A backyard sandbox often entertains children for long stretches of time. Sensory tables offer another option for letting kids feel sand between their fingers. Simply digging around in the sand is a basic sand play activity. Adding more complex elements to the sand play stimulates the child cognitively and creatively. Observe young children carefully so they don't eat or throw the sand.
Adding a little water to regular sand makes the sand hold its shape when sculpted or pressed into a sand bucket. The addition of water also provides a science exploration for the child. Add water to a portion of the sand. Let the child explore the differences between the wet sand and the dry sand. Ask him questions about the texture and how it reacts if he has difficult expressing the differences. Encourage your child to create different sculptures or shapes with the sand. Providing sand molds gives him more options for his sand creations. Use a shovel to create roads in the sand for small cars and other vehicles. To expand on this idea, help your child sculpt small buildings and other town structures where his cars and plastic people figures can play.
Sand provides an ideal hiding spot for small treasures. Coins, plastic toys and other small items work well for the treasure hunt. Bury the items in the sand, covering them completely as you scatter them throughout the sand. In a large sandy area, designate the treasure hunt zone so you can find all of the objects by the end of the game. The child digs through the sand using either her hands or a shovel to reveal the treasures. Continue hiding and digging up the treasure as long as the activity keeps your child entertained.
Sand provides a natural drawing surface. The nature of sand makes it easy to erase the picture and start again. A sensory table filled with sand or a shallow plastic tub with sand in it works well if you don't have a sand box. The kids can practice drawing letters, numbers, shapes or other pictures. When they want to start over, they smooth the sand with their hands for a fresh drawing surface. A finger works well, but they might also enjoy using a pencil or stick as the drawing utensil on the sand surface.