Learning Maths Vocabulary while Playing Toddler Games with Sand Toys 

maths vocabulary toddlers
maths vocabulary

Focus: Sand Play Toys

Speech Therapist      Dr Sandra McMahon PhD

Sandcastle toys are another must have item for a toddler. They can be used in the bath, pools or in the sand. Take a look at a video of me letting you know why I think they are amazing toys for teaching concepts, vocabulary and even “maths vocabulary” (empty, full, half full, smaller than, bigger than.) See our FREE MATHS VOCABULARY builder download as well.

maths vocabulary


Often children love sand pit or beach play. Many parents report their toddler can spend hours in the sandpit.

Is this true for your child?

What does their play look like?

Are they focused on one big building project, just trying out all the tools and toys in the sandpit or engaging in pretend play (cooking, construction site).

Are they making noises or talking about what they are doing or are they just concentrating on “what” they are doing?

Does your child mind getting sand all over them or are they a little bit sensory  unsure (keep brushing sand off their hands, leaning into the pit but not getting right in there, will use tools (rake, spade) but not their hands)? 

Communicating with others

Sand play lends itself to “team work”. You can build a whole city of castles together with gates and moats. It is a great opportunity to encourage your child to not only listen to the suggestions of others (e.g., we could decorate it with these shells) or to encourage them to offer their own suggestions (e.g., to dig a tunnel).
Remember at first they may just point or start the actions that match their ideas. If you can “commentate” or describe what is happening in the sand play you are providing excellent models of words and sounds your child can use themselves another time.

Sand play can also help develop early “negotiation” skills (“I want it to go here”; “no not that one…”; ”yeah good idea”). Again by you putting words to their feelings and their actions you are encouraging both their understanding and use of social words.

understanding of language comes before talking

Children generally understand a word well before we hear them use it in their speech.

Encouraging understanding vocabulary – often known as “receptive vocabulary” is  therefore important to boost “expressive vocabulary” (the words toddlers say). Understanding vocabulary is vital for not only getting your toddler to speak but also for later academic success.

Did you know that early vocabulary has been linked to higher IQ's and ease of learning in school.  

vocabulary is even important for maths

NO you say – Numbers are important for maths. Well yes of course maths has very specific vocabulary that can make or break you toddler’s later maths success. Words like add more water, take some sand out (suddenly we see add = addition; and take away = subtraction).

We have a link to a FREE EARLY MATHS VOCABULARY download. This is great to print out and have on your fridge so you can remember to deliberately use these words in your play and interactions with your toddler.



spoken speech & language

So Today I wanted to talk to you how even simple toys like a sandcastle set can be super important for vocabulary development. 

Our ONLINE FIRST WORDS screener allows you to determine the total number of spoken words your toddler is currently saying so you can see on the supplied chart if they are doing OK, advanced or delayed vocabulary for their age. This test can be redone every month or so to see if they are progressing.

BUT the ONLINE FIRST WORD SCREENER also checks your child is saying words in lots of different categories like object names, describing words and a very important category “action words” or verbs. 

Research as shown that late talkers frequently have particular low use of actions words.
There are a tonne of action words you can use with sandpit toys,
Take a second to see how many you can think of…..

Well here are just a few

digging, scooping, shovelling, tipping, wetting, squeezing, stirring, mixing, shaking, pushing, hiding, finding, covering, emptying, filling, building, knocking, moving, scraping, changing, pouring, rolling, patting, raking and I’m sure there are heaps more!!!



​Just pick one or two and repeat them over and over as you play the same game a few times in succession e.g. hide 5 little dinosaurs and “dig them up” – e.g. one hiding, two hiding, more hiding! "Digging, more digging, Oh found it, Digging, digging more digging. FOUND it" etc.

A recent study (Hsu, 2017) found that the bigger range of different verbs (action words) used in parent input at 21 months of age, impacted notably on the child's use of action words 6 months later!

​Let us know in the comments what words or ideas you have to boost speech and language with sandpit toys!

TOddler Talking

Online Program

See how Focus on Toddler Talk can Start Boosting your child's Speech and Language today!

speech and language

Contact Us 

Contact us and an experienced Speech Pathologist will answer. We are here to help!

Ideas for Home

Early Intervention Activities, Resources & Ideas for home. 

when do children start to talk


Developmental Milestones & Online Checklists 

when do children start to talk

Games & Toys 

Educational Games and Toys.  With Printables!

When do children start to talk


Educational Book resources with Printables 

Toddler Talk

Take a look at our amazing new eProgram!

A Speech and Language Developmental Program that helps get your 

 Toddler Talking & Learning 

From First Words To Long Sentences

Toddler Talk has over 70 VIDEOS - Videos include: Video tutorials with personal voice over, video examples & explanations from Dr Sandra McMahon PhD, Video demonstrations of games and activities taken from actual speech therapy sessions. Video explanations of goals of each activity and explanations at three different ability levels.

With Toddler Talk Receive Resources.... Worksheets, printables, information printouts, scripts, resources.........

Toddler Talk is Available for you to start right NOW!: Delivered to you through the SpeechNet Portal. This educational Online eProgram is available to you right NOW 24/7!

Work through the program when it suits you no appointments needed. You will have full 24/7 access to the eProgram for 12 months from the date of purchase. Let's get started TODAY!

You may also be interested in...

Sandra McMahon

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments