Kinetic Sand: What’s It All About?

Kinetic sand. You have probably heard of it.

Although it’s essentially just a lump of moldable sand, kinetic sand causes immense fascination in kids and adults alike. It’s inexplicably mesmerizing and satisfying.

It behaves like wet sand without being wet; it sticks to itself, but it is not sticky; it feels soft but it is not fluffy; it hardens when you squeeze it but melts when you don’t.

Confusing, right?

Kinetic sensory sand is fun to play with because it moves, molds, bends, and cuts in a way that is pretty unique. It may seem silly, but the first time your kids give kinetic sand a touch, expect them to be entertained for hours!

Even though there are mentions of it as early as 1915, kinetic sand has gained enormous popularity over the last few years. A quick search on Instagram for #kineticsand can bury you in endless videos of people enjoying a grand sensory experience.

But what is kinetic sand? How does it work? Is it magic?

What is kinetic sand?

In a nutshell, it is simply a particular brand and variety of hydrophobic sand, which literally translates to “sand that is afraid of water.”

It’s got other common names, like magic sand, wet sand, and sand slime. But kinetic sand is a bit different from regular magic sand, as it acts like wet sand out of water. (Magic sand only becomes magical after you put it in water.)

How does it work?

Why does kinetic sand feel and behave like wet sand? Essentially, it’s just sand that’s coated with silicone oil, which causes the particles to group together and act as a liquid. It also prevents it from sticking to any other surface and from drying out.

Much like the wet sand at your local beach, kinetic sand is moldable. But when you don’t apply any pressure to it, the sand moves slowly, which is where the “kinetic” part comes from. So if you shape kinetic sand into a ball and leave it on the table, it’ll gradually flatten over time.  

How is it made?

It’s made from ultrafine sand and dimethicone. So it’s basically regular sand mixed with a polymer, which gives the sand a consistency of a very densely packed fluid.

If you and your family enjoy DIY projects, you could try making your own kinetic sand at home. You can find plenty of tutorials with a quick Google search, with various levels of difficulty.

For those that prefer something simple and entirely non-toxic, there are tutorials that show you how to make kinetic sand using nothing but sand, cornstarch, and a bit of cooking oil. On the other hand, there are also more advanced tutorials, which use Elmer’s glue, dish soap, liquid starch, or even eye drops.

Here is an easy-to-find recipe you can use when you want to make it at home:

You will need:

  • Fine white sand
  • Cornstarch
  • Dish soap
  • Food coloring
  • A cup of water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring tools

How to make:

  1. Pour about 3 to 4 cups of fine dry sand into the mixing bowl.
  2. Add in two tablespoons of cornstarch.
  3. Mix the sand and cornstarch.
  4. Make the polymer by mixing a cup of water and a teaspoon of dish soap.
  5. Add any color you want to your soapy polymer solution.
  6. Slowly pour the polymer solution into the sand and work it in using both hands.
  7. Enjoy your kinetic sand!

What is kinetic sand used for?

Sure, kinetic sand is fun to play with.

But aside from looking cool, it can have other effects. Children (and adults) who have issues with anxiety could try playing with sand to calm their nerves.

Is your child fidgety and can’t sit still during online lessons? Kinetic sand could help them concentrate by allowing them to direct their abundance of energy somewhere, keeping the mind focused.

It’s also often used by therapists looking for materials to help further a child’s development. Some of its therapeutic benefits include:

Fine motor development

Kinetic sand can develop fine motor skills because of its hands-on nature. Encourage your child to squeeze, squish, or smash it to strengthen their hands. Make them poke or pinch it to develop index finger skills. Help them roll or flatten it to develop bilateral skills. Scoop or cut it to teach them grasping. It’s that versatile.

Sensory processing

Some kids crave tactile input, while others are sensitive to it. Kinetic sand can be a great fit for either.

Kids who love touching everything they can get their hands on will enjoy squeezing and pressing the sand. On the other hand, kids who dislike messy play will enjoy its soft, non-sticky texture.

Pre-writing activities

You can encourage your children to practice drawing letters, numbers, shapes, and pre-writing strokes using their fingers or other objects.

Creative and pretend play

Playing with sand is a great way to stimulate the creative brain in a relaxed way. You can use props to simulate and encourage pretend play in toddlers. For instance, place little zoo animals on top of a pretend island zoo or drive up a car to the top of a kinetic sand mountain.

