This fun transport or city themed sand sensory play is easy to set up and so much fun to play with.
If you have a child who loves cars or trucks, or who enjoys small world play, or you just need a fun activity to engage your kids, this sand sensory play idea is perfect!
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.
Sometimes, living with a preschooler who is full of lots of emotions can be rough. Sometimes you just need a special activity to distract and engage them. This was one of those days!
My preschooler was in floods of tears when his Dad left without him. I knew he would have been bored silly driving around town with Dad, but he was just so upset. I needed a distraction, something to make him think staying at home with me was WAY better then going out with his Dad. I needed a special activity to really engage him.
So I grabbed a big, deep sided tray, braved the rain, and headed out to the sandpit. By the time I was back inside with a tray full of sand, the tears were gone and my preschool was interested.
“What are you doing Mum?”
“Oh something special…”
“Something special for me?”
This sand sensory play activity is easy to set up and the perfect distraction for a child who likes cars and trucks, or a child who loves imaginative small world play, or a child who needs the calming aspect of sensory play – or in my case all three!
It’s also a great open ended activity for a transport or city themed project with your class. Setting this up each day will allow your preschoolers or kindergarten students to explore lots of different ideas and concepts as they follow their interest in cars, vehicles, the city, or even your local neighborhood.
Benefits of Sensory Play with Sand
Sand is a great option for sensory play, whether it is outside in the sandpit, or inside in a big tub, or a tray like we used.
Exploring the sensory properties of sand, it’s texture, weight, how it smells, how it moves, and more is a fun, often calming, sensory experience for children. This simple sensory play is often the beginning of scientific investigation and thinking as kids innately explore concepts such as heavy and light, wet and dry, and experiment with building and mark making in the sand.
Sand play is great for practicing fine motor skills, strengthening small muscles and developing eye-hand coordination – all skills that are needed for writing.
Playing with sand, especially with a small world or imaginative play set up like this one, is a great opportunity to use and develop language and social skills if your child is playing with, or even along side another child. If you are at home with only one child, you can encourage these same skills by asking open questions and encouraging conversation about their play, and by joining in and modelling sharing, taking turns, and collaboration.
Small world sand play set ups such as this one are also an awesome way to encourage creativity and imagination. They can be a great space for story telling, role playing, and even for a child to ‘play out’ and work through any worries or issues they may be trying to understand.
How to Set Up Transport Sand Sensory Play
This transport themed sand sensory play activity is easy to set up and you can even involve the kids.
You could use a tuff tray/builders mixing tray (have a look at your local hardware store for one of these or check out this smaller option on Amazon), or an under bed storage box (these are great as they have a lid so you can easily pack it away and get it out again another day), a sensory table, or just a large serving tray like we used.
Next you’ll need some sand.
We are lucky to have a sandpit in our backyard, so even when its cold and wet I can dash outside and fill up a container with sand for some indoor sand play. If you don’t have a sandpit you can buy play sand from most hardware stores or online.
You’ll need about 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of sand to fill a tub or tray big enough for one child. That’s about 6kgs (13 pounds) of dray sand. For this sand tray set up you will probably use less than that as you only need a small layer of sand, but it’s always good to have a bit extra.
Tip: Add a little water to make your sand damp – this will make it easier to mould into shapes and a lot less messy!
Now that you have your container and your sand, you just need to choose some accessories.
For this transport/city themed sand play tray we used:
You could add anything you like to your sand tray set up. My kids added animals, glass gems, a wooden rainbow stacker, and other extra items as their play became more involved.
Get your kids involved with choosing what to add to the sand try and get them to help you collect items. My preschooler loved going outside in the rain to collect leaves to make ‘trees’, and sticks to make ‘fences’
You can simply add the sand to your container and pop the accessories on the table and let your kids do the rest, or you can set up a little invitation to play.
I decided to set up and invitation to play with cars on the sand tray. So I pressed a layer of damp sand firmly down into the tray, then using a block I pressed some ‘roads’ into the sand. I added a few road signs and a car or two and we were ready to play.
As my preschooler played, he added his gum leaf trees, some stones, a tunnel made from our rainbow stacker, some blocks, lots and lots of cars to make a busy city.
We left the sand try out all day and my preschooler came and went as he pleased. Later in the day he came back with our tub of animal figurines and added lots and lots and LOTS of animals, and even a penguin swimming in a pool!
And of course this kind of small world sensory play is not just for little kids!
We left the sand tray out so the bigger kids could also have a play after school.
If your kids love cars, trucks and all things transport themed, they might also like these ideas:
And you might also like to check out our city themed play dough printables in the shop.