Happy, sad, angry, proud, afraid…these are all normal feelings. As a psychotherapist and child therapist, I spend most of my day helping others to sort out and cope with these feelings, and as a mom, I take time to teach these skills to my children as well. I’ve posted on the impact of sand play in a child’s life before, but I especially love the idea of using colored sand as a tool for teaching and coping with feelings.
Sand art has been around for quite some time now, as described on Smithsonian.com. I love it because the final creations are beautiful, and each one is different in its own way. I incorporate sand art activities into play therapy sessions, as well as to help my own children learn about and cope with their feelings.
Getting Started — Here’s What You Need:
- Various Colored Sand
- Sand art bottles. Various kinds include Sand Art Bottle Assortment packs, Under The Sea Theme, and Melissa & Doug Sand Art Bottles (my favorite).
- Funnels. I use this 3″ Sand Art Funnel.
- Sand Art Bracelets
- Art tray (optional) to keep the mess contained. I keep various sizes of the Creativitrays on hand. They are a life saver for clean up, whether it’s sand, paint, and other crafts.
Ideas for Using Sand Art in Therapy
Happy Feelings Bottle or Bracelet:
- Identify various positive feelings: happy, peaceful, proud, excited, thankful, loved, and looking forward to…
- For each feeling, choose a color and ask the child to tell you about a person, place, thing, or time that the child feels that positive feeling.
- The child pours the colored sand into the bottle or bracelet while they talk about their memory or anything they associate with that feeling.
- Talk to the child about how they can take this bottle with them to help them remember these positive feelings and memories.
Mixed Emotions Bottle:
- Identify various positive and negative feelings: happy, sad, angry, peaceful, ashamed, proud, excited, lonely, frustrated, loved…
- For each feeling, choose a color and ask the child to tell you about a person, place, thing, or time that the child associates with that particular feeling.
- The child pours the colored sand into the bottle while they talk about their memory and association.
- Processing the bottle: the bottle can be an analogy for how we all have lots of feelings. You can choose to mix the sand colors and describe how feelings often get mixed up and it’s hard to figure out what colors (i.e. feelings) are inside. Use this to reinforce that talking to someone can help them sort out their mixed feelings.
Feeling Loved Bottle:
We have all heard of friendship bracelets, so this idea is an extension of that done with a parent and child. This is especially good for children with separation anxiety or who have to be away from a parent for an extended amount of time.
- The parent and child each make a bracelet.
- They choose a few colors and describe something they love about the other. For example, “I love how you hug me tight when we are together and will choose purple to remember that.”
- Talk with them about how they can wear their bracelet to feel close to one another when they are apart and how they have a special bond.
The image above shows my daughter’s sand bracelet creations (she wanted to make more than one!). I’d love to hear your ideas for using sand art with children.