by Emily McGowan | Lakeshore Early Childhood Product Development Manager
Have you ever picked up something you didn’t want to put down? Maybe it was a squishy stress ball or a puppy with soft, fluffy fur. Tactile experiences like these are not only enjoyable, but they also play a key role in kids’ brain development. When we encourage children to use their hands and fingers to touch and explore, we’re helping stimulate their cognitive, language and social-emotional growth—while also boosting physical skills like fine muscle control, which kids will use for everything from tying their shoes to writing their name.
When our Research & Development team started looking at different ways to give kids these important tactile experiences, we focused in on a cool new material called sensory sand. This amazing sand looks like regular sand, but it behaves differently—sticking together and moving almost as if it were liquid. This creates a fascinating sensory experience for children—which got us thinking. How could we challenge kids to find new ways to manipulate this wonderfully unique material? What if kids used the sensory sand to build and design? By creating the right opportunities, could we help kids develop problem-solving skills as they explore the sand?
As we began answering those questions, the Mold & Play Sensory Sand Play Set was born! To get kids building & exploring, we paired up the sensory sand with castle and brick molds to create 3-D sand sculptures. We also added sculpting tools to make custom shapes and designs, plus a roller to experiment with flattening the sand. Finally, we included a roomy tray to hold the sand and materials as kids play, which also makes the kit mess-free—a feature that all of us parents and teachers can appreciate!
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Kids love playing with the materials and making their own discoveries, but we found that we can also guide their learning by challenging them to use the sand in new ways.
- You can ask kids to form the sand into a ball—then observe what happens when they slowly press down on the shape with their hand. Ask, What shape is it now?
- Invite children to figure out the best way to flatten the sand, and then draw a picture in it.
- Challenge kids to create bricks with the square and rectangle molds and stack them in two separate towers. Then ask, Which is the tallest? Which stands up the longest?
If you’re working with children with special needs, you may also find the sand beneficial. For example, the sand can be used to keep children’s hands busy while they’re learning something else. You may also notice that some children with autism gravitate toward this material because it doesn’t stick to their skin.
No matter how kids use our Mold & Play Sensory Sand Play Set, we hope they’ll enjoy hours of hands-on sensory fun that engages their minds and bodies—and make lots of exciting discoveries to help them understand and connect with their world.