Sandbox Sensory Activity with Pine Cones

Pine cones in the sandbox support kids sensory play, indoors or outdoors.  Toddlers and preschoolers will also benefit from math and fine motor play with this simple sandbox activity. 

Sand play for preschoolers


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There's a lot going on in the sandbox - digging, pouring, building and spreading.  The sandbox is an amazing place for kids to explore and learn, engaging fine motor and math skills along with sensory experiences.

In this activity, we've added pine cones for some additional sensory play. The textures, colors and sizes of pine cones bring unique sensory experiences to the play.

We've also added some basic sandbox tools. Shovels and funnels contribute to the fun and learning.

A sandbox with pine cones promotes kids early childhood development by providing opportunities for learning through play.

How developmental skills are supported in sandbox play.

  • Kids use fine motor skills to dig and pour. 
  • Language skills are strengthened as you talk about prickly pine cones and soft sand
  • Early math skills are engaged as kids count, sort and arrange pine cones.


Pine cones in the sandbox

Set up the activity.

Spread a drop cloth on the floor or low table to protect the surrounding area.

Place a plastic bin on a drop cloth on the drop cloth.

Fill with play sand purchased at a hardware store or online.

Add large and small pine cones to the sandbox, along with some digging tools, buckets and toy cars.


Pine cones in the sandbox sensory play


Guide playtime with these ideas.

1. Sort and count small cones and large cones.


Dig up small pine cones in the sandbox



2. Hide small cones under the sand; then dig them up and load them into a bucket or toy truck.


Pine cones in the sandbox sensory activity for preschoolers


3. Stand up large and small cones like trees to make a forest.

4. Position pine cones in a straight line or form a circle.


Pour sand over pine cones in the sandbox


5. Slowly pour sand over the top of a pine cone.

  • Observe the sand as it trickles down through the spirals (leaves) of the pine cone. How does it look? How does it sound?


This simple sandbox activity is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. 

  • It promotes the use of important developmental skills.
  • It's also a great way to occupy your early learner during quiet times, transition times, and free play times.

 What's going on in your sandbox today?


sandbox play ideas for preschoolers


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Pine Cones Pinterest board.


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