With summer here, it’s a great time to talk about sand play. If used properly, you can build more than just castles. It is possible to develop a variety of language skills through play with sand. It is also highly motivating for kids because this activity involves an enjoyable sensory component. Whether you are playing with kinetic sand and that is great for molding, sand in a bin, or the stuff that makes up a beach, you can use our SLP suggestions. This post is divided into two sections. One is for kiddos with emergent language skills and the other is for children working towards expanding their language skills. Scroll to the section that applies to your specific kiddo’s needs.
Emergent Language Skills
(This refers to children who do not consistently verbalize, or communicate using 1-2 word utterances.)
How you use the sand is less relevant than how you use the communication opportunities it presents. It doesn’t matter if you choose to dig a hole and bury something, introduce sand toys, scoop it with shovels, or simply let your child explore the sand with their hands. What you should plan to do is comment on the events during play. Model a variety of 1-3 word utterances combining the target vocabulary below. Praise your child whenever they imitate your utterances or produce their own.
Core Words: want/need, do, more, done, go, on, in, put, again, no, help, see, big, small, I, you, it, me
Nouns: Sand, shovel, fish, bucket, spoon, cup, bowl, hole (or any other toys introduced)
Extra verbs: dig, scoop, build
I want sand
I need help
I dig more
Do it again
Dig hole again
Put sand in
Cup in sand
Help me shovel
I see sand
Put it in
Expanded Language Skills
(This refers to children who speak in sentences but need to build vocabulary and narrative skills.)
Build a castle and target specific vocabulary: If you want to introduce some more advanced words, try building a sand castle using our suggestions below.
Dig a hole and practice narrative skills: As we have said before, the best way to build story telling skills is to expose your kiddo to narratives frequently. Besides reading stories, you can explain what you are doing on a daily basis. Model the use of sequential words (i.e. first, next, then, last). This can be done with any task. Here’s our example as it relates to digging a hole and burying a person: (This could be tweaked for burying a smaller item too!)
"I’m going to bury your body in the sand. Don’t worry your head stays out! First, I’ll use a shovel to dig a small hole. Then, I’ll make it deeper. Next, I’ll make it wider. Then, you jump in. Put your body in a comfortable position . Then, I’ll cover your legs and arms with sand!"
Where do you prefer to play with sand? The beach? A bin? Looking for SLP suggestions for a specific sand task? Comment below!