How to Make Kinetic Sand (Sensory Play Activity)

Here is an ultimate guide to making kinetic sand at home using a simple Oobleck recipe. Learn also how commercial kinetic sand is made with cherry-picked recommendations.

Playing with Kinetic Sand assists in the maturation of sensual reactions and expands Kids’ understanding of physical and emotional connections.

What is Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic Sand is a softer variation of ‘Hydrophobic Sand’, that falls under the ‘Toy’ category of recreation and comes in a variety of colours. It is patented by ‘Spin Master Ltd.’

Its composition consists of-

  • 98% ultra-fine grain sand,
  • 2% dimethicone (silicon-based organic polymer), and
  • a coating of olive oil.

The appearance might resemble ‘wet sand’ and may also have similar physical properties, but it’s not entirely wet at its core. It gained widespread recognition because of its ability to be moulded into anything. ‘Aqua Sand’ is also a competitive brand to Kinetic Sand, but it is not that famous.

Kinetic Sand Experiment

How to Make Kinetic Sand at Home?

Do-it-yourself activities have always been easy on the pocket, and the experience of making it with your loved ones is one of a kind. It cannot be replaced with store-bought products.

There are two forms of Kinetic Sand. One of them is a commercial brand produced with the same name, i.e., ‘Kinetic Sand.’ The other one is a homemade hack called ‘Oobleck.’ They contrast in certain features but are pretty much the same.

Kinetic Sand

Oobleck – Kinetic Sand Recipe

Kinetic sand experiment

Tools –

  • 2 Mixing bowls – one for each combination. (An extra 3rd one is needed if you are opting for a glitter mixture too).
  • 1 large bowl – to mix both the combinations.
  • Measuring cups – to measure the required quantities.
  • Mixing spoons – in case you are not comfortable using hands.

Ingredients for a good old homemade Oobleck Kinetic Sand are –

  • 6 cups of Play Sand
  • 11/2 cups of Cornstarch – finely ground maize flour, used as a thickening agent.
  • 2 teaspoons of Dish Soap (scented or unscented, depends on your preference).
  • Water as required.
  • Food Colors (optional).
  • Glitter (optional) – usually used for themed oobleck preparation.
  • Glue/Contact lens solution (optional) – only used in combination with glitter to get a more slimy kind of consistency.
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Preparation –

  1. Mix the four ingredients in the following combinations:
  2. Play sand + Cornstarch = Dry mixture → dry enough to not stick to your hands.
  3. Dish Soap + Water = Wet mixture → wet enough to stick together.
Making kinetic sand

The sand chosen must be utterly devoid of any moisture that may be present. To be sure, bake a 1-inch deep layer of it at 120℉ for 30 minutes to evaporate any water content present in it. Cool it before making the first combination.

Colored sand is also an option for grabs if you do not want to use food colors due to any allergies. However, it is more expensive than regular play sand. Weigh your options and then proceed.

The second combination must be mixed until bubbles appear, marking the end of a good mixture formation.

2. You can add more or less of the ingredients depending upon the consistency you want.

3. Add the food color you have selected (optional).

The food color must be added in the second combination of wet mixture for better coloration than the first combination of the dry mixture. Also, a minimum of 6 drops is necessary, if not more, for a bright oobleck.

Tip: Use dark food colors for a vibrant oobleck.

If the color of the oobleck is not so prominent, you can add more food color until your desired shade is obtained.

4.Add the glitter you have selected (optional).

A mixture of glue and some water is first prepared to get a slime-like viscosity.

The glitter is then added to the first combination of the dry mixture along with the glue-water slime.

5. In a large bowl, mix both the combination bowls slowly while constantly stirring to prevent the main mixture from being too runny or too lumpy.

kinetic sand uses

Mixing with your hands is the best. However, there are mixing spoons available if you do not plan on getting your pretty nails soiled or stained with the food color.

6. Store in an air-tight container or a zip-lock bag to not let the air evaporate the liquid part of the oobleck and protect it from any dust or dirt contamination.

