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Play - Explore/Experiment
Making sandcastles  Like this activity  
15 - 30 mins activity Suitable for Birth - 5 years

Location Outdoor, Garden, Park, Playground

Let’s make a sandcastle that reaches to the sky with turrets and bridges and a moat for boats to sail in.

Before starting, talk to your child about what you will need. Will you use a bucket and wet sand to make the main building of the castle? Can you just pile lots of sand in the middle and then smooth it over?

Let’s use the very big bucket to make the main castle building. We need to dig down to get the wet sand buried under the ground. Keep filling the bucket with sand up to the very top.

Once the bucket is full talk to your child about what happens next. Can you just turn the bucket over? Do you need to pat the sand down until it is firm and packed tight inside the bucket?

We need to place the lip of the bucket close to the ground and turn the bucket over quickly. If we tip the bucket over too slowly or too far from the ground the sand will fall out and not hold its shape.

Once the bucket has been tipped upside down and the sandcastle built, talk about what you will do next. Will you try and make turrets on top of the big castle using smaller containers or will you add decorations? Maybe you could dig a moat around the outside of the castle for boats to float around.

Materials you will need

  • Spade
  • Water
  • Sand
  • Buckets

Alternative tools

  • Small and large containers
  • Spoons
  • Found objects for decorations

Why does this matter?

When your child helps you to make sandcastles they will be developing language and vocabulary skills. As your child talks about what they are doing they will be using different language that describes position, measurement and design.

When your child works with you to complete a task, they are exploring position and how to move their bodies and a spade within a confined space. They are experimenting with ideas like:

  • how close they can get to the castle before the edges collapse
  • which side to work from to start building the moat

As they dig they are developing large and small muscles in their bodies. They are developing strength, control and coordination in all of their body parts including the large muscles in their trunk. Having a strong core, or trunk, is important as it helps children with good sitting posture.

What does this lead to?

As your child digs, fills and tips out the bucket they are exploring the space around them and the relationship between people and objects nearby. As they explore space they are developing mathematical ways of thinking. Mathematical thinking involves using memory, learning how to orient your body in space and making judgements about distance and size.

As the bucket fills up, your child will be hearing and using the different words and language we use to measure and describe size. This helps them to understand that we change words or language to describe an attribute of an object. The attribute could be time, temperature, size, space or capacity.

Digging, tipping and filling helps children to develop trunk and body control. Body control is needed to help develop good posture. If children do not have a good sitting posture they are not able to write for long periods of time because they will get tired and start to lean on the desk. Leaning over affects the range of movement children have for writing and drawing.

Language and Questions to use

  • Sand
  • Wet, dry
  • Bucket, spade
  • Speed, quickly, slowly, smoothly
  • Full, empty, half, quarter
  • Soft, firm, condensed, tightly packed, spaces
  • Top, middle, bottom
  • Side, edge, against, behind, in front, alongside, inside
  • Under, over, around, through
  • Volume, capacity, measurement
  • Estimate, predict, problem-solve, experiment
  • Decoration, ornament
  • Castle, turret, moat, door, window, drawbridge
  • Can you make a sandcastle using dry sand?
  • Can you balance a smaller bucket of sand on top of a larger one?
  • What happens if you don’t fill the bucket up to the top with sand?
  • How could we make a door to get inside the castle?
  • What happens if a wave washes over the top of the castle?

Useful Tips

  1. You might also like to take a look at the activities Digging and Build it – build it higher.
  2. It’s easier to build with wet or damp sand.
  3. If you can’t easily get to the beach or a sandpit you can fill a large tub or tray with sand.
  4. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Look through different books to find pictures of castles. Can you make your sandcastle look like the one in the picture?
  2. Make your own flags to fly on top of the castle.
  3. Collect different objects and natural resources to decorate the castle.

Variation by age

Birth to two year olds

  • Dig a tunnel for your toy cars.
  • Make a river or moat around the castle.
  • Make a sandcastle at the beach.
  • Add spoons for digging when using small containers.
  • Use shells, leaves, gumnuts and sticks for decoration.

Questions to ask

  • How wide does the tunnel need to be?
  • Will that fit?
  • Where will you put that?
  • What happens to the sandcastle when the wave comes in?
  • You have a very small container - will you use a big spade or a little spoon?

Language to use

  • Big, little, small, large
  • In, under, on, through
  • Smash, crash, disappear

Three to five year olds

  • Dig a tunnel for your toy cars.
  • Make a river or moat around the castle.
  • Make a sandcastle at the beach.
  • Add spoons for digging when using small containers.
  • Use shells, leaves, gumnuts and sticks for decorations.
  • Add plumbers’ pipes to the sandpit. The pipes can be used to carry water to the castle and moat.

Questions to ask

  • How wide does the tunnel need to be?
  • Will that fit?
  • Where will you put that?
  • What happens to the sandcastle when the wave comes in?
  • You have a very small container - will you use a big spade or a little spoon?
  • How long will it take for the water to reach the end?

Language to use

  • Big, little, small, large
  • In, under, on, through
  • Smash, crash, disappear
  • Beginning, end, start
  • Time, measurement, length
  • Quick, slow

Making sandcastles

Skills this activity improves

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