Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Pencils, Poems and Princesses; Exploring the properties of sand

This week's activity can be found in the CIEC resource 'Pencils, Poems and Princesses' which can be downloaded from

The activity can be found on page 45 and is linked to the Shirley Hughes book 'Out and About'.  This is a poetry book which celebrates the seasons, the weather and the joy of exploring a variety of materials including mud, sand and water. There are opportunities to make links with EYFS Understanding the world, Mathematics and Characteristics of effective learning and Y1 Mathematics and working scientifically.  More details can be found at the bottom of this post.

The Activity: Making Sandcastles

  • Children are given some dry sand and water and encouraged to experiment to find the consistency which makes the best sandcastles.  This gives lots of opportunities to use language such as more, less, too much and not enough as well as to describe the different mixtures. 
  • Children can also be encouraged to notice how the properties of sand alters; when it is dry it flows like water, but once wet it begins to behave more like a solid.  They could also be shown how to use a hand lens to look carefully at the sand and to notice that it is made up of tiny particles. 

All of the poems in this beautifully illustrated book could be used to teach Early Years and KS1 science as they follow two small children through the changing seasons.

  • The activity could link well with Y1 maths if children are encouraged to count how many cups of water and sand are needed to make the perfect sandcastle.  However, I would urge teachers not to rush to start measuring and recording the quantities needed too soon.  Instead, allow a period of extended exploration and play.   
  • Interestingly this is an activity that I have done with a wide range of ages from nursery children to PhD students and the only people who made any attempt to begin the activity by accurately measuring the ingredients were primary school teachers!
  • The activity can easily be sized up or down.  Children might enjoy making enough sandcastle mixture to make 'giant castles' with a builders' bucket in the outside sandpit.  Alternatively, they could make 'fairy castles' with shot glasses, teaspoons and pipettes in trays indoors.  

Suggested equipment:
Dry sand, water, buckets in various shapes and sizes, smaller containers such as shot glasses and plastic beakers, spoons, spades, pipettes

   Links to the Statutory framework for EYFS:

Areas of learning and development
  • Understanding the World
  • Mathematics

Characteristics of Effective Learning

  • Playing and Exploring
  • Active Learning
  • Creating and Thinking Critically

   Links to the National Curriculum:

Y1 Everyday materials:
  • distinguish between an object and the material from which it is made
  • describe the simple physical properties of a variety of everyday materials
Working scientifically:
  • ask simple questions
  • observe closely, using simple equipment
  • perform simple tests
  • using their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions

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