Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

Recently, Snoopy and Engineer requested something different to play with while Little Hurricane was napping.  I really wanted to make My Nearest and Dearest’s Lime Cloud Dough, but we didn’t  have all of the ingredients.  I decided to just use what we had on-hand, which wasn’t much, and this led to a discovery of play sand that is edible!  I’m calling it play sand because that’s what the kiddos were calling it.  In actuality, it’s just a different version of cloud dough (see the recipe below).

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

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Here’s the toddler-safe play sand recipe we “discovered”:

  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour (this is what makes it really look and feel like sand from the beach)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

It had the consistency of damp beach sand, without being sticky or wet.  It was a light brown color, too, which made it look even more like sand.  On top of that, it was moldable just like real beach sand!  The fact that it was safe for toddlers made it even better since I watch a couple of little ones most days during the summer.  I love using materials that all of the kids (ages 1 to 6) can get into safely.

Of course, I watched all of the kiddos as they played!  I didn’t encourage the toddlers to eat the play sand, but I wasn’t worried if they ingested a tiny amount of it.  It’s not appropriate for kids with wheat allergies, but that wasn’t a concern for me.

Let me tell you, this incredibly simple recipe was enjoyed by many kids both last week and this week!  Engineer and Snoopy spent almost two hours playing with it, happily making a mess in my kitchen (which is in a constant state of disarray anyway)!  The goofballs added water to their play sand towards the end of their playtime.  This made an even bigger mess, and we weren’t able to save the sand, but oh well!

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

I also brought this concoction to my preschool’s Island Aloha summer camp.  I made enough to partially fill a kiddie pool with the play sand, and kids of all ages enjoyed playing with it.  I ended up using three 5-pound bags of whole wheat flour and 6 cups of vegetable oil. Since it was safe for kids who still put things in their mouths, the babies and toddlers were able to join the older children in the “sand”.  Even some older children, who were there helping, got in on the fun!  The kiddie pool of play sand got a lot of use during the week of summer camp.  With so many kids playing in it that week, we just ended up tossing what was left into the trash at the end of camp.

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

Towards the end of the week, Engineer and Snoopy asked if we could bring some play sand to the park.  So we did just that!  I’m sure I looked a little goofy carrying a bag of whole wheat flour, vegetable oil, and a long plastic tub on the playground!  For the plastic tub, I added one 5-pound bag of whole wheat flour and two cups of vegetable oil.  The kids helped me mix it all up.  Then they built mountains and buried sea animals.  Little Hurricane loved using seashells to scoop up the play sand.

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

The following day, I used the play sand to create a beach small world for Engineer, Determined Diva, and Little Mama (a 2-year old that’s been visiting this summer).  I poured it into the bottom of our water table and placed some seashells along the edge.  For the “water” I placed clear, light green, and blue glass gems in the top section of the table.  I also placed toy sharks, whales, and other sea creatures along the top of the water table.

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

Engineer and Diva were eager to play with the beach scene once I was done setting it up!  Engineer immediately began patting the play sand down to make a firmer beach to play on.  He set the seashells along the beach, then decided we needed some “animals that live on land” for that section of the small world.  He rummaged around in the playroom, eventually settling on a few toy dogs and a toy tiger.  Apparently, tigers like the play on the beach!  Who knew?!  :)

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

Determined Diva ended up gravitating towards the glass gems first.  She liked how they fit into her hand, and she just loved the noises they made!  I watched her like a hawk to ensure none of them went into her mouth, but that didn’t end up being a problem at all.  I DID have to make sure she didn’t toss the gems over the railing though!  After playing in the gems for a bit, she decided she liked the sandy bin better.  She ended up alternating her time between sitting in the bin and walking over to pat at the play sand.

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

Engineer and Little Mama spent most of the morning (and part of the afternoon) on the porch playing with the beach small world!  The ocean animals all jumped into the water, which made for a very crowded ocean.  Eventually, horses and knights joined the other toys on the beach, too.  At one point, the knights and the dogs were burying turtles and snakes in mounds of sand.  Engineer had an entire story line to go with all this — love that kid’s imagination!

Toddler-Safe Play Sand & Beach Small World

At the end of the day, after a cumulative 4+ hours of play, the beach small world was a crazy mess!  Honestly, this didn’t bother me on bit.  I loved hearing Engineer’s stories, listening to Little Mama’s giggles, and seeing Diva’s smiles as they played the day away.  Plus, the mess just meant they were having fun.  Yes, there’s also play sand all over the back porch.  Nothing a vacuum and a broom couldn’t handle!

How to make play sand for a small sensory bin — 4 cups of whole-wheat flour mixed with half a cup of vegetable oil.

How to make play sand for a large sensory bin — One 5-pound bag of whole-wheat flour mixed with two cups of vegetable oil.

How to make play sand for a kiddie pool — Three 5-pound bags of whole-wheat flour mixed with six cups of vegetable oil.  I think I’d even bump that up to Five 5-pound bags of whole-wheat flour and ten cups of vegetable oil.

If you’re not worried about making the play sand edible or toddler-safe, you can substitute baby oil for the veggie oil.

Don’t forget to check out the inspiration for our cloud dough/play sand experiment . . . My Nearest and Dearest’s Lime Cloud Dough.  We’re planning on making this next week (after ensuring we have the ingredients this time)!


    • says

      Yay, so glad to hear that Heather!!! We really have had a blast with our “play sand”, and Ann’s Lime Dough is AWESOME!! :) Let me know how it goes if you try either one.

  1. says

    Sand art can be really fun, but is extremely messy. Its many perks are that it’s engaging, flexible in what can be done with it, exposes children to a lot of different textures, and forces tool use. Even adults cannot deny that pushing your hands into a pile of sand is a rewarding experience! The tactile sensation, which is so known to us, is still pleasing and enjoyable.

    • says

      We’ve used it for about a week each time (7 days). I kept it stored in an airtight container when we weren’t using it. Since it is made of food, I wouldn’t suggest going for too much longer than that. Of course, by the end of 7 days it has usually been VERY well played in!

  2. Emily says

    I was sharing this idea and Someone just warned me about it attracting animals since it was made of food. We have raccoons and mice around. Anyone had issues with animals if leaving it outside in covered sandbox? Thanks!

  3. Melissa says

    I love this idea!!!! I was wondering what brand of whole wheat flour you used. I know some brands of whole wheat flour are white. Thanks for your help.

    • says

      Thanks, Melissa! I just used the store brand since it was on sale. I didn’t choose a white whole wheat flour, just straight up “whole wheat”. I hope that helps a little!

  4. Amber says

    I made this “sand” today with my 15 month old & she loved it! I’m using it to get her ready for our beach vacation in November. You said that you have only kept it a week, however your post was a year ago. Have you tried since then to keep it longer than a week? I tossed mine in the fridge just to be on the safe side . . . what are your thoughts now, a year later? I wish I could some how show you the pictures I took today of my delighted toddler! Thank you soooo much for this!

  5. Nat says

    Thanks for the recipe! I didn’t have any whole-wheat flour, so I made it with plain white flour and added a little cinnamon for that brown color.

    1 cup white flour
    2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    Spoonful of cinnamon

    The texture is great. We’ll see what my 17-month-old makes of it!

  6. TKTanner says

    I have to wonder, does the whole wheat flour and oil go bad or rancid after a while? About how long will it last? Does it start to smell?


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