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Dinosaur Dig Sandbox Sensory Bin
Have you ever been walking through Walmart or any store for that matter and had an idea that you just had to do? That was this box. Most of the ideas I have are spur of the moment inspirations. Some are good and work out great while others aren’t as lucky. This one worked out perfectly. It all started with rocks. In the floral section of Walmart they have bags of decorative rocks. These smooth natural colored rocks were so pretty that I had to pick them up.
Playground sand – I picked this up at Walmart for around $3. This was one bag.
Rocks – I picked up 2 packs each of two different kinds
Parragon Dinosaur Factivity – Dino bones and fun
Brushes – To brush the sand away
I also picked up a bag of seashells but the kids begged me not to dump them into the sand so I saved them for another activity.
The dinosaur bones we used came from this Dinosaur Factivity book set from Parragon. Discovery Kids has some great book sets like this. We also have the human body one and both are really full of facts and come with these build-able skeleton sets. Bub loves to learn about dinosaurs and he was very excited about this book. I like that the skeletons are fairly sturdy. I’ve had kits to fall apart as soon as they are built but this dino held up to being played with. We buried him and dug him up several times and he still looks the same.
Stages of messy play
With sand play (or nearly any messy play materials) be sure to gauge the attention span of the children while they play. I find that with the introduction of new sensory bins there is a pattern to the behavior of the kids. This is in no way scientific, just something I have noticed in my 15 years working with young children. At first the newness will keep things calm for a moment as they explore and play. This is the period where the activity is beneficial. I call it the introduction stage. This stage is where you can suggest uses for the materials. Not all kids will take your suggestions but some will not know how to work the materials at first. This stage is when you can show play. Play with the kids yourself and show them how the materials work and what you can do with them.
After a while the activity level will change. Stage two starts, I call this stage exploration. The kids will began to get more active with their self exploration. This is the stage where they want to see what else the materials can do and come up with their own uses. This stage is also very beneficial to cognitive growth but usually a little messier. You can provide them with new tools to use (such as buckets and shovels) to elongate this period. Some kids will stay in this level for awhile if the activity is interesting to them. It’s okay to let them explore on their own and make a mess. Near the end of this stage comes the stage you want to avoid…chaos.
Chaos stage is where they are not really interested in the activity anymore and began throwing the materials around for the sheer fun of making a mess. This is when testing the limits of the adult in the room becomes more fun than playing with the materials. They may attempt to leave the activity and do something else, that is fine and let them. If they are done with the sand than forcing them to play with it will end badly and more than likely a few moments elsewhere and they will come back to the sandbox or find new toys they want to try out in the sandbox. When you see them go from wonder to excitement began to think of ways to pull them into a new activity such as suggesting it’s time to wash hands and go outside or snack time.
I use a large underbed storage box for play areas that would inspire all three children to play. You can find these in the home section and they come with lids so you could cover up your play area and use as wanted. They provide ample amounts of space for three to four children to play together. I chose to use playground sand because I thought it would be more dry and able to be swept up easily. The sand we got was damp and felt more like beach sand. I’m sure it will dry out over time but they kids loved that they were able to make sandcastles with it.
In fact, Loulou didn’t want to go on a dino dig but quietly played on her end with her sand toys. She was happy to just play in the sand and that is okay too. Free Play is just as important not to mention so much easier to pull off than a dino dig.
Here is our dino dig site. I buried those bones as deep as I could in the bucket and Bub carefully extracted them using an old brush and toothbrush.
This activity is a great time for some open ended questions and discussions. We have already did several activities related to paleontology and have discussed fossils and their discovery before but if we had not, this would have been a great way to introduce the subject.