It’s spring and with the sunny season comes plenty of opportunities for sand and water play. Whether you have a sand and water table or a sandbox outside, we have a few learning activities you can engage your children in to embrace spring time.
Sand and water tables provide added benefits, including the ability to bring outdoor elements inside when the weather isn’t cooperating! If you don’t have one yet and are considering what table would be best for your child, we have a few options we think you’ll enjoy:
4 Hands-on Activities for Spring!
1. Water Play! Bring it Onboard
What happens when objects are added to a floating jar boat? Children can compare the objects that sink their boats to objects that leave boats afloat.
- different weighted materials such as plastic or wooden spoons, rocks, fishing weights, corks and metal washers
- plastic containers with lids, small plastic jars with lids
- sand and water table or a large container filled with water
What to Do:
- Float a closed plastic jar on the water in front of your children. Talk about floating. Ask, “Do you have toys that float in the bathtub? What happens when you push them down to the bottom? Let’s pretend this is a boat and see what it can carry without sinking.”
- Remove the lid and place a large, heavy object in the jar. Say, “Let’s see what happens when we bring this onboard our boat.” The object should not be heavy enough to sink the jar, though it should make it noticeably lower in the water. Talk to your children about why.
- Select a heavier object that will sink the jar. Repeat the process of placing the jar in the water and discussing what happens when the boat sinks.
- Allow children to explore with several more objects and containers. Ask, “Which objects let the jar boat float and what sinks the boat?” Have children group the objects in these two categories and discuss size, weight, and material characteristics of the objects in the groups.
Challenge: Do the activity using only sand or water as a weight. Add varying amounts to identical jars. How much does it take to sink the jar? Challenge your children to keep track of how many scoops of sand they put in the jars.
Source: The Preschool Scientist
2. Water Play! Aluminum Foil Boats
Make boats from aluminum foil, and experiment with how to make them float and carry objects!
- Boats by Anne Rockwell
- Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham
- Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen
- objects used as “passengers” or cargo in the boats, such as small plastic blocks, washers, or pennies
- pieces of aluminum foil: 6” x 6” squares work well, but any size and shape can be used
- sand and water table or a tub of water
What to Do:
- Talk with your child about what the word sink means. What might make a boat sink?
- Show your child a flat sheet of foil and a small toy. Talk about how you might make the foil into a boat so that the toy can ride in it.
- Create several boats, experimenting with different designs and testing each boat in the tub of water. Add animals or other toys to see what happens.
- Talk about your boats and what you noticed when you put “passengers” in each boat. Does it make a difference where you put the passengers? Can some boats carry more passengers than others? Does the shape or size of the boat make a difference?
- Test your ideas about boat designs by redesigning and floating many different boats.
Source: Where Does My Shadow Sleep: A Parent’s Guide to Exploring Science with Children’s Books
Kaplan Toys Suggestion: Looking for items to float in your boat? Try out My Buddies, the perfect companions for water play!
3. Sand Play! Dinosaur Dig
Children will learn about colors and paleontologists as they dig for dinosaurs!
- laminating machine or clear contact paper in different colors
- sand and water table or tub of sand
- Cut dinosaur shapes out of different colored paper. Laminate or cover with clear contact paper.
- Hide the paper dinosaurs in the sand.
What to Do:
Tell children that they are going to be a special kind of scientist called a paleontologist. Explain what they study and the history of life on Earth.
- If appropriate, ask each child to find a certain color dinosaur.
- Offer an additional challenge by cutting the dinosaur shapes into puzzle pieces that the children find and then put together, just as paleontologists put together the bones they find to re-create the bone structure of animals that once lived on our planet.
Source: Another Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Young Children
- Sand Play! Coloring and Mixing Sand
Have fun showing children how to paint sand, and then mix the sands to form new colors!
- containers for mixing sand and paint
- pans for drying sand (one for each color)
- resealable plastic bags, small
- sand and water table full of sand
- tempera paints
- mixing spoons
- permanent marker
Collect several containers of white sand, various tempera paints, and find a location where children can set the painted sand out to dry.
- Have each child make a color of sand using separate containers to mix each of the primary colors—red, yellow and blue.
- Help each child measure and pour 1-2 cups of sand into each container, and then pour 1/4 cup of wet or dry tempera paint into the containers. Explain to the children that they should add 1/2 cup of water for each cup of sand in their containers. Help children add water and paint as needed to help make a good rich color and a runny mixture. Mix well.
- Help children pour the colored sand onto the sand and water table to dry, and then place the table in a warm, sunny place. When the sand is dry, encourage the children to crumble the sand back into granular form. At this point, each child should have one container of red, yellow, and blue sand.
- Next, talk with children about the primary colors. Ask the children why they think we call them primary and explain that they help to make all other colors.
- Set out several mixing spoons and resealable plastic baggies. Invite the children to use the spoons to measure the colored sands carefully and combine spoonfuls of each in various plastic baggies. Tell children to use no more than three spoonfuls of each color of sand. Be sure children mix one or two spoonfuls of color with three spoonfuls of another color, so that they can see a variety of results.
- Help children record on the sides of the baggies the number of spoonfuls of each color of sand they add to each baggie, and then help the children seal the baggies.
- Invite the children to shake the bags well to mix the colored sand and watch as a new, secondary color appears. Point out to the children how the grains of the primary colors are still visible in the secondary color.
Source: Science Adventures: Nature Activities for Young Children
Kaplan Toys Suggestion: Find non-toxic tempera paint for coloring your sand here.
Want to show off your child’s sand and water creations? Share pictures with us on our Facebook page!