Sand Dune Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

In this lesson, you'll find out how sand dunes are formed and why some of them are in different shapes. You'll also find out what makes some sand dunes sing!

Piles and Piles of Sand!

If you've ever been on a beach or in the desert, you've seen sand. Maybe you've seen sand in a sandbox or aquarium. Sand is just teensy-tiny bits of rock. Sand can be made of any kind of rock. What makes sand different from little rocks is its size.

When sand gets blown around by the wind, it can pile up, forming a sand dune. Sand dunes come in many different shapes and sizes. In fact, the highest sand dunes can reach up to 4,000 feet high! That would be about the same height as stacking eight Washington Monuments on top of each other! Dunes can be found on beaches, in deserts, and even in the oceans, where the waves act like wind to pile up the sand.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The main thing that determines how tall a sand dune will get is how much sand there is. All dunes have two parts: the slip face and the windward side. The slip face is the side of the dune away from the wind. The windward side is the side of the dune that is being hit by the wind.

Not all sand dunes look the same. Let's find out about the different shapes of sand dunes and why they don't all look alike.

Shapes of Dunes

Sand dunes get their shape from the wind. Because the strength of the wind and the direction of the wind changes, sand dunes look different. The amount of sand available also contributes to the shape of the dune. There are five main dune shapes: crescentic, linear, dome, parabolic, and star.

Crescentic Dunes

Crescentic dunes look like a crescent moon, or the letter 'C.' These are the most common types of dunes and they're usually wider than they are long.

Linear Dunes

Do you see the word 'line' in the name of this dune? That should help you remember that linear dunes look like straight lines.

Linear Dunes

Some of them might have curves, but many of them are very straight. Some linear dunes can be up to 100 miles long!

Dome Dunes

If you took a bowl and turned in upside down, that's the shape you'd see in a dome dune. It's rounded on top and in a circle. These are the rarest shape for dunes.

Sahara Desert Dunes

Parabolic Dunes

A parabolic dune looks like the letter 'U.' Sometimes these are called 'blowouts' because the wind blows the sand from the center, leaving just a shell around the outside. They're also called 'hairpin dunes' because of their shape.

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