5 Activities to Build Literacy Skills in the Sandbox

Get your child learning while playing in the sand, whether at the beach, playground, or in your own backyard.
By Jodie Rodriguez
Aug 10, 2017



Aug 10, 2017

Over the summer months, do you find yourself spending a great deal of time outside with your kids, enjoying the weather and playing with them in the sand? Turn that playtime up a notch with these literacy activities — perfect for mixing it up in the sand.

Each activity listed below will help your kids strengthen their letter recognition, develop fine motor skills, and practice sight word recognition. You just need a sandbox or a space on the beach, along with a few simple supplies.

1. Writing in the Sand

Sand makes a perfect writing surface. Pour a little water on the sand and smooth it with your hand or the back of a toy shovel. Then, grab a stick that's about six inches long, for your child to use as a writing utensil. (If you can't find one, fingers will work too!)

Little ones can draw straight or wiggly lines in the sand. Preschoolers can practice writing their names or letters of the alphabet. Afterwards, simply smooth out the writing and repeat. The resistance of the sand when your kids write helps develop hand strength.

2. Sand Letters

Sand provides a wonderful tactile sensory experience for young learners. For this activity, you will need some index cards, a permanent marker, and white school glue. Write a letter that your kids need to practice on each card.

Now, have your kids each select one letter card to identify. They will trace over the letter with glue. Next, they should sprinkle sand over the letter. Repeat with as many letter cards as necessary. Allow the cards to dry.

Once they're ready, the cards can be used to practice letter identification and tracing. Your children should identify the letter and then trace the letter with their fingers. This kinesthetic approach will help many young learners master the alphabet.

3. Digging for Letters

For this activity, tell the kids they'll be digging for buried treasures. The loot in this treasure hunt are letters of the alphabet. Hide foam or plastic letters under the sand. Hand out toy shovels and digging tools to the kids. 

As the kids find the letters, have them name each letter. Older children can also identify the sound the letter represents and even name a word that begins with that letter.

Add a little math into the activity by having the kids count how many letters they find in their treasure hunt.

4. Fill the Word Pails

Grab five sand pails, and a scooper or toy shovel. On the outside of each write a number word that the kids need to practice recognizing. For example, you might write one, two, three, four, and five.

The children now have to fill the word pails. The catch is that they can only put the number of scoops of sand in each pail based on the number word they read. It’s a clever way to get in a little reading practice during outside play.

5. Sand Signs

Kids enjoy building roads, castles, and dunes. Encourage your kids to also make signs to identify landmarks. All you need are a few sticks collected from the yard, a couple of index cards, masking tape, and a marker.

Write the name of each landmark on an index card. Young writers can sound out the words and put down the sounds they hear or you can write the names for them. Attach each card to a stick with tape. Your kids are now ready to mark each landmark by placing the sticks in the sand.

Turn your next outing in the sandbox into a literacy-building session and watch your kids flourish as they play.

Featured Photo Credit: ©kiankhoon/Thinkstock

Raise a Reader Blog
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Holidays and Celebrations
Language Arts
Word Recognition
Alphabet Recognition