If the oobleck becomes too dry when you play with it the next time, prepare another set of the second combination of the wet mixture and add it to the already prepared but dry oobleck blend. The result will be good as new.

7. If the glue-water slime was used in the first oobleck kinetic sand, store the excess in an air-tight container or a zip-lock bag to not let the air evaporate the liquid part oobleck and protect it from any dust or dirt contamination.

If the oobleck kinetic sand becomes too dry when you play with it the next time, add the excess glue-water slime. The consistency is thus regained.

8. Leave the freshly prepared oobleck kinetic sand for at least 2-4 hours for the best effects. Your kinetic sand is ready to dive in!

It can be played within a small/large plastic tube or a pool.

In conclusion, three types of oobleck kinetic sand are formed based on the choice of ingredients you have incorporated in the mixtures. To have clarity, let’s list them down below –

  • Regular Oobleck Kinetic Sand – composed of basic ingredients.
  • Colored Oobleck Kinetic Sand- additional ingredients of food color(s) plus basic ingredients.
  • Glittered Oobleck Kinetic Sand – additional ingredient of glitter(s) plus basic ingredients.

Commercial Kinetic Sand Recipe

This can either be store-bought or can be prepared. Preparation requires the following ingredients

  • Fine sand grains

They are ideally bought from a garden center (do not buy from a pet store, as they have coarser sand grains unsuitable for Kinetic Sand).

The one which is usually used in showpieces and decorative ornaments. Also, no colored sand. Play sand in toy stores may be too coarse for a perfect recreation.

  • Dimethicone

It is fundamentally a part of the cosmetic industry. It has diverse uses due to its smooth nature. Some of the examples are hair products and creams.

A specific variety, i.e., Dimethicone 500, is preferred for the perfect viscosity of Kinetic Sand, but you can explore with other types also.

  • Small pan (regular pie pan).
  • Small vessel for mixing.
  • Stirrer – glass rod/spoon/plastic rod or spoon.

A replication of the commercial production can be performed as follows –

  1. In an oven, heat the ‘fine sand grains’ at a temperature of 120℃ (250℉) for several hours or preferably overnight. This is done to eradicate moisture.
  1. Cool it at room temperature.
  1. Now, for the crucial step,
  2. Take 100g of the selected sand and add 2g of dimethicone to it.
  3. If the sand does not stick together with just 2g of dimethicone add another 2g.
  4. Keep on adding until you feel the sand grains beginning to stick together.
  5. However, be very careful while adding the extra dimethicone. You do not want to end up with a clump of glue in your hand rather than the beautiful smooth Kinetic Sand.
  6. Do not add more than 2g per addition in a hurry to get the result. Be patient and monitor the result after each addition.

The replicant may have a close resemblance with the industrial one, but it cannot be an exact clone. This is because of the apparent difference in the grain size selected by us and the one used in commercial manufacturing.

What is the Secret Ingredient in Kinetic Sand?

Silicones or more commonly known as ‘Silly Putty,’ is the secret ingredient of Kinetic Sand. These are organosilicon polymers which are long repeating units of a single unit called a monomer, and this monomer is made of elemental oxygen and silicon.

Dimethicone, Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) or Dimethylpolysiloxane is the most common form of silicone polymer used in the making of Kinetic Sand. It is transparent, liquid, non-reactive, non-toxic, and non-flammable.

How do you make Kinetic Sand Stay Together?

Basic polymers impart the characteristic of ‘stretchiness’ to any compound it is a part of. The longer the chains, the more is the ‘liquidness’ it exhibits. The same is the case with silicones. Since they have very long polymeric chains, they showcase their ‘moldability’ in Kinetic Sand.

The characteristics of the ‘secret ingredient’ mentioned above of stretchiness, liquidness, and moldability make the Kinetic Sand stay together. The polymeric strength of silicones contributes to the holding capacity, and hence numerous shapes can be made of variable sizes.

