If your child is a little too exuberant in the sandbox, what to do? Saying “Don’t throw sand” seems to have little effect, as does the ubiquitous “Be careful!” Instead, look at what’s going on and try one of these things:
Is your child a young toddler and just flinging sand around for the joy of it?
Try saying, “You can put your sand into a bucket!” If that has little effect, say, “Where IS a bucket?” If she doesn’t grab one right away, put one within easy reach and start shoveling sand into yourself. “Like this!” Remember, young children learn through imitation.
Is your child an older toddler who is enjoying the big reaction from getting sand on others?
Try saying, “Your friends are saying, ‘Please stop!'” Pause for a moment and give him a chance to alter his behavior on his own. If he doesn’t, say, “You can put sand on yourself!” I don’t know why this works so well, but it does. Either the child enjoys the sensory experience of pouring sand on himself, or he does it once and then moves on to something else.
Is your child a preschooler?
I’ve had the “You can put sand on yourself” phrase work well with children up to age 5. But for older children (ages 3.5 and up) I’ll often say, “What can you do that you BOTH will enjoy?” This encourages children to notice how others are reacting, and to respond respectfully. It promotes mutually responsive relationships between children: ones where everyone’s needs can be met. Sometimes children will need help coming up with ideas that everyone can enjoy. Occasionally, they’ll say, “But I want him to cry.” When this happens I’ll say, “It’s important to act kindly, no matter what you want.” I will help that child come up with something that everyone can enjoy, or I will help him move on to a different activity where he’s not bumping up against others. This might be by finding more space for him, but it’s often by finding “good work” for those busy hands to do as my helper so that we can be productive together.