Play idea: Sand – Kirikiri

Sand is a useful material for children to manipulate.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • All Early Learning Services 
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako
  • Service Managers
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Children learn through play. Below is some information about a play idea for your children.

Children can explore sand by feeling, patting, pounding, shaping, moulding and digging; they can build and ‘make cakes’ with it; they can move it from place to place.

Playing with sand can help children to

  • learn about the properties of sand and water by feeling, patting, shaping, digging and lots more
  • strengthen their muscles as they move the sand around
  • work together with others on special projects like digging holes or trenches or making mountains
  • be creative.

Adults can support children by

  • making sure the sand is always clean and there’s enough of it
  • talking to them about what they are doing so they can learn new words
  • offering new ideas
  • being available to join in without taking over
  • being available to guide them through any issues.

Providing for sand

If possible, provide a large area with enough space for all children.

Make sure there is shade and lots of clean sand, with access to water. Make sure the sandpit is always covered when not in use and raked at the beginning of each session. A sand tray inside can work well on wet days.

Birdseed can be used as an alternative to sand and water but be aware of seed content for allergies e.g. peanuts or wheat.

Ideas for equipment

  • digging equipment such as shovels, spades, scoops and sticks
  • a range of containers of different shapes and sizes
  • natural resources such as stones, shells and wood
  • sieves and tubing of different lengths and types
  • a range of vehicles that are not too small
  • sheets of plastic for building rivers, dams and lakes.

Te Whāriki

Sand supports learning across all strands of Te Whāriki. In particular, it supports the Exploration strand, where children gain confidence in and control of their bodies, where the importance of spontaneous play is recognised and where they learn strategies for active exploration, thinking and reasoning.

Sand play gives children the opportunity to develop useful social interaction skills while playing alongside other children as part of the Contribution strand. If conflicts arise, there are opportunities to practise problem-solving. As part of the Belonging strand, they develop ideas about the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

This play idea has been developed for playgroups. Feel free to use it at other types of ECE service, but make sure you're still following the regulations and licensing criteria that apply to your service type. Parents may also find this information useful.

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