Family Fun for January: Beach Sand

beachkangerooI can see my Michigan friends shaking their heads already. Beach sand? January? But January is the perfect time to think about beaches. First, it gives me a chance to salute my Australian readers, who occasionally (and very kindly) remind me that not everyone operates on Michigan’s calendar. They are beginning warm summer days, and have lots of beautiful coastline. Makes me want to take the next flight out!

But those of us in colder climates can enjoy beach days without the plane fare. One of my favorite “beach” memories happened some years ago when my husband and I had planned a Maine vacation but were suddenly unable to go when a blood clot left him home (and couch) bound. A group of loving and creative friends appeared one afternoon bearing a beach vacation in a box—sea-scented candles, a box of shells, beach books to read, snacks to munch, and loads of other treats, all to be indulged in while watching a beach video. OK, so the video was a 20-year-old video of Maui, not Maine, but it was a beach that started with “M” and that was good enough for us. We spread the beach towels in front of the screen and had a wonderful time. So whether you are enjoying the summer sun or dreaming of warmer days, here are ideas for creative sand fun in January.

1. Build sand castles. If you are on a beach, don’t stop at a simple sand castle—how about a sand village? What about a sand car or plane, ready to ride to adventure? Or for older children, try sand sculpture. If you’d like to see how serious sand sculptors get started, here’s an introduction. Or perhaps you’d just like to marvel at some of the most incredible sand sculptures ever.

Sand castles work indoors, too. Try some of these recipes for indoor sand castles, using sand from the hardware store rather than the beach. And if you’d like to be inspired, check out these  examples. or the more abstract versions below.

2.sandclockMake a sand clock. You’ll need two identical plastic bottles, a small piece of aluminum foil, duct tape, and sand. Cover the end of one bottle with foil, taping it in place. Carefully poke a hole in the foil, big enough for sand to run through slowly. Put sand in the other bottle and carefully tape the necks of the bottles together. Flip the clock over, and time how long it takes the sand to reach the bottom. Think about how you could adjust the clock to measure a particular amount of time. Piano practice, perhaps?

3. Cast something in sand. If you are on a beach, hunt for animal (or human) footprints to cast in plaster.  You could approach the activity as a scientist recording animal life or an artist, painting the castings as whimsical animals.

If no beach is nearby, how about molding sand candles instead? Use your creativity to think of new shapes your candles might take.

4. Learn more about sand. Collect sand from different beaches, or different areas of the beach and examine it under a microscope. What differences do you see?

Experiment with pouring water over sand in different ways. What might that tell you about how water affects the landscape? If you don’t have a beach handy, try making this easy Beach in a Box to experiment with erosion.

5. sand cakeHave a beach party, regardless of where you live. If you live near a beach, so much the better. Use this site to help you begin inventing your own beach-inspired games. If you live in colder climes, bring out the beach towels and beach balls, and plan the party anyway. There are lots of online resources, but I suspect you’ll do best with your own imagination. Perhaps you can serve this sand cake, complete with gummy sand critters or others you devise. Do you have a wading pool? Or maybe a plastic storage container? Think about how that could be a beach-in-the-making, and have fun! If you send a photo, I’d be delighted to post it! It might not quite equal this Japanese indoor beach, but I’ll bet you have fun. Japaneseindoorbeach

Bonus idea: My friends brought us a beach in a box. If you wanted to send a box representing your community to someone in another area, what would you include? Think about gathering the items and sending them to another family, or class.

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