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You might have seen this referred to as moon dough, cloud dough, sand dough, or kinetic sand…whatever you call it, this smushy sensory moon sand is a tactile delight, incredibly easy to make, and feels like a trip to the beach!
With summer day trips feeling especially limited this year, I find myself trying to recreate some of the typical visits and traditions by taking bits and pieces of treasured experiences and using them as inspiration for at-home activities. The things I have found the most fun and rewarding almost always wake up our sensory reflexes – helping us to recall memories through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
I love this moon sand activity because, in addition to being the quickest little DIY, a few simple sensory additions can really help kiddos feel like they’ve enjoyed that classic beach play experience. Be sure to keep reading after the instructions for a few dead simple ways to make your moon sand play into a full afternoon tropical paradise experience…
For more themed sensory play, get out the playdough for an uber-fun Paul Bunyan pancake and donut sensory activity, try making your own rainbow rice, or find your calm with our aromatherapy “Pixie Dust”.
To make your own DIY moon sand you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Flour (or rice flour for a gluten-free option)
- Oil (most tutorials online suggest baby oil, but if you’re worried about your kids putting this in their mouths, coconut and vegetable oils work exactly the same way and are taste-safe)
- Gel food coloring (like this) or kool-aid packets (2-3 packets for every 2 cups of flour for bright, vibrant colors)
ADDITIONAL SUPPLIES FOR PLAY:
- Buckets, pails
- Sand and water toys
- Toy cars and trucks
Note: You can use regular sand and achieve a texture closer to the kinetic sand found in stores by using this recipe from One Little Project – I’ve tried it out and it’s wonderful! For castle-building and using with molds, I prefer our flour and oil recipe because it seems to hold shape better, doesn’t quickly dry out, and uses supplies I typically have around.
DIY Moon Sand Instructions:
- Mix the ingredients in a large bowl
You want an 8:1 ratio of flour to oil. So 4 cups flour and 1/2 cup oil, 8 cups flour and 1 cup oil, etc. Mix them together (with color if desired) until the flour still feels silky and sandy, but will hold a shape if you squeeze it in your hands.
For color, I recommend mixing a couple of drops of gel food coloring with the oil, then pouring the mixture into your flour. Kool-Aid also produces bright pretty colors (and great smells!) You can try stirring regular food coloring in with the flour in a pinch, but it’s hard to get it all mixed together (you know what they say about oil and water!) without clumping, and I found it tough to get a satisfying color.
- Move to a large bin or tray
Pour your moon sand into a large bin or tray for indoor or outdoor play.
Just a reminder – both food coloring and Kool-Aid can leave a slight stain on hands and surfaces if left sitting or after being played with for quite a while. It’s a great excuse to take it outside for play, then jump right into a baby pool for some cleanup afterward!
- Add toys and play!
You can use this as a fun sensory experience all on its own, or add tools or toys to a bin or tray for play. When playtime has ended, store your moon sand in an airtight container to play with later.
- Wash hands and surfaces thoroughly after play
To clean any food coloring stains off little hands I like to use a mixture of dish soap and diluted white vinegar with warm water. Rub with an old washcloth, adding a tiny bit of baking soda if necessary. I’ve also heard that foaming shaving cream works a treat for instant cleanliness!
Once you have your own batch together, it’s time to kick up basic beach play a notch! Just like an actual day at the beach, this should feel like a relaxing getaway. One way to achieve total escape and the full beach experience? Awaken ALL your senses…
Ideas for creating a multi-sensory beach-themed moon sand play experience
- Slather on the sunscreen, grab a beach towel, and take this activity outside!
- Fill a beach pail or spray bottles with DIY saltwater (I mix a tablespoon of sea salt with a cup of hot water then let cool). You can also fill a tray with saltwater and add our floating egg carton whale and scrap supply sailboats to create your own miniature ocean!
- Turn on some serene ocean sounds (I like this nice, calming soft beach sounds track from YouTube or this hour of relaxing beach waves on Spotify)
- Add seashells, smooth pebbles, water beads, or other beach-themed nature finds to your play setup
- Tie in your tastebuds with a favorite classic beach food or healthy tropical drink
Multi-sensory experiences can help increase focus and concentration, and calm anxiety. I know everyone over here is feeling a bit more tense and anxious than usual. With an uncertain back-to-school season looming in the next few weeks, it feels more important than ever to find simple activities that offer calming, meditative experiences.
Make sure you ALL give yourselves time to enjoy breathing in the scent of saltwater and coconut, taking in the feeling of wet “sand” slipping through your fingers – even washing your hands and basking in the warm rays of summer sunshine are little day-to-day sensory experiences you can bring attention to with this activity. Breath deep.
A few more ways to play with your moon sand…
For more ocean and beach moon sand play visit:
- An Alternative Taste-safe Moon Sand Recipe from The Best Ideas for Kids
- Ocean Moon Sand Sensory Bin Activity from The ABCs of Literacy
- Beach Small World Play with Cloud Dough Sand from Danya Banya
- Coconut Cloud Dough from The Imagination Tree
- Make a miniature deserted island surrounded by ocean slime from Kids Colors Heaven on YouTube
For other play and learning ideas to try with your moon sand visit:
- Magic Color-Changing Moon Dough from STEAM Powered Family
- Geometric Shape Sand Dough Sensory Play from Little Bins for Little Hands
- Moon Sand Syllable Smash Game from Still Playing School
- Moon Dough Space Sensory Play Activity from Messy Little Monster
- A Dinosaur Sensory Bin from Pre-K Pages
- Bugs and Reptiles Cloud Dough Play from Glitter on a Dime
If this virtual trip to the beach made you thirsty for more seaside-themed summer fun, try this simple ocean sensory tray with its own floating egg carton whale. Older kids can experiment with new craft-making processes with our scrape-painted surfboard art, DIY cereal box shutter shades, or kid-made beach ball softies.