Let’s face it. Sand is fun. Sand can be a very calming sensory experience for most children (and grown ups). I actually set the empty sand tray in front of older children who meet me in crisis and this is very calming and de-escalating for them. Simply playing in the sand seems to help ground them and allow them to calm to the point they are willing to talk.
I recently bought some sand play toys such as shovels and sifters and they are a big hit! Even the middle school aged children I work with use them during sessions.
I bought a sand wheel and drew some feeling faces on each section. This has been a fun game to take turns shoveling sand into the wheel then talking about the feeling the wheel lands on. Again, this is a fun emotion expression game for ALL ages and the added sensory component of the sand really helps children appear more open in expressing feelings during the activity.
And best of all, sand play toys are usually pretty cheap when you buy them in December. 😉