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Dig In! How to Make Moon Sand at Home

Surf and sun are some of our favorite reasons to go to the beach, but for children, the star of the show is often the sand. Scoopable, sculptable, squishable—sand is the magnet that entertains for hours on the edge of the shallows, keeping kids building, creating, and imagining. 

Playing with sand brings endless possibilities for kids: They might bury seaweed and seashell treasures or construct an epic sea creature or sandcastle. Beach sand offers so much room for creativity—it’s too bad you can’t bring a bunch of it home with you (though some inevitably winds up in bags, towels, clothes, and the family car). 

The good news is you can make moon sand—similar in consistency and texture to what you find at your favorite beach—at home. It’s every bit as engaging as beach sand, and you only need a few simple ingredients, most of which you might already have in your pantry. 

Also called kinetic sand, moon sand rarely fails to deliver hours of hands-on play that sparks your child’s imagination and creativity without having to haul a cooler, sunscreen, an oversized umbrella, and all the rest of the gear to the shore. 

Ready to dig in? Follow these simple directions to help your kids craft their own DIY moon sand, and with any luck, it will make for more than enough fun to tide you over until the next family beach day.

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Moon Sand Recipe

This moon sand recipe is highly customizable and requires very little prep time. Just mix five parts sand with three parts cornstarch and one part oil—that’s it. Once you learn this simple ratio, you can make as much as you like. So if you want to make four cups of sand, the recipe will be:

  • 2½ cups of fine sand (purchased at a craft store)
  • 1½  cups of cornstarch
  • ½ cup of baby oil
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Apron or smock
  • Plastic gloves (optional)

Directions

Your kid can help with every stage of making homemade moon sand—measuring, counting, pouring, and mixing. Here’s how:

  1. Pour the sand into a large bowl or casserole dish.
  2. Add the cornstarch and have your child blend with their hands until combined.
  3. Make sure the child is wearing an apron or a smock to protect their clothing from oil stains. Then drizzle baby oil over the mix, add a few drops of food coloring, and have your child combine again using their hands until everything is incorporated. Food coloring can stain skin before it’s mixed in, so have your child wear plastic gloves for this step if you want to avoid that.

If the sand doesn’t hold together as well as you would like, add more oil a few drops at a time until it’s the consistency of moldable sand. If it’s too sticky, sprinkle in more cornstarch or sand until it holds its shape but is still collapsible.

Variations

Oil: If you’re worried about your young sculptor eating the mix, you can make moon sand without baby oil. Simply use the same amount of cooking oil, like canola or vegetable oil.

Flour: If your kids don’t want to wait for you to pick up sand from the local craft store, you can make moon sand with flour. Swap flour for the sand, and follow the same process and ratio—5:3:1. If you’re out of cornstarch, you could even use eight parts flour to one part oil. 

Gluten-free: For a gluten-free option with no sand, use cornstarch and corn flour instead of all-purpose flour. If omitting the cornstarch, use the same flour-to-oil ratio—8:1. 

If you’re using cornstarch, mix: 

  • ¾ cup of cornstarch
  • ¾ cup of baking soda
  • 1 cup oil, adding ¼ cup at a time to get to your preferred texture
  • Food coloring

Tips to Enjoy Moon Sand

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Now that you know how to make homemade moon sand, it’s time to play. Here are a few tips to maximize the fun.

Playtime

Because moon sand essentially has the consistency of moist beach sand, your kids can play with your homemade substitute much the same way, only scaled down. The sand’s different colors provide a lot of play options too.

  • Remember that moon sand is an oil-based activity that could stain clothes. Be sure to wear aprons, smocks, or other protective clothing.
  • Try creating different shades of moon sand by experimenting with food coloring. 
  • Add new life to household objects by allowing your kids to use measuring cups, spoons, and cookie cutters to sculpt. 
  • Encourage world-building by adding action figures, toy dinosaurs, or toy cars to inhabit their cityscapes.
  • Use the sand as a blank canvas and draw figures or landscapes on it.
  • Play Simon Says—but in this case, your kids get to sculpt whatever Simon tells them to.
  • Incorporate other building materials from around the house, like wooden blocks or plastic bowls, to encourage experimentation.

Cleanup

Moon sand is messier than modeling dough. Your best bet for cleanup is to use a large receptacle with raised sides like a 13” x 9” cake pan or a large plastic container to hold and store the sand. Even better, bring the container outside and play in the yard. Once playtime is over for the day, sweep up any loose sand and discard it. Avoid using water to clean up the sand—it will turn the flour or cornstarch into a gluey, sticky mess.

Storage

Moon sand stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry environment will last for about a month. You can also use this bin as a portable sandbox, keeping toys and sand together in a convenient package that can go anywhere with your kids.

Have Fun with Sensory Activities

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Keep the fun going and the senses engaged by mixing up a batch of shaving cream slime with your child. Or take them on an out-of-this-world space adventure by creating a moon-exploring astronaut companion. Then, bring them back to Earth to discover some artistic traditions closer to home

Are your kids looking for adventures beyond their backyard? Dive into our Early Explorers subscription box to discover more about the world’s wonders through hands-on activities, stories, and games. 

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