My son mouthed everything when he was a toddler and well into his early school years. It was difficult to find safe alternative ways to stimulate him cognitively through hands-on play without encountering the risks that accompany a child who explores his world by mouthing. I could not risk him putting objects in his mouth that could cause choking or get into his already compromised gut.
Sandbox play is a form of play that offers a multitude of benefits.
8 Reasons Why Playing in the Sand is Good for Kids
However, the possibility of my son swallowing sand was ever present. So, I came up with a safe and inexpensive way for him to enjoy indoor sandbox play.
Find a good sturdy box with a lid (I used a Xerox box). Get 2 or 3-10 lb. bags of instant grits. Pour the grits into the box. Add a few things like scoops, shovels, cups (various sizes, shapes and colors), a couple material scraps or other items that will allow the child to feel the textural differences of a sand like substance rubbed against different items. Be sure to select items that are sturdy and safe for your child to mouth. You may even hide a few smaller toys like a med. sized figurine or small stuffed toy that your child can dig out. Add anything you think your child may enjoy and they will have loads of endless fun and exploration. It's a great activity for a child to do independently and with friends/family.
A really cool and multi leveled idea is to hide building blocks in your alternative sandbox. Your child will have to dig up all of the blocks and put them together. How cool is that?!
Bricks and Blocks: Toys at Walmart
Lego.com Duplo Sets
Please be sure to supervise your child while they play with their alternative sandbox. After play, replace the lid and put the alternative sandbox somewhere that is out of reach for the child(ren).