The Science Behind Kinetic Sand

A group of liquids called ‘Non-Newtonian Fluids’ exists, meaning they have unique characteristics and react differently than most other substances.

Dilants

Under non-newtonian fluids is a category known as ‘Dilants’. Dilants are substances that change their viscosity (ability to flow) in accordance with the shear strain applied. More pressure causes it to become more viscous or, in simpler terms, thicker. Similarly, less

pressure application lowers its viscosity, and it turns thinner. Kinetic Sand is one such example of dilatant.

Dimethicone contributes to the ‘liquidness’ of the Kinetic Sand. Even though Kinetic Sand is only a measly 2% liquid, it is still considered a suspension, implying that it is not dissolved in the olive oil but rather evenly distributedin it.

Another dilant is ‘Oobleck,’ which is homemade. It is a plain mixture of ‘Cornstarch’ and ‘Water.’ It appears liquid, but under force or pressure, it turns solid. What makes it different from Kinetic Sand is that it lacks in its shape-holding capacity. This is because of the absence of ‘hydrogen bonds’ in oobleck, otherwise present in Kinetic Sand as the dimethicone constituent.

Hydrogen bonds, though easy to break, are uniform in their separation. For example, if a lump of Kinetic Sand is cut through the midsagittal section, the two halves retain their shape and do not fall apart. This is another feature of Kinetic Sand that makes it different from Oobleck.

How does it Work?

Kineticism

Kinetics is a phenomenon of dependency. For it to come into effect, any kind of motion or movement is required. So, the working of Kinetic Sand is also the result of how kineticism works.

This mechanism is a by-product of physical sciences when viewed from a bigger picture. However, its practical usage by children tones down its difficulty of understanding and makes its concepts easier to understand.

Hands-on experience always precedes theoretical explanation, and though in fun and play, the little ones learn a thing or two about physics, and the fear of its complexity is removed early on.

The Kinetic Sand is coated with the thin polymer layer of dimethicone. The polymer layer is so minute that each grain of Kinetic Sand appears like regular sand, but together these sand grains act differently. This is because, in collectivity, kinetics comes into play due to the motion of the sand grain particles. The movement of one sand grain particle pulls along the other sand grain particles with itself.

The working of Kinetic Sand is on a macro level, but its origin is based on a nano level. Though not visible to the naked eye, it acts as the behind-the-scenes crew. Not noticeable but crucial to its working.

Silicones

It is a category of organic compounds that have strong binding capacity. Silicone-based oils or polymers have a distinct property called ‘Viscoelasticity’. The following three defining characteristics describe it –

  • As liquids – flow freely.
  • As semi-solids/semi-liquids – flow slowly, in the absence of any stress/force/pressure.
  • As solids – rubbery, in the presence of any stress/force/pressure.

These are foundational but vary with the length of the silicon polymers. Longer polymers have better shape-holding capacity, while that is not the case with shorter polymers.

What Cool Things can you Make with Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic Sand is solely a cool product. Combining it with other products increases its coolness by tenfold on the cool-o-meter. Its non-toxicity is also another one of its cool advantages.

There are limitless possibilities for Kinetic Sand products. The tools that help make these cool products are – knives, forks, cookie-cutters, common molds, sand-castle molds, sand toys, magnetic stamps, scoopers, rolling pins, cups, etc.

Playing With Kinetic Sand

Please note that, though it is non-toxic, consumption or ingestion of it is harmful to humans and animals. Therefore, there must be an adult or a parental supervision over kids and pets while playing with the Kinetic Sand.

Making Shapes by Stamping

Making shapes by stamping

The kids use magnetic stamps to make specific shapes of their desire. These may range from alphabets of A-Z to numbers to seashells for a mermaid-themed play date.

Sand Cookies

Kinetic Sand Cookies

Cooking cutters of actual baking can mold the kinetic sand into desired ‘sand cookies.’ There are a variety of shapes available in cookie cutters. Some examples are – stars, moons, seashells, squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, starfish, snowflakes, etc.

