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How to Make Kinetic Sand

pink kinetic sand
Kinetic sand can be easily molded into lots of interesting shapes. It's therapeutic, too. Marco Verch/Flckr/CC By 2.0

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DIY science experiments are easy, inexpensive ways to encourage learning and have a little fun at the same time. If you're over the whole slime craze, however, it's probably time to move onto something that's just as simple to whip up and possibly even a little more fun to play with — kinetic sand.

Most of us think of sand in its natural state as difficult to harness. Unless you have the right tools and plenty of water, it's literally going to go wherever the wind takes it. Fortunately, all it takes are a few simple ingredients to turn sand into an exciting new plaything that won't even make a mess!

What Is Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic sand is largely regular or play sand (about 98 percent), mixed with a polymer, which is a long, repeating chain of molecules that gives the sand its stretchy property. Since it has the consistency of a very dense fluid, people enjoy messing around with kinetic sand, as it will always return to its natural state. Unlike standard sand, kinetic sand doesn't dry out or stick to anything else, making it ideal for indoor use.

Kineteic sand is fun for both kids and adults. The word "kinetic" means "relating to or resulting from motion." Thanks to the addition of the polymer, regular play sand develops properties of motion, making kinetic sand an ideal teaching tool for children. They'll learn through play how force affects motion, how gravity influences the sand and other basic concepts. Kids with sensory processing disorder, learning disabilities and other special needs also benefit from it as it helps them to improve sensory awareness.

Adults like kinetic sand's calming effects, as manipulating the sand can help to regulate emotions and encourage mindfulness. Science educator Steve Spangler notes that everyone in his front office has a bowl of kinetic sand on their desk as a way to manage stress.

Kinetic Sand Recipes

Sure, you can buy premade kinetic sand, but half the fun is in making it yourself! Here are two recipes to get you started:

Basic Kinetic Sand

This recipe was created specifically to use as a calming activity for children with special needs. If desired, add a teaspoon of any essential oil for soothing purposes (Also makes it smell really nice!)

Materials

  • About 10 pounds (5 cups or 4.5 kilograms) of play sand
  • 1.2 cups (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons or 130 grams) of cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 milliliters) of standard dishwashing liquid
  • 1 cup (236 milliliters) of water
  • 1 large and 1 medium bowls for mixing
  • Airtight container for storage

Directions

  1. Place sand in a big bowl.
  2. Add cornstarch to the sand and mix.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, mix dish soap with water.
  4. Add the soap mixture to the sand and combine thoroughly.

Note: Play sand is available at craft stores. It's better for this project than scooping up sand from the playground or beach. Also sand should be completely dry before staring. You can bake it a 1-inch deep layer at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 degrees Celsius) for about 30 minutes to ensure total dryness. Then allow to cool completely.

Kinetic Sand Slime

If you want to take things up a notch, try this colorful recipe from McCormick. It's a combination of kinetic sand and slime!

Materials

  • 1 cup (236 milliliters) fine white craft/play sand
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) unscented liquid dish soap
  • 1 bottle (4 ounces white or 5 ounces clear) [118-140 milliliters] washable school glue
  • Few drops of food coloring and/or flavoring, as desired
  • 3 teaspoons (15 milliliters) contact lens solution (use the type without added moisturizers)
  • Medium glass bowl
  • Airtight container for storage

Directions

  1. Mix sand, cornstarch and dish soap in a medium glass bowl until well blended.
  2. Stir in glue, desired food color(s) and extract(s) until well blended and you get the color and smell you want.
  3. Stir in contact solution, 1 teaspoon at a time, until mixture becomes difficult to stir and is no longer sticky. (If necessary, add more contact solution until desired consistency.)
  4. Knead in hands until you form a ball that is slightly wet, but does not stick to hands. (Slime is ready to use when you can touch it and pull your fingers away without anything sticking to them.)

Storage: Kinetic sand should always be stored in an airtight container to keep dust and other contaminants out. Although kinetic sand doesn't "dry out" per se, it can change consistency. If this happens, add a few drops of water and mix well. After a while it'll start to stink, so toss it out and make a fresh batch!

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