Before moving to Boulder, Colorado, I used to live in North Carolina. As a college student, I longed for days when I wasn’t working or didn’t have anything to do for class, so I could go and escape towards the beach. I loved it! Walking in the sand, swimming in the salty water, and taking naps in the sun are some of my favorite memories of being back home.
Which brings me to our next toy idea, I sometimes like to think the creator Kinetic Sand is someone like me, someone who traded the beach for the beautiful landscape of the Rocky mountains!
Kinetic Sand is a great discovery. It’s one of the few toys I played with at a client’s a house and turned around and immediately bought some when I got home. Unlike Play-doh it doesn’t dry out, nor does it stick to different objects. It’s also easier to clean up, which is a huge win for parents!
There are so many creative ways to play with Kinetic Sand, for example you can work on fine motor skills by hiding objects within the sand and having your learner dig through and find them. You can expand on this idea by playing “hide and seek” with different objects. For example if you build a castle and a seahorse, you can hide items underneath. To get your learner to ask where something is, you may say something along the lines of “Can you give me the scoop?” Now your learner has a chance to look around and try to find it. If he can’t he may either say “Where is the scoop?” or you could prompt him by saying it for him and waiting for him to repeat your question, which gives you the opportunity to say “Oh yeah, I buried it under the seahorse”. Some other things you can do to target fine motor skills is cutting and pinching the sand as well.
Kinetic Sand can also help with basic math skills such as “more”, “less”, “some”, and “none”. This happens best if you’re playing with your learner and can find fun ways to control the amount of sand you both have access too. Maybe you split the sand up evenly and ask your learner to build a big sand castle, at some point they may have to ask for more sand. If you end up giving up all of your sand, you can ask him “Oh no, how much sand do I have left?” You can even make piles and use those piles for molds, and talk about how the castle mold uses some sand, and how the turtle mold uses less sand than the other molds.
Some children with autism may not know how to play with toys the same way that other kids their age might. Sometimes we need to model how to play with different objects as a way to warm them up to different toys. A great way you can do this is my creating a play scenario with the kinetic sand. One that I’ve used in the past is to start off by building a sand castle with the mold. I then make an animal, for example a turtle, and think of a reason why the turtle may need to visit the castle. Maybe he’s hungry and needs to make something to eat in the castle’s kitchen. In the past I would set up plastic food and bury it under the castle. I would then have the turtle go in and make a mess while making “eating” sounds as he finds his food. I’ve noticed that the sillier I am, the more my learners are engaged in what I’m doing! Now you get to be creative in coming up with ways to end the activity. What I’ve done in the past is say that the turtle is tired after eating such a big meal, so we place sand over him and make him a bed. HINT: Be sure to making burping and snoring sounds while playing! You can encourage your learner to make the same sounds too!
Of course what I wrote above is only a suggestion, there are many different play scenarios you can come up with on your own! You can even use the same one each time you play too, and just vary it a little bit to add on to your scheme.
Kinetic Sand has become very popular over the years. Here in Boulder you can find it at most places where toys are sold such as Walmart and Target. You can even search on Amazon for new ideas and themes too!