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That depends on the child and her development. Sand play is a great way for your child to develop arm and hand motor skills, feel different textures, and explore the concepts of full and empty. Sandboxes in public parks also give your child a chance to practice playing and sharing with others.
"Most children seem to take to the sandbox by around 12 to 18 months, but a few kids enjoy playing in sand even before their first birthdays, especially the busy ones who like to pour things out of containers," says Victoria J. Youcha, of Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization devoted to the healthy development of infants and toddlers. "Others find the feeling of sand against their skin annoying."
When you first put your child in the sandbox, stay close. She's likely to eat some sand the first time she encounters it.
Babies and toddlers explore their world by mouthing things, and young children don't understand what they can and can't eat. Babies put things in their mouth to see how they taste.
To discourage this, tell your child, "We put food in our mouth, not sand." Most kids quickly discover that sand doesn't taste good and stop eating it. But if you're concerned, wait until your baby is out of the intense mouthing stage before letting her play in the sandbox.
As an alternative, consider filling a large, flat-bottomed container with a few inches of cornmeal. Let your child practice scooping and pouring the cornmeal with small cups and spoons. You could also bury a few toys in the cornmeal and let your child dig for them.
Even if your baby doesn't eat sand, she may get some in her eye. If you notice redness or tearing, or if you catch her touching the affected eye, it's important to keep her from rubbing it because the sand can scratch her cornea.
To remove the sand particles, rinse her eye by tilting her head over the sink with the affected eye down, have another adult gently hold her eye open, and flush for a minute or two with a stream of saline solution or lukewarm water from the faucet. If her eye continues to bother her, take her to the doctor right away.