“It takes a universe to make a child, both in outer form and inner spirit. It takes a universe to educate a child, a universe to fulfill a child.”    Thomas Berry

I have been on vacation on a tropical island in the Pacific. All I will say about it is summed up in what I overheard a woman say to her husband on the phone: “Honey, sell everything, we’re moving here”.

 I am not moving here, though one can always dream.

 But being the self admitted ECE geek that I am, I can’t help thinking ECE thoughts. And this is what I noticed….holes. Children of every age are compelled to dig holes in the sand. I watched a tiny girl not more than 11 months using her chubby little hands to scrape fistfuls of sand to examine,  taste, feel and then pat into her tiny shovel, then dump.  She repeated the process, making tiny little holes in the sand between her tiny little legs.

I watched 4 larger kids dig a hole that was 6 feet deep. It took them the better part of the day, and when it was finished they sat in it completely hidden from view.

(I have no photos of these holes. Taking pictures of OPK’s (Other People’s Kids) and posting them on the internet is a bit sketchy. I had to make due with snapping pictures in the evening when the beach diggers were done.)

 Adults are not immune to this compulsion. Dad’s and Grandpa’s seem especially drawn to digging and one can watch as the kids find other amusement and the dad and/or grandpa are still hard at it.

 Danielle and I have posted frequently about natural materials, and how The Beach Provides. What is it about sand the invites such interactions? Is it the transformation? Sand is wet, dry, hot, cold, smooth, rough, stubborn and pliable….and all of these properties can explored in one sitting (or one hole!)


One can test one’s abilities against sand, how far, how deep how high. Traces of oneself can be left, artistry and strength can be demonstrated,  but of course the sand always returns as it was when you arrived, your traces gone.

The sand asks many questions of us, invites many conversations. Holes are just one way to enter the dialogue.

About Kim

Kim is an admitted ECE geek. She and Danielle have bonded over their shared geekdom and have come to terms with it. She is a pedagogical facilitator working with educators in a number of early learning settings supporting and extending new thinking and practice. She loves reading, writing, talking and sharing ideas about the potentials of teaching and learning with ece's and young children. ECE geeks unite!

4 thoughts on “Holes

  1. Well, I just got back from searching for a possible answer to “why dig holes in sand?” I searched “digging holes” and found one site that had photos…19,459 photos of digging sand. And I thought this…wow, the power of photo documentation to help us understand; listen for the answers; get closer to an answer; and provoke even more questions. What I saw during about 8 minutes of watching the slide show leads me to ask, “Could digging sand, digging holes in sand be a natural instinct?” I saw bugs digging sand, dogs (lots of dogs) digging sand, a bear digging sand, and an ALLIGATOR digging sand, and toddlers, children of many ages, men and women of many ages all digging sand like it was the most natural thing on earth ( and with the earth) to do.

  2. Hah! That is great!! I never thought to look up digging holes! 19,459 is a lot of photos to go through….and I think you are quite right in observing “Could digging sand, digging holes in sand be a natural instinct?” The power of a photo indeed. And Google!

  3. Ahhh, digging. Whenever we look at a new site for the preschool my first question is….where are the children going to be able to dig? At Lansdowne, the children have been beavering away at a river for a number of years. Each successive group cottons on to the PLAN and makes their own contribution. When it’s raining and the hose is on a trickle, some have even achieved the ultimate goal of getting the water to flow the width of the yard! It now has a number of back waters and rivulets and is still growing! Bridges are built and then re-engineered, bikes traverse the deepest depths with great sweeps of water spraying off the tires…the industrious nature of preschoolers is awe inspiring. Natural instinct or not, it has shown itself as a need.

  4. The communal efforts of small children with small shoves can inspire! The results can be more that we could have imagined.
    Thanks Sarah.

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