Every kid loves playing with sand, but having a sandbox isn’t always an option. Plus it’s messy! So to find a happy medium, how about trying some homemade kinetic sand?
First of all, what is kinetic sand and why it is so awesome? I’m glad you asked!
It’s sand (duh) that you can easily mold together to make awesome shapes, but if you put a little pressure on it, it falls apart. If you’ve ever tried oobleck, it’s the sand version of that. And if you haven’t, check out my post that includes how to make your own oobleck— your kids will LOVE it!
The reason kinetic sand is so great is that it’s nowhere near as messy as regular sand. It all sticks together too which make clean up easy! If smaller bits go out of the designated area, you can just press a ball of the sand onto the stray sand and they form one ball with no mess left behind!
With young kids at home, the homemade kinetic sand is great too because it makes building with it so much easier for them! It basically acts like wet sand in that regard. They seriously can’t get enough of it!
I’m gonna run through the (super easy) steps to make homemade kinetic sand, but first let’s go over the science behind it! If your kids are curious little bugs like mine are, they’ll love the mini science lesson.
How does kinetic sand work?
Kinetic sand is an example of something called a “non-Newtonian fluid”. This means that kinetic sand contradicts Newton’s law of viscosity. As mentioned earlier, oobleck is another example of this, but it’s more of a liquid whereas kinetic sand is, well, sandy haha.
The law of viscosity means that something’s state of matter (liquid, solid, or gas) is not affected by pressure or force. Thinking of a glass of water, for example, we couldn’t make it solid simply by squeezing it in our hands. In contrast, a non-Newtonian fluid CAN be altered by pressure.
This is why you can take a clump of kinetic sand into your hand and form a seemingly solid ball when pressure is applied evenly. But it changes once there is pressure put only on one area, or it’s left to sit for a while with no pressure applied at all. In either of those scenarios it will basically just ooze back into a formless clump of sand.
Some other examples of non-Newtonian fluids are:
- peanut butter
- silly putty
- blood (whaaaaat?!)
Pretty cool, huh? Though I don’t suggest playing with any of those, except maybe the silly putty. So to get our cool hands-on science fill, we shall make some homemade kinetic sand!
How to Make Kinetic Sand
There are several ways to go about doing this. The way we did it was a bit less solid than our store-bought stuff, but it’s a really cheap way to make it and the kids still LOVED it. And most importantly, it was still just as easy to clean up.
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup of sand– we have a ton of playground sand just sitting in bags, so we used that and it was great! But really, getting the finest white sand you can would work the best
- 1/2 Tbsp of corn starch
- 1 tsp of dish soap
- 1 cup of water
- Food coloring (optional)
1. Mix your sand and corn starch together
The ingredients above make a perfect amount for one bowl of sand. If you want multiple colors then I suggest making this recipe separately for each color. We decided to make 3 different colors, so we had 3 bowls with 1 cup sand and 1/2 Tbsp of corn starch in each.
2. Mix the dish soap, water, and food coloring in a separate bowl
Again, mix the amounts in individual bowls for each color if you want multiples. Put in only a few drops and mix, then add drops until you like the color. Keep in mind if you have the light brown sand (which is what we used), the color will come out darker.
I didn’t know how the colors would blend together once they played with it, so we kept it to analogous colors. We did blue, green, and yellow. The yellow didn’t show through as well, but you could still see it!
3. Slowly add the dish soap mixture into the sand mixture
But mix it as you go! We ended up using almost the whole cup because it was coarse play sand. However, the finer sands would need less liquid to blend it all together, so just add it little by little until the consistency is right. You’re looking for the sand to be obviously dampened all the way through and sticking together, but not out-right wet.
4. Store in an air-tight container
The store-bought stuff has seemed to be a bit more forgiving to this end, from our experience anyway. Homemade kinetic sand really does need to be stored properly to keep from drying out.
If by chance your kiddos do forget to close it up and it dries out, it’s easy enough to fix. Just mix a little more dish soap and water and add in very small amounts until it’s back to the right consistency.
Now that you have your homemade kinetic sand, there are tons of ways to play with it! It’s a perfect sensory activity for kiddos. It keeps my kids entertained for super long stretches of time. The most obvious way to play with it is to simply use your hands and shape it, but you can also use different containers to build shapes, such as a small cake pan.
Some other ways we play with it are using cookie cutters, kid scissors, and little play shovels. The original kit we bought included a play knife, a rake, and some molds of a king, queen, and blocks to build a castle. It came with a decent amount of sand, but we wanted more and we wanted it to be colorful– thus the homemade kinetic sand!