Josh sat in the sand, slowly beginning his exploration with a shovel. Scooping, lifting, dumping, sifting. He watched time and time again as sand cascaded off his shovel, like an hourglass emptying. How I wish I could freeze us in that moment. A moment of beautiful calm and ease with such focus and intention on sand. It was just Josh in his element. Nothing else seemed to matter in that instance as he continued to explore.

Sand dripping from his hands, his whole body became fully immersed in the experience. Taking the time to bring a handful of sand to his ears, I wondered if he was trying to hear the sound it made as he squished it between his fingers. Was he trying to listen to the sand or was he trying something else?

Shoes came off, toes dipped into the cool sand, “Ouuu!” exclaimed Josh as he pushed his feet deeper into the sand.  Just as quickly as he had dipped his toes in, he pulled them out and gazed as sand rained down his toes, back Into the box from which it came.

What Does This Mean?

Josh, what a privilege it was to have been a part of such a special moment of exploration and learning for you. As I observed you experiment and test your theories about sand, it reminded me that “time for play, inquiry, for thinking, and for pursuing an interest alone or with friends and educators is important if learning is to become meaningful for the learner” (Flight, p. 64).  I was thinking about this while I mindfully watched you dive deeper and deeper into your inquiry of the sand. I was careful to try not to interrupt this slow and fluid experience as you connected with the sand. There was a moment when you started to sprinkle sand on your head and I almost stopped you but then I remembered that giving room for this kind of exploration is how “children are able to develop their ideas deeply” (Flight, p.64). So again, I made space for your ideas and observed as you pursued your interest to discover all the sand had to offer. What was the worst that could have happened? I would have to give you a bath?

What’s Next?

Josh, I am so excited to continue exploring your interest in sand. I was talking with your mom a few days ago and she mentioned you enjoy sand so much that you have a kiddie pool filled with it at home!  I wonder how you would react if we brought sand into our playroom – in a small scale like using our sensory buckets as well as in a larger scale, maybe bringing a tub in the room for sand? I am also curious to find out if it is the sand you enjoy or the overall sensory experience, or maybe both? I think I will bring in different sensory opportunities like dirt, playdoh, and goop for us to explore together and see where it takes us. Maybe you would like to combine sand with some of these materials.

Written by
Terra Early Childhood Educator, Sarah