Sand Tray and Loose Parts

Reggio-inspired Activities for Children

featured writer

This month’s featured writer is Ness from One Perfect Day.


Thank you Kate for inviting me to contribute a post today.  I am always so inspired by what you share with us. It is very exciting to be able to share some of our play with your readers.

Reggio-inspired Activities for ChildrenA few Christmases ago, we gave my sister a miniature Zen garden. It is a small tray filled with sand, a few pebbles and a tiny rake for making patterns in the sand. My five-year old son, R, is fascinated by it, and whenever we visit my sister he will spend the entire visit rearranging the pebbles and gently making patterns in the sand. Since he loves that Zen garden so much, I decided to create this sand and sea shells invitation.

Reggio-inspired Activities for Children

The sand tray was created with a round picture frame. I wrapped some kitchen foil underneath the frame to contain the sand and it has worked surprisingly well. I gathered some of the shells that we have collected from visits to the beach and placed them in a wooden bowl together with some white stones and blue glass pebbles. I placed a paint brush on the table and the invitation was complete.

R’s first interest was the paintbrush. He was very intentional about what he was doing, first drawing a grid similar to a tic-tac-toe game, and then adding a double “x” across the entire space. It reminded me of the Union Jack.

Reggio-inspired Activities for Children

After making marks in the sand, R turned his attention to the selection of sea shells. There were a number of scallop shells in the wooden bowl and among them was a particularly large one. R chose this one first, placing it in the centre of the sand. He then arranged several of the tiny trochas shells in a circle around the large scallop.

Reggio-inspired Activities for Children

It was interesting to see how quickly he put this together. I thought he might spend a long while making patterns in the sand or perhaps narrating a story with the shells (something he will often do with this type of activity). Instead he created his mandala within a few minutes and then he was satisfied with it and moved on to something else.

The next day, as I walked past the table, I noticed he had covered the large scallop with sand so there was nothing to be seen of the mandala but a little hill of sand in the middle of the frame. I’m looking forward to seeing how the scene changes and evolves as he comes back to it throughout the week.

Reggio-inspired Activities for Children

I am planning to set up a little peace corner for R. A space with some comfortable cushions, perhaps a book or two. I think this sand tray will be a lovely addition to that space.

Here’s a few more fabulous posts from One Perfect Day:

Pop over and say hi.

11 Replies to “Sand Tray and Loose Parts”

  1. This is so wonderful. I tried to start a Reggio preschool years ago and it never caught on in our area. I look forward to reading your blog!!

  2. Emma @ P is for Preschooler says:

    Even just the pictures are peaceful! What a wonderful calming activity for children. I’ve never tried a sand tray, but I’m inspired to! 🙂

  3. Just met your blog and I love it already. We also have a small zen garden at home, but it is running out of sand continuously. My kids (6 and 4) seem to find much pleasure in grasping the sand with their hands, rather than painting or playing with the stones…It is more of a sand texture experience, than a creative one. I do not like telling them “no” each time I see them around it, but the garden is “suffering” these fatal consequences all the time and I am getting tired of constantly cleaning up the (calming) sand experience. Any thoughts on how pointing out the differences in activities?

  4. Lovely Ness! Another idea for my excess sand!

  5. thats really lovely.

  6. Carlos Chaouen says:

    I love all i saw here.

  7. This looks like a lovely activity, now I just need some sand.

    1. You could always use table salt 🙂 That works just as nicely.

  8. So glad I came across your blog! I am an occupational therapist and always looking for new ways to present sensory and fine motor activities! This is so beautiful and inviting!

    1. Thank you Claire. My son Jack was working with an OT for a time focussing particularly on his wrist strength and shoulder stability. I am particularly drawn to these types of activities too.

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