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Kinetic Sand

What is kinetic sand? It’s simply sand that has other ingredients added to it to make it extra soft, malleable and able to hold a shape, making it a super sensory building material. Once made, kids will love exploring it and discovering all of the ways they can use this super play material.

If you do not yet have your free copy of the April Activity Calendar, get it here.

For those who celebrate Passover, kinetic sand play can also be a chance to teach kids about the holiday's history and commemorate the Isrealites crossing of the desert and escape from ancient Egypt to freedom. As part of our April Activity Calendar, we share this sand play activity as a way to help kids connect with the Passover story through play. If you celebrate Passover, this could be a nice activity for kids to do alongside other holiday traditions. If you do not celebrate, it could be a nice way to learn about the holiday and the story of Passover—a wonderful way to help children learn to value all people, even those different from themselves. Or, if you have an older child who can make connections, you can connect to people today who leave their homes in search of freedom, especially if, like us, you have refugees in your neighborhood or community.

The Guide

Make kinetic sand together:

  • First, you'll need to gather three materials—sand, cornstarch and baby oil. If you don't have access to sand in nature or your play area, you can get a bag of play sand at most hardware stores—and there are endless play opportunities in a bag of sand!
  • Before mixing the ingredients, give kids time to explore the sand on its own in a bowl or bin. How does the sand feel and move? If your family celebrates Passover, this could be a time to talk about how the Isrealites walked through the desert sand in search of their freedom.  
  • Whether you want to make a small batch for afternoon playtime or a large batch for a group of children, you can use a ratio of 5 (sand): 3 (cornstarch): 1 (baby oil).  Following the 5:3:1 ratio means you’ll get the right consistency whether you are using a measuring cup or just a little container or scoop.
  • Pour your sand into a container (e.g. bowl, casserole dish). Then, add your cornstarch and mix until fully incorporated.
  • Add your oil and mix until there are no oily or dry spots. That’s it!
Set up a play area: Dump your kinetic sand into a shallow bin, cookie sheet with a lip or just stick with your mixing bowl. Having a container that allows for lots of play but also contains the sand helps make this marvelous sensory play manageable!
  • Pro Tip: Worried about the mess? Take the play outside! Nature treasures are even easier to scoop up out there, too!
Play! Kinetic sand is a fantastic tactile experience and kids may just want to explore it with their hands and fingers. Stretch it, poke it, scoop it up, make it into a ball or another shape! How does it feel compared to the dry sand you started with? How does it move now that new ingredients have been added to it?


Add props: To extend play, you can also try out some of these ideas:

  • Make bricks: Offer an ice cube tray and invite kids to pack the compartments with kinetic sand. Flip the tray over to remove your sand bricks. How can kids stack them or use them to build a structure? Make bricks of different shapes and sizes using scoops, cups, Duplo blocks—anything else you can find around the house. 
  • Fossil hunt: Bury nature treasures in the sand and then use fingers, paintbrushes or a stick to gently excavate the pretend fossils. Or, press nature treasures into the sand to see what impressions are left behind.
  • Beach play: If you have beach toys tucked away, bring them out and pretend that you are seaside. If your kinetic sand is in a large tray or bin, kids can use the beach toys just as they would without too much loss or mess. Just be mindful that, if kids do want to experiment with adding water, the sand's feel and special properties will shift, so test out adding water to a little bit of kinetic sand first. Once you add, you can't go back!
  • Cooking play: Kinetic sand is easy to mold into different shapes, making it a perfect addition to pretend food play.  Add a couple of simple kitchen tools to the play (e.g. cups, ice cream scoop, butter or play dough knife, cookie cutters) and invite kids to make pretend treats. If your family celebrates Passover, invite kids to make a pretend seder plate. How can they mold the sand into a bone, egg, herbs or haroset?
  • Make a nature face: Flatten out a ball of kinetic sand and stick objects from nature (e.g. sticks, stones, flower petals, acorns, pinecones, leaves) into it to make eyes, a nose, mouth and any other features kids would like to include. How is this face feeling?
  • Designs of all kinds: Sticking nature treasures into a blob or shape made of kinetic sand can be a super satisfying way to create all kinds of designs—or just to give kids the chance to activate the "connecting" schema (learn more).

Learn more about Passover: If Passover is part of your spiritual tradition, enjoy tying this into your other holiday rituals in whatever way works for you. If it is not part of your spiritual tradition, learn more about the holiday and what it means to those who celebrate. Visit the PJ Library's Passover Hub for a kid-friendly telling of the Passover story or visit your local library's children's section to find books like The Best Four Questions by Rachelle Burk or The Littlest Levine by Sandy Lanton.  Enjoy learning more about people whose traditions differ from ours—something that helps our kids learn to value all people. 

Why is this activity great for kids?

Kinetic sand is a super satisfying play material that engages kids’ tactile sensory system and their fine motor skills. If kids help to make the kinetic sand, they also gain experience with early STEM concepts like measurement, mixing and transforming. The open-endedness of this building material offers lots of chances for kids to use problem-solving and creativity as they play. 

If you celebrate Passover, this could be a nice activity for kids to do alongside other holiday traditions. If you do not celebrate, it could be a nice way to learn about the holiday and the story of Passover—a wonderful way to help children learn to value all people, even those different from themselves. Or, if you have an older child who can make connections, you can connect to people today who leave their homes in search of freedom, especially if, like us, you have refugees in your neighborhood or community.
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