Sand & Water: A Play Wonderland

"By themselves, sand and water are great resources for play. But add them together, especially in a sandpit, and you have a play wonderland."

• Children of all ages love to play with sand and water. The sensory experience combined with the opportunity for creativity and dramatic play make it one of the most popular play choices at an early learning centre.

Benefits Of Sand & Water Play

Sand and water play provides countless benefits, including:

  • developing physical dexterity
  • encouraging cooperative play
  • soothing and helping overactive children relax
  • teaching the basic principles of science and maths
  • attracting multiple ages and schemas
  • stimulating dramatic play
  • encouraging mark making.

Dramatic Play & sand & Water

Sand and water are especially suited to dramatic play. When you add accessories, such as diggers, toy animals, planks of wood (for making bridges), dolls and plastic fish, children make worlds come alive.

Dramatic play is important because it helps develop social and language skills; allows the expression of positive and negative feelings; teaches children to negotiate, take turns and resolve conflict; and helps children make sense of the world.

Ideas For Sand & Water Play

Adding glitter, dye or Lux (soap) flakes to the water
Making volcanoes, islands, rivers and lakes
Using the opportunity to talk about the environment
Adding natural objects, such as rocks, sticks, shells and seaweed
Drawing sand pictures
Building tunnels
Adding downpipes and guttering for pouring water through
Taking dolls swimming
Turning on a sprinkler in summer
Creating a mini Jurassic Park (with dinosaurs and fences)!

Essential Equipment

Playcentre recommends the following as a minimum for early learning centres:

For sand play

Sand play area (ideally two, one for wet and one for dry)
Sandpit cover
Storage (for buckets, spades and accessories)
Tools (spades and rakes)
Containers (buckets and measuring)
Vehicles (trucks, diggers & cars)
Rake and spade (adult sized)
Adequate shade

For water play

Fibreglass trough on a stand
Storage (for water-play toys/accessories)
Nearby water source
Containers and accessories (for pouring, filling, measuring and siphoning)
Water pump – hand powered
Items for floating and sinking

See the Playcentre basic equipment list


A good selection of accessories maximises the benefits of sand and water play, in particular stimulating dramatic play.

Plastic sea animals
Miniature people
Sand wheel
Sand moulds
Watering can


  • Make sure you supervise very young children.
  • Provide a good selection of accessories.
  • Encourage cooperative play.
  • Take photos of the amazing creations!

Te Whāriki & sand & Water Play

Sand and water play relates particularly to Strand 5 of Te Whāriki, which is Exploration/Mana Aotūroa.

To learn more about Te Whāriki, visit the website.

Our thanks to the Auckland Playcentre Shop for permission to use this article. Great play starts here.