Sandcastles

kinetic sand castles

Readymade sandcastle molds are available for making spectacular castles. It is easy to use. Just fill the mold with kinetic sand and remove the mold. Your castle stands high and mighty!

Sand Ice Creams

kinetic sand icecream

Who doesn’t love a delicious cold scoop of ice cream, but this one’s not edible, unfortunately. Kids are huge fans of ice creams, and ice cream molds are the best for their like and dislike sense of development.

Magic Sand V/S Kinetic Sand

Magnetic Sand vs kinetic sand

Magic Sand and Kinetic Sand are cousins in relation yet different in character. Their differences can be tabulated as follows –

MAGIC SANDKINETIC SAND
Called so because of its ability to stay dry even when submerged in water.   Has a coating of silicone – Trimethylsilanol.   Formula – (CH3)3SiOH   Granular   Coarse, not suitable for kids.   It is dependent on water to form shapes.    Called so because it is the result of kinetic motion between sand grain particles.   Has a coating of silicone – Dimethicone.   Formula – CH3[Si(CH3)2O]nSi(CH3)3   Non-granular   Less coarse, suitable for kids.   It is independent of water to form shapes.

Hydrophobic Sand

Hydrophobic sand is any type of sand coated with a layer of a substance that is water-hating, thus making it immiscible in water. This layer is the reason for all sand grains adhering to each other and not moving individually. They come together and form cylinders when in contact with water and form a sphere of air around them. This sphere acts as a barrier between the sand grains and water molecules, making it waterproof.

The need to stop the ocean spills from spreading further than the affected area near shores gave birth to the idea and eventually the practical concept of hydrophobic sand. But this was heavy on the pocket, and so the practice was discontinued.

The ‘Hydrophobicity’ of Kinetic Sand is due to its coating of dimethicone of the silicone. It shows all the characteristics mentioned above in its practical usage.

Does Kinetic Sand Dry Out?

A simple answer is ‘No’ because of its silicone oil coating.

However, climate changes do affect Kinetic Sand. In hotter or humid conditions, Kinetic Sand may lose its moisture. This can easily be treated by adding a tiny amount of the wet mixture of the respective type of your Kinetic Sand, or just by adding water.

However, repeated drying and repeated addition of moisture may eventually strip the Kinetic Sand of its quality and originality. So, proper storage is of utmost importance as it prolongs its durability.

Kinetic Sand’s ability not to stick to any surface but itself may falsely depict that it can dry out. This is a misconception. Non-stickiness of Kinetic Sand is because of the silicone coating and not because of removal of moisture or a complete dry out.

It is important to know that even after that, the Kinetic Sand will surely become unusable after a certain period. This may be due to overuse or just because it has reached its limit. A new batch is to be made to continue the fun and not miss out.

But it looks ‘Wet,’ then why does it not ‘Dry’?

Kinetic Sand may appear ‘wet,’ but in fact, it is not ‘wet’; it only seems so. If that had been the case, it would have stuck to our hands when we use it, just like the damp beach sand, but this does not happen. The ‘wet’ appearance is because of the silicone oil, but the ‘wet’ property is absent because oil is not considered wet.

Another event that proves its ‘non-wetness’ is that any structure formed with it will, in due time, pool on the surface you kept it on. In contrast to this, the actual wet sand stands firm in its construction.

Can you Make Kinetic Sand without Cornstarch?

An alternative to the dry mixture ingredients is ‘Baking Powder’ and ‘Baking Soda.’ The former is taken in two parts, while the latter is taken in one part. These are very close substitutes to Cornstarch and Dish soap, respectively.

Also, Boric Acid and Borax are worth mentioning. They also exhibit the same physical and chemical properties for creating Kinetic Sand. However, they are considered slightly hazardous to very young kids, who do not know how to differentiate between what you are supposed to put in your mouth and what not. Hence, not suitable for children under 3 years of age.

