There is something whimsical and universally compelling about burying and/or being buried in the sand. We’ve all done it or had it done unto us, but likely haven't realized why, when done right, it satisfies both the child and educator in us.
Little kids (ages 2-4):
Start by scooping sand until you cover your kid’s feet, legs, hands or arms with sand. Marvel at their disappearance, then cheer as they burst back out from under the sand. Repeat.
Older kids (whenever patient enough)
Try to scoop enough to cover their entire body with sand. Take a photo so the immobile child can appreciate what he/she looks like covered in sand.
Add some math (kids 5+)
Dig a hole big enough to fit your child (shoulders to toes), lay your child in it, then fill in the hole (It will appear as if his/her body has actually disappeared). To get started, ask, “How big should the hole be if your body (shoulders down) will fit in it?” See how they approach that problem and follow their lead.
Let the whole family cover YOU in sand. Just keep your eyes closed tight or find a makeshift eye pillow. Enthusiastic scoopers can do a number on your corneas!
Some more math challenges: Lie down and be traced; Use a stick, flip flop or other long, thin object to approximate their length and width (at shoulders), then make a hole with those dimensions; Use a dollar bill (6” and usually readily available) to find a foot-long or yard-long stick and measure their actual dimensions and make a more exact hole.
Why is this activity great for kids?
It turns out that the weight, texture, dampness and varying temperature of sand resting upon your skin makes this a super charged sensory experience for kids, amplifying the learning potential. Further, kids ages 1 through 5 or 6 practice universal behavior patterns called "schema" which include the habit of enclosing oneself. There is no better way to hide out than to be covered with sand.
For most kids (especially our wee ones), this is a challenging lesson in self control to hold still long enough to actually get to buried. Finally, it can be a great springboard for learning some fundamentals of math, giving the perfect context for teaching about volume, as well as measurement and problem solving skills.