Sandplay Therapy

Tatev Melkonyan

 

Sand playgrounds have been made in the inner yards of the primary schools of «Mkhitar Sebastatsi» Educomplex: big areas covered with sand and framed with logs and used car wheels. At first sight sand seems to be so plain and simple that it won't bring anything new into our life. But in reality it proved to be very surprising and mysterious substance very useful for our pre-school learners. Playing with sand is a creative activity which fosters revealing children's peculiarities. Children's dispositions and interests are displayed while they are playing. Contact with sand helped to integrate subjects. The pre-school children acquired some elementary knowledge in Mathematics, were able to do some science experiments. The sand games also fostered learning the alphabet.

When our 5-year-old pupils first appeared on the sand playground, the first thing they did was to wallow, and then each of them began playing within the framework of his/her interests: seperating bigger stones from smaller ones, counting, comparing, drawing figures and naming them, square, circle, triangular. Creating figures with sand developed the pupils' imagination, helped them to get rid of negative feelings. During the game they were discussing what the difference between sand and soil was, and they found out that sand grains were larger and sand didn't smell. Then they wondered what would happen if they mix water with sand. They brought water with small buckets and pouring it on the sand began trampling. They saw that the sand became heavier and sticky.

While they were drawing on the sand they saw that their drawings were lack of color and decided to color the sand. They put the sand through a small sieve and then they poured the sand with smaller grains into the buckets. To colour the sand we used gouache. WE mixed some water with gouache and then we poured this paint into the bucket with sand and then we began mixing the sand with gouache carefully. In this way we were happy to see that we had buckets full of sand in different colours. After having got the colored sand it was difficult for the children to work with wet sand, and we decided to dry it. We outspread the wet sand on plywood and put it in the sun. The children came out every two hours and checked whether the sand had dried up. On the next day they were glad to discover that the sand had dried up, and they could work with it. They brought the dried up sand into the group room and outspread it on the floor. If only you could see their inspiration. They were drawing anything which came to their minds: toys, leaves, trees, flowers, geometrical figures, numbers, letters... One could learn much about their state of minds, ways of thinking, characteristic features and traits of characters.                

At the same time this method of drawing solves some other problems: emerging different psychological emotions, the ability to apprehend situations, flexibility of mind, imagination, attention, will.
We had watched and read the joyful alphabets, karaoke words, the names on the pictures made by their elder friends (the fifth graders had drawn different pictures with written names on them and hung on the rope in our group room, for example, autumn, dog, sun...). They recognized most of the letters as images very well. And now they began to draw the already known letters on the sand. When I realized that this method is very effective, we began to draw on the sand very often.

Then we added some more working objects. They drew different words with counting sticks and then read them. They wrote their names with dough. After having learned how to work with the Paint program they began drawing different words and in this way they created their own ABC book.

Some days later the parents said their children used to read the familiar letters and words on the way to school. I think it is the best method of teaching the children the alphabet: they learn the letters by playing, drawing and reading.
While playing, drawing and creating images with sand children’s concentration of attention and orientation in space are developed. They become more flexible. Sandplay in the educational process helped to form independence. The pupils learned to make discoveries in the results of their own efforts. That gave me an opportunity to act in the background and observe their actions, success and inspiration. I gave importance to the pupils' activeness during group work as group work fosters team work makes a human respect somene else's opinion and he/she becomes tolerant and patient. Sandplay also promotes pupils' sense of responsibility and the feature of being accountable to each other for ensuring the success of group work. During my observations it was obvious that the pupils were very calm, free and at ease. Carl Gustav Jung claimed that sandplay sets free the suppressed energy and activates the inner self-healing features that exist in human psycho.               

 

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