A lesser-known option that is not so reliable but is a variant of Kinetic Sand is the mixture of 8 cups ‘Flour’ and 1 cup ‘Baby/Vegetable Oil.’ Lumping is seen, hence not the best of choices. It has been rightly named ‘Moon Sand’ just like the surface of the moon.

5 Best Kinetic Sand Products

Kinetic Sand is readily available and affordable too. A quick online order placing, and in the matter of a day, you have your Kinetic Sand.

Below mentioned are the 5 best kinetic sand from amazon.com (US)

1. Kinetic Sand, The Original Moldable Sensory Play Sand

Top of the list is the good old ‘original moldable’ kinetic sand. Best for sensory play because of hands-on usage and does not involve any additional tools or molds.

This bag of fun is resealable, hence saving the trouble of finding another air-tight container to preserve it in its best condition.

Features –

  • Available in colors: Pink, Blue, Green, Crystal Pink, Sandy Brown, Twinkly Teal.
  • Gluten-  and casein-free
  • Weight – 2 lbs
  • For ages 3 and up.

2. Kinetic Sand, Castle Containers

Kids and their ever-growing fascination with castles. Second in line to the throne of best kinetic sand, this one is just the right one for your kid to run their imaginations wild of those ancient wars and battles.

Features –

  • Multicolored pack of 10 different colors.
  • Gluten- and casein-free.
  • Perfect for sand art and craft.
  • Includes 10 castle containers.
  • For ages 3 and up.

3.   Kinetic Sand, Sandisfying Set

The third-place has been taken by the one with tools. Kids who are more tool-oriented and have a keen interest in cool effects, this has been tailor-made for you. Yes, you. Do away with the overthinking, and this one is yours.

For first-time users, the instruction sheet in the set will help you start the fun process of sandisfying by yourself!

Features –

  • Includes 10 tools: 1 twister with ribbon and grater attachments, 1 squisher, 1 shaper, 1 crinkler, 1 scooper, 1 slicer, 1 dome, 1 stacker, 1 transformable sandbox.
  • Perfect for creating mesmerizing videos with its: 1 phone stand and 1 backdrop.
  • Weight – 2 lbs (1 lb of red and 1 lb of blue).
  • Wheat-, gluten- and casein-free.
  • For ages 3 and up.

4. Kinetic Sand, Beach Sand Kingdom Playset

Behold the mighty castle! The 2018 PAL award-winning set has been proclaimed to advance learning in children. Also, it has won the Good Housekeeping Best Toy Award and the Parents’ Choice Fun Stuff Award. This spectacular record of being the best is sure to remove any doubts you have regarding the product. The best is what your child deserves.

An instruction guide is also present in the set for beginners. Happy castle building!

  • Features –
  • Tools: 2, for digging, cutting, and shoveling.
  • Includes a transformable sandbox that doubles play space.
  • Castle-themed molds are present to make bridges, towers, and walls.
  • Wheat-, gluten- and casein-free.
  • Weight – 3 lbs.
  • For ages 3 and up. 

5. Kinetic Sand Scents, Icecream Treats Playset

The most delicious of all the five. Truly a treat to enjoy virtually. Kids love ice cream, and so they will surely love this mix-n-match colorful sand set of fun.

From ice cream sandwiches to waffles and more, your world of fantasy ice creams is unlimited. Not that children need instructions to make ‘ice cream’; however, there is an instruction guide that might help them.

  • Features –
  • Includes 3 bright colors: pink, white and brown
  • Weight – 3 lbs (1 lb each flavor)
  • Wheat-, gluten- and casein-free.
  • Scented: pink-strawberry, white-vanilla, and brown-chocolate.
  • Tools: 1 freezer-style tray, 1 scoop, 1 spoon, 1 sundae cup, 1 ice cream cone, and 1 waffle press.
  • Contains 6 topping variations.

What is Kinetic Sand Used for?

Best for Indoor Use

Kinetic Sand has bought a smile to many faces in the present times of isolation, quarantine, and lockdowns. It has recompensed the Sunday beach plans of first-time sand castle-builders and has saved them from feeling sad about not getting down and dirty with the sand.