Speech and language

Playing with sand can also help kids who have trouble speaking. It can act as a tool for the parent or therapist to interact with the child.

Calming effects

Sometimes, the mere process of playing with kinetic sand and its fluid nature is enough to bring a sense of calm to kids and adults alike

What can you do with kinetic sand?

So what activities can you do using kinetic sand? How do you actually play with it? Here are some quirky ideas.

Find the hidden treasure

Prepare the sandbox, place your kid’s favorite things on the bottom, and cover them with the sand. Then, your kid can dig around and search for them.

For instance, you could hide some of their figurines or even their favorite snack or candy (provided that it has a wrapper, of course). If you have enough sand for it, you could even hide a small treasure chest in there. Your child will feel like a cunning pirate hunting for gold!

Here’s an idea for slightly older children: You can put letters or messages in the sand. When your kid finds them, they have to use them to come up with a word or a sentence. Just don’t forget to reward them for their efforts afterward.

Sandcastles!

Covid-19 has prevented most of us from getting our well-deserved summer vacations. But we can at least pretend.

Thanks to kinetic sand, you can build sandcastles without ever stepping foot on the beach. Break out your sifters, shovels, and rakes—it’s time to finally put them to good use again!

Aside from sandcastles, you can sculpt plenty of other stuff, such as animals or food. Kitchen utensils like cookie molds, ice cream scoops, and others could take your pretend-play to the next level.

In addition, you can use the sand to give Mr. Potato Head a brand new look or even sculpt a whacky summer snowman.

Good ol’ doodling

If your little one is learning to write or count, they can practice using kinetic sand. Simply place the sand in a box or some other container and flatten out its surface. Your child can then write or draw on it using a stick of some sort.

You can even give them some tasks to solve, such as basic addition or subtraction. Then they can write out their answers in the sand.

Other fun ways to play with kinetic sand

Here are a few more random ideas you can try with your kids:

  • Place sand in molds to make different shapes
  • Teach your kids how to form words by stamping magnetic letters into the sand
  • Poke things like straws into the sand to make various designs
  • Make sand tubes by pushing the sand through the straws
  • Use cookie cutters on to carve out specific shapes
  • Form the sand into blocks and stack these to build something
  • Make pretend food out of the sand
  • Bury a toy dinosaur and start a fun little dinosaur excavation with your little one
  • Play pretend “paint” in the sand with paint brushes
  • Shape it into logs or whatever shape you want, then slice it using a plastic knife

Honestly? Only your imagination is the limit.

Is it safe?

Generally yes, but pay attention to which brand of sand you’re purchasing. Brand-name kinetic sand claims to be entirely non-toxic. If you make your own at home, you can ensure that it’s completely safe.

Nonetheless, you should supervise children under three years to stop them from swallowing it.

How long does kinetic sand last?

Simply put: a very long time.

There’s is no definitive answer to this question. If well-kept, kinetic sand should last for years. It doesn’t dry out or go bad. You can extend its shelf life by storing it properly.

How to store kinetic sand

Kinetic sand is best stored in a sealable container or bag. The main goal is to keep it all in one place and dust-free. But if you forget to put it back and accidentally leave it out overnight, don’t worry. Nothing will happen to the sand. It will still be good as new.

The best part is: It’s incredibly easy to clean, as it sticks to itself. If mess around the house is your pet-peeve, you will love kinetic sand.

Does kinetic sand dry out?

No, it doesn’t.

(At least not according to the original manufacturers.)

If the sand’s texture looks strange or if it’s not performing up to par, it’s most likely due to how humid it is. In case your sand appears dry, just add a few drops of water. Then, mix and knead it thoroughly until it restores its original texture.

What happens when kinetic sand gets wet?

Nothing dramatic.

If it feels too moist to the touch, simply spread the sand out on a flat surface and leave it to dry for a while. It should soon be back to its previous state and ready for action.

Yup, kinetic sand is the coolest

All in all, kinetic sand can provide hours and hours of mess-free creative playtime for the whole family. It’s incredibly versatile, so both younger and older children can enjoy it equally.

So, what do you think? Is kinetic sand going on your next shopping list? Let us know in the comments!

Leave a Comment