Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why sand play is more than child’s play

There’s a lot more to the humble sand pit or beachfront than meets the eye — who would have thought all that mudpie-making, sandcastle-shaping and digging for treasure could have so many developmental benefits?

When many of us cast our minds back to childhood, we can remember those golden days messing about in sand (Elf Carly can remember frequently burying her brother to his head on beach trips… if only he’d stayed there!). Although we loved this fascinating substance that we could shape and mould with the simple addition of water, little did we know the vast benefits we were getting in terms of hand-eye coordination, motor skills, creativity/imagination, social interaction, muscle strengthening, and appreciation of the natural world.

German brand HABA has a fantastic range of sand and water play toys that are perfectly suited to the Australian environment. Australian supplier Michele Blanshard says sand play toys appeal to a broad age group and have an extremely high play value.

“At the beach, in the sand pit, by the creek on a camping holiday, or even at the pool; sand and water play items provide endless hours of imaginative and creative play time,” Michele says.

“The HABA sand play offering is very different to the traditional bucket and spade type product. For example, HABA’s new Sun Bistro range is perfect for the little chef: mud and sand pies are transformed into detailed baked goods with the inclusion of moulds, stamps and kitchen-style utensils.”

HABA’s general sand play products are also hugely popular, with the number one seller — the Spilling Funnel — expected to double in sales this year.

“Sand play products are really the perfect summer gift,” Michele says.

Here are some ideas of how you and your little one can have a ball in the sand (these are from the Government of South Australia’s Sand Play Factsheet):
• Lift up buckets and containers full of sand and tip them out
• Slowly tip water onto the sand – what happens to the texture and does this make it easier to build with?
• Fill a funnel or sieve and watch the sand flow out of the holes
• Make designs and pictures in the sand using tools, or natural items like twigs, shells and rocks
• Make small sandcastles with cups or containers, or big ones with buckets and digging tools for deep moats
• Bury a toy under the sand and go treasure hunting to find it
• Make roads in the sand for trucks and cars
• ‘Cook’ with sand for tea parties
• Make farms or zoos and transport animals from one site to another

Here are some great sand and water play toys from Entropy:

Sun Bistro Sand Play Bakery Large Haba Sun Bistro Pizza Habd Sun Bistro Sand Snack Hotdog
Haba Sand Bucket Scooter A great toy for prone play in the bath Haba Sand Shaker
Haba Spilling Funnel Haba Archimedean Screw Water Play Set Haba Dinosaur Digging Claw
Haba Building shovel Djeco Zooblocks Dino Rex Kid O Nesting Cups
Schleich Camel Foal Green toys sand set Haba Sand-Water Trowel
Bilibo Seedling Pirate's Gold Red Metal Wagon
Scrunch Bucket Multi Zoo Jeep Pullalong Green Toys Dump Truck

For more information about the great benefits of sand play, read this fantastic article called The Pedagogy of Sand Play.

Good posture stems from tummy time

How much time does your little one spend on their tummy playing? Children’s occupational therapist Jillian Ballantyne explains that it’s important for children from 18 months to six years to engage in belly-based floor play to prepare them for handwriting at school.

“It’s amazing how many children don’t lay on their tummies to play, yet this activity is important for developing the extensor muscles in the back to build postural control, which is really important for handwriting when they get to school,” Jillian explains.

“The ideal position is laying flat on the tummy and propping up through the shoulders, with the stabilising hand supporting the body weight and the other arm used to play the game or activity.”

Little boy in prone position Children in prone position

ABOVE: These children are in the ideal prone play position for developing the back muscles needed for postural control.

Jillian also advises using the terms “holding hand” and “working hand” with younger kids, so they don’t get confused with “left” and “right” — the holding hand is the one stabilising or holding the paper when drawing, and the working hand is the one playing the game or holding the crayons.

“There are so many activities that can be completed in the prone [belly down] position, like puzzles, wind-up toys, arts and crafts, games, and even water play,” she tells.

A great toy for prone play in the bathABOVE: Haba’s Sand Mill is a great toy for prone play in the bath – use it to funnel water through and watch the wheel spin.

Water play can be particularly useful for toddlers, especially as sitting still is often the last thing they want to do after discovering the fun of walking, riding and climbing!

“Just have a tiny bit of water in the bath (for safety reasons), put your toddler on their tummy, and give them some bath crayons to draw on the side of the bath; or a water funnel or tipping toy, or even a toy boat to encourage play in that prone position, but in a stress-free environment.”

