hands into the sand, he's using his small muscle groups, optimizing fine motor development. Wet and dry sand provide different benefits, so let him play in both varieties.

Cognitive Development

Playing in the sand boosts brain power because it introduces basic math and science skills. When he fills and dumps a bucket, he's learning about cause and effect, and filling containers of various sizes introduces basic math skills. Sand play also boosts vocabulary because your little one learns new words as he plays with new sand toys, and he gets the opportunity to tell you what he's doing. Your child also learns to build and construct as he fills, packs and dumps buckets and sand molds.

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Social and Emotional Development

Playing in the sand sparks your little one's imagination as he creates structures and makes up stories about what they are and how they are used. Maybe he makes a cave and it becomes a car wash, for example. If you invite a sibling or friend to play in the sandbox with your child, he learns to interact with other children, take turns and even some new skills and words if his playmate is older.

Sand Safety

Playing in the sand is beneficial for development, but the sandbox must be safe for your little one to play in. Start with sanitary play sand from a home improvement store, and keep the sandbox covered when not in use so animals can't use it as bathroom and to keep it free of leaves, sticks and rocks. Watch your child closely to ensure he isn't eating the sand or throwing it at playmates. Choose toys that don't have sharp edges or small parts, and throw away anything that breaks.

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author image Eliza Martinez
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.
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