Why You Should Include Sand and Water Play In Your Landscape Design

Just like timber, vegetation and stone, sand and water shape the Australian landscape. Here’s what to consider when integrating them into your playground design.

Sand and water allow for materially creative play. They are natural elements that can be shaped, formed, directed, moved and made into ‘things’. Think of the play space as the canvas, and sand and water as the paints.

The value in sand and water play comes from the fact that these are elements from the natural world. In exploring them, children are unconsciously absorbing the fundamentals of science while using their imagination to explore, learn and ultimately have fun.


Creating A Unique Nature Play Design

At face value, there are countless reasons why it’s worth including sand and water play equipment in your spaces. From the cognitive and emotional benefits of allowing their imaginations to run wild, to the social element it can provide for group play, as well as the physical benefits of learning about how different properties like sand and water respond to touch.

Beyond this, sand and water equipment provides landscape architects with a more diverse palette from which to design the ultimate play space. It can help you create a more holistic array of textures and colours and elements, rather than relying on the traditional and less-creative prescriptive play equipment.


Play Needs According To Different Ages

Age is only one factor to consider when designing play spaces for children. Every child develops differently, and it’s important to factor in the individual needs of some children, as well as their physical and cognitive development, and their familiarity with certain environments and elements.

That being said, it’s best practice to include a range of play equipment that factors in the needs of each age range. The beauty of sand and water play is that it engages a wide span of ages and abilities.

  • 0–12 months: Infants are only just becoming aware of sensory stimuli. They will be interested in copying what an adult is doing, and only just beginning to sit, crawl, stand up and maybe clamber over low objects.
  • 12 months – 2 years: They become more confident with climbing in and through objects, and are particularly fascinated with filling, emptying and carrying things which is ideal for sand and water play. Playing in sandpits is extremely popular at this age.
  • 2 years: At 2, children are enjoying parallel play next to other children, as well as joining in on group play in simple environments like a sandpit. They love manipulating small objects and filling up containers.
  • 3 years: They begin to engage in basic socio-dramatic play. They are still fascinated by sand and water play, and are very competent at pouring and filling things up.
  • 4 years: A greater interest in the natural world is apparent at this age, especially in learning the science of how things work. They can manipulate more complex sand and water equipment like a sand digger.
  • 5 years: At around 5, kids prefer cooperative play and like to test out their new skills and stunts in front of others. In terms of equipment, they enjoy constructions and making realistic models with sand, water, mud and other natural elements.


Considering Each Individual Play Element

Naturally, each piece of playground equipment is designed to foster different play benefits. It’s worth considering how this translates into your product choice and design.

Let’s consider one of Natura’s most popular pieces of water play equipment, a water pump with reservoir. The key benefits of this particular piece include:

  • Physical: Helps develop upper-body strength from pushing down on the pump. This is important for fine motor skills such as handwriting.
  • Cognition: Greater understanding of consequences through cause and effect (i.e. “I push down on this and that is what happens.”)
  • Emotional: Can reduce stress and provide a calming effect from running water. Understanding how certain things can reduce stress is an important skill.
  • Sensory: Children experience the sensory benefits of different water ‘textures’ – warm versus cold, dry versus wet, fast versus gentle flow.
  • Social: Taking turns with pushing the pump helps them understand how to negotiate with others while also building relationships.
  • Creativity: Creative play through building ponds, streams, moats, and mixing sand and water together. Builds problem-solving and creativity skills in other settings.
  • Earth appreciation: Learning opportunities around water conservation, which can help them build respect and care for their natural environment.

And the list goes on… Regardless of the exact piece of nature play equipment, it’s evident that children have a natural attraction to sand and water play. Our job as designers is simply to ensure they have the right environment and equipment to foster this curiosity.

Need help selecting which mix of sand and water play products work best for your project? Our play consultants and product designers are here to help. Give us a call on 1800 655 041.

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Acknowledgement of Country

Natura acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — the traditional Custodians of the land on which we work. We respect their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture and recognise that sovereignty has never been ceded. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.