Don’t have any sand? Why not make this taste-safe play sand with the kids? Be sure to add it to your summer activities for preschoolers.
We’ve been making this cloud dough “sand” for years and years at this point. It never fails to disappoint.
Some refer to this recipe as edible play sand, but I wouldn’t go quite that far.
We don’t really want to encourage the kids to eat it. But it is made with ingredients from the kitchen, so I’ve never worried about a little one tasting a smidge.
Related: Messy Play Ideas at Home
Preschooler and Toddler Play Sand
As I mentioned above, this is a tried-and-true play recipe that has been a hit with so many kids!
Even though I reference preschoolers and toddlers, I know for a fact that elementary-aged children love it too.
(I’ve even seen groups of middle school kids get into it too!)
Related: Unicorn Play Dough
Play Sand Ingredients
The whole-wheat flour is what gives this recipe the look and feel of sand from the beach.
If you don’t have vegetable oil, you can use another type of cooking oil. Just be sure to take any allergies into account.
If you’re not worried about making a taste-safe sand, you can use baby oil in place of the vegetable oil.
Play Sand Recipe
The basic toddler-safe sand recipe is 8 parts whole-wheat flour to 1 part vegetable oil.
We started out with 4 cups flour and 1/2 cup vegetable oil, but you can adjust it based on how much you want to make.
Related: Ocean Sensory Bottle
All you have to do is add the flour to a bin and then pour in the oil. Let the kids help measure and pour!
Then it’s time to mix it all together. Again, the kids can help with this part.
The play sand has the consistency of damp beach sand, without being sticky or wet.
It’s a light brown color, too, which makes it look even more like sand.
On top of that, it is moldable just like real beach sand!
The fact that it’s safe for toddlers makes it even better! I love using materials that kids of varying ages can get into safely.
How to Use the Homemade Sand
The great thing about this play sand recipe is that you can use it in so many different ways!
Make it for one child, make it for a small group, or make it for a large group of kids!
I’ve used it with my own son, with my preschool students, with children I babysat, and even during summer camps!
If you want to use it during summer camp, I highly suggest a kiddie pool. Here’s the recipe we used for that:
- 3 5-pound bags of whole-wheat flour
- 6 cups vegetable oil
If you can, grab a kiddie pool with a top. That way you can protect the play sand when the children aren’t using it.
If you want to make the sand in a large sensory bin, use the following recipe:
- 1 5-pound bag of whole-wheat flour
- 2 cups vegetable oil
You can so many different things to the toddler-safe sand!
We preferred adding shells, shovels, ocean animals, and beach toys to the sand.
The kids especially loved the sand castle toys because the sand is moldable. So they were able to make play sand castles!
The shells were a close second though, particularly because the children liked imprinting the shells into the sand.
Related: Shell Painting Ocean Art
Beach Small World with Play Sand
If you want to take the taste-safe sand to another level, why not make your own beach small world?
This can be done in a large plastic bin or a child’s water table. It just depends on what you have on-hand.
Be sure to have the kids help you set up. It won’t look perfect, but it’ll be more fun and meaningful.
Pour the play sand into a bin or water table. Consider adding some seashells in the sand.
Create water using water beads or blue glass gems.
Add some ocean animals to round everything out.
You can also place spoons, cups, and shovels in there if you’d like.
I am not even exaggerating that this gave the kids hours upon hours of engaging play time!
The ocean animals swam and played in the water, with more animal toys added to the mix.
Shells were buried and found over and over again.
Very entertaining stories were told along the way!
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 all of the stories and giggles, and the smiles on the kids’ faces brightened the day.
Plus, the mess just meant they were having fun. And a mess is a great chance for kids to learn how to clean up!
As you can see, this taste-safe play sand has been an absolute hit with kids of all ages over the years. Do let me know if you give it a try!
Here’s one more look:
How Long Does Cloud Dough Last?
The answer to this question really depends on how you make the cloud dough, how you store it, and how often it’s used.
You definitely want to store the “sandy” cloud dough in an air-tight container between uses.
Oh, and make sure everyone washes their hands before playing with the play sand (and afterwards too, of course).
That being said, the longest we’ve stored the sand dough has been a month. Because we play hard around here, we haven’t had enough leftover past that point.
If you use baby oil in place of the vegetable oil, it should last for months when stored correctly. Keep in mind that it won’t be taste-safe if you use baby oil, though.
Done-For-You Preschool Resources
Let The Pack from Preschool Teacher 101 help you free up your spare time. No more spending your nights and weekends planning! Be sure to join the waitlist so you can test out a free set of lesson plans (and be the first to know when enrollment opens up).
Click on the images below to check out some of our resources:
Originally published August 2013.