Sensory play is one of the ways the brain uses to load information into its circuits. Dinosaurs, letters, and sand combine for some awesome sensory play. Not all children are particularly interested in letters, but dinosaurs and sand can turn learning into fun.
While a whole sand box or sand table is wonderful, a bowl or container of sand will also work, along with a few dollar store letters and dinosaurs. Either grownups can bury the dinos and letters or kids can do it themselves. The second part of the fun is finding them. Real archaeologists and paleontologists use tools like brushes and picks to dig out bones and artifacts. Kids can use fingers, spoons, and paint or pastry brushes.
The texture of the sand, letters, and dinosaurs will stimulate the sense of touch. The colors and shapes of the dinos and letters exercise the sense of sight. Children use their senses to build their knowledge.
Before kids start school, a basic familiarity with letters is helpful. This doesn’t mean using flash cards so kids know their letters. It means experiences with them so they are not scary unknowns. Touching and playing with letters builds a relationship with them as well as some idea of their shapes and names. In the words of Dr. Dan Gartell, readiness is “a state of mind, not a state of knowledge.”
Finding the dinosaurs and letters is like finding buried treasures. It’s quite exciting and some of this feeling transfers to them. Kids need this along with a sense of familiarity for the dinosaur-size task of learning to read. Reading doesn’t start outside with the page of a book; it starts inside with knowing words and having an idea that there are special squiggles called letters. Having this foundation is critical for children’s confidence and success.
Sand can be a bit messy but it does vacuum up. The letters and dinosaurs are inexpensive and can be used for other play. What fun and learning can your child dig up?
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