Sandpits have been a source of popular play activities for many, many years. The mid-19th century saw the earliest traces of sand-play in Germany. Germany, along with its neighbours, was heavily influenced by the works of Friedrick Froebel, who introduced the famous concept of Kindergarten, which translates as 'children's garden'.
Kindergarten is now a term used to describe a Nursery or Pre-school, with the ethos of these play areas being dedicated to encouraging children to be in touch with the environment around them, and allowing them to enjoy the beauty of nature. Froebel was incredibly passionate about letting children explore and appreciate the world around them, and to provide children with as many contacts with nature as possible.
Froebel didn't specifically include sand within his propositions and ideas; however the natural play elements and natural materials within these gardens were crucial to this notion of 'environmental play'. The use of sand as a play material is actually known to have originated in Berlin during 1850, where lots of heaps of sand were created in public parks to inspire creativity and playfulness. These sand heaps were called 'Sand Bergs', and this soon developed into sandboxes, which we also know as sandpits, in the latter part of the 19th century within Germany.
Sandpits quickly became popular within the United States, with Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska from Boston getting inspiration from the Sand Bergs in Berlin, and by 1889 both New York and Boston featured over 20 sandpits!
Many other industrialised countries soon realised the lovely play-potential in sandpit activities, and the sandpit became increasingly popular. An interesting read for further information on sand-pile's origins can be found in Stanley Hall's research into Child Study, who wrote the 'Story of a Sand Pile', which explains the incredible benefits that children gain through imaginative play with a sandpit.
Imaginative play with sandpits encourages a whole array of different play skills, with the child making all sorts of discoveries about the environment around them. This is hugely beneficial for a child's development and inspires invaluable activity.
A sandpit provides children with a wonderfully sensory experience, with different textures and colours to recognise and play with. The ability to mould sand into any shapes that the little one wishes, allows them to be completely creative with their playtime while getting to know and developing touch and motor skills.
The nature of a sandpit is very social, inspiring children to play together and to share their discoveries and shapes with others. This is excellent preparation for the social experiences they will encounter as they grow and meet new children through their pre-school and primary school years. Sandpits offer a space in which children can touch, feel and make sense of the sand, enabling them to make and re-make different shapes and create imaginative adventures, all in the neat and compact space of a sandpit.
Playing in the sand and creating different adventures in the pit encourages children to express their feelings about new experiences and lets them experiment with them. Children are naturally inquisitive and love finding new games and challenges, and a sandpit enables them to act on this curiosity within the comfort of their own home.
We recommend that you position your sandpit at the highest point in your garden to allow the sand to drain and dry naturally. This prevents rain and other elements from falling into the sandpit and damaging the sand or wooden frames after consistent exposure to the elements.
It's important that children are supervised at all times during their playtime to ensure their safety. Children, especially at very young ages, go through mouthing stages and are therefore very tempted to learn and play by putting materials in their mouths. It is important that this is discouraged during the use of a sandpit, while also being careful that sand isn't flicked or rubbed into the eyes.
Joining the youngsters in their sandpit pursuits can be a lovely way of sharing playtime with them, while being a wonderful chance to encourage different play themes. Helping to build sand castles and animal shapes helps them learn how to recreate them while also developing their own imaginations to make fun and unique creations of their own!