A Lifeline for Parents

Parents (especially if both of them have a working background) are often found huffing and puffing while cleaning up the mess their kids have caused after their playtime is done. Well, it’s good news for them.

Kinetic Sand does not leave any residue behind; it’s easy to gather, clean up, and store; mess-free, reusable, and no amount of it is lost. A great bargain indeed to the beach sand, which leaves your kids dirty and messy and in desperate need of shower pronto.

Kids learn Physics Concepts from an Early Age

The fluidity and movement of Kinetic Sand are fascinating to kids, especially those who are very observant of the slightest of changes in their surroundings. This acts as an advantage to them and a proud moment for their parents.

They begin to grasp and understand physics concepts like how force gives rise to motion and how gravity reacts even if intermolecular forces of attraction act in the Kinetic Sand. All this and more is taken by their tender, under construction minds.

A Gift for the Kids with Special Needs

Special needs categorize children who require extra attention and care in carrying out basic human activities because of any genetic disorders, diseases, or disabilities they may be afflicted with. Kids with particular nervous system compromising illnesses have difficulty taking in any stimulus and being responsive to it.

For such special children, Kinetic Sand acts as a stimulant and helps improve their sensory perception, processing, and reaction to whatever they may touch and feel. Constant stimulation increases their reflexes. Daily for a set period, they are given Kinetic Sand to familiarize themselves and upgrade their learning and memory power.

Also, it is used in ‘rehabilitation therapy’ for treating hand injuries. This mainly involves exercising and moving your hands and fingers in the usual directions as a regular hand function—this helps rejuvenate the nerves of the hands, which boosts the recovery process.

Satisfaction

We experience a different kind of satisfaction when we see the final piece of puzzle placed on the puzzle board to complete the picture or when a cake is precisely cut into equal halves or quarters.

Research has formed the opinion that this is because of human preference for symmetry, recurrence, and patterns. Uniformity is always appealing to human nature. So, the Kinetic Sand is pleasing to touch because of its smooth and uniform surface and the ability to transform in any shape is so satisfying.

ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)

By definition, it is a satisfying, tingling feeling of pleasure. It is a psychological and philosophical based response. A hyperaware reaction to ASMR-inducing activities portrays a ‘bigger picture’ than what it is, a phenomenon called ‘Hyper-reality.’

This ASMR is triggered when our fingertips, the most responsive and stimulus-taking part of our body, contact Kinetic Sand. Hence, releasing a wave of contentment in your body.

Soothing/Calming Effect

Being in control of things makes your mind stay stable and not worry much about any particular situation. Manipulating the Kinetic Sand in your hand, in turn, regulates your feelings and emotions. Also, it increases your awareness of your surroundings and improves the refractory period of nerve response by shortening it.

It has been known to be part of the self-care regimen of many mental health disorders. It aids in overcoming stress and anxiety. The ‘squishing’ of Kinetic Sand sends a signal to your brain of you being in control of something which calms your body. It is the perfect substitute for ‘stress balls.’

Conclusion

Playing is a form of developmental process in growing kids and toddlers. Fun and recreation are as important as eating food, drinking water, and sleeping. Any kind of creative activity contributes to the growth of their mental and physical attributes.

Kinetic Sand may appear unrelated to the above aspect at first glance. Still, it holds the same significance as other daily tasks of a child’s journey in gaining bodily and intellectual knowledge. Though it contributes not a major but a very crucial minor part in a child’s aging.

Parent-child interaction is also another principal factor that expands a child’s emotional range. Here too, kinetic sand aids by bonding them with the fun they experience during playtime. The parents benefit from its pacifying effect (needed after a hectic day), and its recreational trait benefits the children—a win-win situation.

Have fun!

Disclaimer : This post contains affiliate links from Amazon. An affiliate link means that when you purchase using the link provided in this page, I would get a small referral fees WITHOUT any extra cost to you. I highly appreciate your understanding and support.
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Angela
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