In 1925, Margaret Lowenfeld (1890-1973), an English pediatrician, left orthodox pediatrics and began the psychiatric treatment of children. She wanted to create “a free and protected space” in which children could communicate their needs and fantasies. In her clinic, she had a zinc tray filled with sand, and many miniature models of people and objects. She called it a “Wonder Box.” The children themselves created “worlds,” spontaneously and seemingly inevitably; thus Lowenfeld developed what she called “The World Technique.”
Dora Kalff, a Swiss Jungian analyst, attended a conference in which Lowenfeld presented her technique of communication, and went to study with Lowenfeld in England in 1956. Kalff called the technique “sandplay,” introduced it widely and influenced therapists both in the United States and in Europe.
The sandplay method began with children, but evolved over time to be used with adults. In her 1979 book, Lowenfeld describes the method as being independent of age.
The act of visioning is the central activity in Sandplay work. It goes back to the dawn of consciousness when a shaman's visions provided guidance to the tribe. The visions and images were used as a means to invoke good fortune and to heal.
Sandplay can provide the basis for the interaction of body and psyche, matter and spirit. Almost everyone has a history in childhood of playing in the sand, constructing elaborate castles at the beach or playing games in the back yard sand box. This common experience makes sandplay accessible to everyone.
Sandplay provides a way for dreams to be made visible and tangible. In the psyche, an image is more powerful than mere words. The image of a Sandplay World brings clarity, and then energizes action in real life, making goals come true.
Ruth Ammann, Healing and Transformation in Sandplay, Open Court Publishing Company, 1991.
Kay Bradway and Barbara McCoard, Sandplay – Silent Workshop of the Psyche, Routledge, 1997.
Katherine Bradway et al, Sandplay Studies: Origins, Theory and Practice, C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, 1981.
Margaret Lowenfeld, The World Technique, Allen & Unwin, Institute of Child Psychology, 1979. (Published posthumously)
Rie Rogers Mitchell & Harriet S. Friedman, Sandplay: Past, Present & Future, Routledge, 1994.
Jeannette Pruyn Reed, Sand Magic, Privately Published by JPR Publishers, 1975.