While prone play should be encouraged from 18 months and onwards, Jillian says it’s particularly important from three-and-a-half years up to school age.

Here are some suggestions to get your little ones on their bellies:

Tummy toys for developing back muscles

Clockwise from top left: Haba Discovery Set Round & Round, Automoblox Mini Wooden Cars T9, S9 and C9, Bath Crayons, Haba Wind-up toy Dashing Dog, Janod Story Express, Haba Technics Building Blocks, Djeco Cockadoodledoo Puzzle, Kid O Tug Boat Bath Toy.

The Entropy Elves also love these toys for developing postural control:

A great creative toy for developing back muscles Bilibo even comes in beautiful silver

ABOVE: Bilibo Free Play toy allows children to invent their own games, to play and have fun in an active and creative way.

This yoga game is fantastic for posture and has a literacy element This fun animal-themed game is great for postural developmentABOVE: Janod’s Yoga Games – ABC and Zoo – have children moving in muscle-honing positions, having fun and learning at the same time – bonus!

For more toys please see If you are concerned about your child’s development or have any questions, please contact Jillian at Occupational Therapy Making Progress

Using active play to improve toddler talk

As a mother and speech pathologist with Busy Bugs, Lyn Goodwin knows how active toddlers are. But some little ones can take that notion to a whole new level — their desire to zoom here, there and everywhere can make it difficult to sit down and read books, or do other activities to work on language development. So Lyn has come-up with some activities that involve getting active, but working on words at the same time. Let us know how you go!


Ball games

A great one for outside; you can kick the ball, throw it into a bucket, or grab it in a ‘chasey’ game. Don’t sit on the sidelines and watch while your toddler runs around: Make it a game where you are both involved. Call out some words while you play and praise any attempts at copying you.

Lyn’s prompt words: kick, throw, chase, got it, run

The Entropy Elves love:

Ball games encourage language skillsFrom left to right: Quack UnpredictaBALL, Tiger Tribe Inflatable Soccer Ball, Tiger Tribe Alphabet Big Ball, and Jungly Tails Boing Ball.



Digging in the sandpit

Active toddlers tend to love digging, pushing their trucks and pouring water in the sand. You can make sandcastles, roads for the diggers/trucks, or decorate the sand with pebbles and leaves.

Lyn’s prompt words: dig, push, brrrrm, pour, water, wet, road

The Entropy Elves love:

Digging in the sand pit helps with language skills Clockwise from left to right: Haba Beach Play Water Set with Seesaw, Pintoy Handy Dump Truck, Haba Beach Play Sand Bucket Scooter, Haba Dinosaur Digging Claw.


On the swings

At the park or at home, pushing the swing is a great communicative opportunity for your toddler. Think about your toddler’s vocabulary and choose a sound or word that he/she must say each time they want a push. Always start with something that he can do; then you can expand it to a new word.

Lyn’s prompt sounds: oohhh, ahhhh

Lyn’s prompt words: more, push, again, swing

The Entropy Elves love:

Swings help with language skillsFrom left to right: Solvej Baby and Toddler Swing blue, Haba Aircraft Swing, Solvej Baby and Toddler Swing red.


Water activity

Water activities can be in the bath, at a water table, with a hose, or in a pool. These are great for toddlers who like to get messy or wet! You can play with bath toys (squirting and pouring), and use water wheels and cups with holes in a water table or pool.

Lyn’s prompt words: wet, more, again, water, get wet, squirt

The Entropy Elves love:

Water activity toys From left to right: Floating Bath Blocks, Kid O Whale Bath Toy, Corolle Bath Baby Boy, Kid O Stack and Nest Cups Cool.


Scooters, push-along bikes and cars

You can use your toddler’s bike or push-along car as another means to communicate. He/she might need your help to get ‘on’ or ‘off’, or you to ‘push’ him along the footpath.  Perhaps he would like to tell you to have a ‘ride’ too, or to ‘stop’.

Lyn’s prompt words: on, off, go, stop, push, drive

The Entropy Elves love:

Scooters, push-along bikes and carsFrom left to right: Mini Micro Scooter Pink, Janod Roll’ No Go Ride-On Horse, Red Fire Engine Speedster, Wishbone Bike.

BusyBug Kits puts together packs of toys that are designed to aid in children’s speech development and many of their toys of choice come from Entropy.