Sunday, September 26, 2021

Play In the Sand Day - Family Storytime

When I haven't come across any books to inspire me - which has been happening a lot this last year as there seems to be a dearth of new picture books suitable for storytime - I start looking over the lists of various holidays and observances to get ideas for themes I haven't done before. I found that National Play in the Sand Day fell right on our storytime day, and decided to give that a go as playing in sand is such a great activity for little ones, and here are a few articles explaining why:

We started with our usual "Hello" song, then a warm-up song. I choose a different warm-up song each month, and for August it was singing the ABC's, but with a twist. Instead of using the usual tune ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"), each week we sang them to a different familiar children's tune, and this week it was "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". We started by singing one verse of the original song to get the tune in our heads, then singing the ABC's to it. This can be surprisingly difficult, so we repeated it, and I encouraged them to practice at home.

Singing the alphabet to different tunes allows different letters to be emphasized and heard distinctly, so "L,M,N,O,P" don't always get squished together, and it forces one to think about what they are singing rather than going on automatic and relying on muscle memory. Mel's Desk has a great resource for this, mapping out the alphabet to 5 different tunes.

Playing in the sand storytime
After a lead-in song, we were ready for our first book, Sea, Sand, and Me by Patricia Hubbell and Lisa Campbell Ernst. Though not specifically about playing in the sand, this gentle story shows a young girl and her family spending a day at the beach, where she makes a new friend, and enjoys playing in the sand and the waves. This was a good choice for the younger ones in the audience as it was short and simple, and though the illustrations are not bright and bold, they are colorful and uncluttered.

We followed this with a song I saw at Storytime Secrets about going to the beach that allows the kids to fill in the blank and name things they might see there:

We’re Going to the Beach
(to the tune of “Farmer In the Dell”)

We're going to the beach,
We're going to the beach.
I think we'll see some ______ there!
We're going to the beach.

Playing in the sand storytime, sandcastle storytime
Our second book showcases a spectacular sandcastle, and also features making new friends, in this case between two monsters who are very different and don't speak the same language.

 In Victoria Turnbull's Kings of the Castle we discover that monsters like playing at the beach, too, waiting until nighttime when all the people are gone. This night, George meets a creature who comes out of the sea, but first thinks they can't be friends because they don't speak the same language. But, he discovers they can communicate with drawings and gestures, and by the time the night is over they have worked together to build an amazing sandcastle, which is shown across a huge fold-out spread. The illustrations are a bit dark due to the nighttime setting, which initially give it an unintended spooky feeling.

We ended with a rhyme counting down from 5 to 1 with sandcastles that I first saw on Storytime Katie's blog, accompanied by clipart sandcastles on my magnet board (that I forgot to take a picture of and will add later):

Five Pretty Sandcastles

Five pretty sandcastles standing on the shore,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were four.

Four pretty sandcastles standing by the sea,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were three.

Three pretty sandcastles standing by the ocean blue,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were two.

Two pretty sandcastles standing in the sun,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there was one.

One pretty sandcastle just out of reach,
The tide came in (whoosh!) but it stayed on the beach! 

We closed with announcements, a good-bye song, and I handed out the take-home crafts.

While I really would have preferred to end with actual sand play with a sand table or sandbox, but we did not have either, nor any regular or kinetic sand on hand (though that is about to change, more on that later!), so I had to settle for a craft. I decided on giving them a sandcastle coloring sheet that they could first color in any details, then squeeze glue along the outlines, and sprinkle sand on the glue, let dry thoroughly, then dump off the excess.

Sandcastle craft, sandcastle storytime

Squeezing the glue is great for hand strength, and they would still get the tactile benefit of playing in the sand. Since I didn't have any sand on hand, and did not really want to buy a 50lb bag just for this craft, but I did have plenty of salt. So I colored the salt a pale beige by grating brown and gray sidewalk chalk against a wire mess strainer and mixing it in the salt to make it more of a sandy color, and mixed in just a few coffee grounds to give some realistic darker specks.

How It Went
It went well, they enjoyed both stories and were really impressed by the huge, detailed sandcastle in Kings of the Castle. I really wish I could have had one book that showed playing in a sandbox with trucks and cars, or measuring cups, rather than both being set at the beach, as most of these kids have never been to the beach, and don't find it as relatable. 

But, just to show how kids that may not *appear* to be paying attention are absorbing a lot more than we may realize, I need to share one thing that happened. I have one semi-regular toddler who is very active, and can't sit still more than a few minutes. He typically starts getting squirmy, then has to stand up, and gradually starts wandering more and more.

Today, he was running all around, seemingly completely oblivious to what we were doing. I expect this from toddlers, and it doesn't bother me at all, but I do occasionally try to re-focus them by calling them by name to ask a question, or point something out. As we were doing the sandcastle counting rhyme, this little boy was running around, and came zipping by behind everyone else just as we were down to the last one. I called out to him, "Hey, Ollie, how many are left?" He paused half a second, look over and happily called out "One!" as he held up one finger, then continued merrily on his way. I was so glad his caretaker and the other adults got to see this!

I REALLY wish I could have had actual sand play as the after storytime activity, but it just wasn't possible. Hopefully they have access to a sandbox at home or at a local park. However, I am working on a project to provide more opportunities for sensory exploration in the future, including a sand/water table.

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