What is kinetic sand made of?

Kids today are so blessed with a great variety of toys and play aids. Just a few decades ago, the choices were much more limited. Today they can choose between play sand, play dough, sensory sand, and, wait for it, kinetic sand.

The word kinetic links back to the Greek word “kin?tikos” which means motion or to move. And that really does describe kinetic sand. It moves. Not very fast, but place a blob of it somewhere, and in very slow increments, it moves. Neat right?

Let’s find out how it works.

What is kinetic sand made of?

Kinetic sand, enjoyed by young and old alike, is usually made of 98% sand and 2% silicone. Children love the playful creativeness of the sand. Adults relax by watching the enthralling kinetic sand ASMR (Autonomous/Auto Sensory Meridian Response) videos they find on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, etc.

The reason that this sand can “move” if you watch it closely, is because the sand is coated with a silicone type of oil. Silicone refers to a group of materials. These materials contain elements that contain silicon and oxygen.

Silicon is the naturally occurring 14th chemical element on the periodic table. It’s nestled between Aluminium and Phosphorus. After oxygen, it is the second most abundant element in the crust of the earth.

Silicone on the other hand is synthetic.

Silicone is polymers. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, polymers are synthetic or natural substances that are composed of very large molecules. Macromolecules if you will. This means that silicone is made up of repeated units of long chains. Macromolecules are found in cellulose, proteins, quartz, diamonds, sealants, concrete, shampoo, rubbers, glass, conditioners, paper, etc.

Silicone has a fascinating characteristic called viscoelasticity. It can flow freely in liquid form. In the absence of pressure, it flows slowly in semisolid form. Put it under stress and you get a rubbery solid.

When kinetic sand is made, the silicone goes into a semisolid form. The long polymer chains make the sand stick together. That’s why you can form it into a ball. But because of the absence of pressure, it will flatten over time.

Also, because the sand particles are covered with the silicone oil, it sticks to one another, but not to other surfaces. Less stickiness. Less clean-up. Just more fun.

Right, now that we’ve had our science lesson for the day, let’s explore kinetic sand further.


Let’s compare different types of sand to kinetic sand.

This video above shows how different types of play sand, including Kinetic Sand, compare to each other. These different brands are all similar to Kinetic Sand, except for the moon sand.

Sensory sand vs Kinetic sand

Kinetic sand is also referred to as sensory or magic sand. It has a texture that is difficult to describe. The sand sticks to itself. But it’s not sticky. It kind of feels like wet sand. But it’s not wet.

It holds forms very well. You can squish it, let it flow, (because it doesn’t run like ordinary sand), through your fingers, or create amazing shapes with it.

When doing the cut test, it showed that the edges are crisper than other sand toys. It smells a little bit like wet sand. Not a bad, ugh-get-that-away-from-me smell. Just an organic smell.

The manufacturers of Kinetic sand states that it won’t dry out. That being said, it is prudent to keep it clean and dust-free by placing it in an airtight plastic container, using cling wrap to cover it, or a resealable plastic bag when not in use.

Squishy sand vs kinetic sand

Squishy sand has a cookie dough feel to it. And leaves a slight, greasy residue when played with.

It smells a bit like coloring in crayons, like Crayola crayons. It does not hold forms as well as other toy sands. Please note, some customer reviews mentioned getting a rash when touching and playing with the sand. 

Kinetic sand vs play sand

Play sand has a soft, dry texture. It can create shapes, roads, and bridges when built right by adding a bit of water. It can adhere to clothes, hands, and feet.

Play sand usually smells like natural sand but can become smelly if not cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.

Play sand is usually used in sandboxes. To maintain the sand and keep it clean and dry, cover the sandpit when it is not being used.

Kinetic Sand vs Play doh

Play dough can have different textures depending on how it’s made. If you add coarse sea salt, it gives a different grainy texture. If you use table salt, it has a softer texture.

You can add lovely aromas to play dough if you add a few drops of scented oil. Usually, it smells like, well, it smells like play-dough. You have to take a whiff for yourself if you never smelled it before. For those of us that know the smell, it smells like rainy days of childhood.

Play dough retains its shape very well. It does dry out if you don’t keep it in an airtight container or plastic baggie. If you add cream of tartar to the dough recipe, it could last for up to 6 months, or longer.

Moon sand

Moon sand is crumbly in nature. It kind of looks like the surface of the moon, that’s why it’s called moon sand.

It doesn’t really smell like anything except if you buy or make the scented type. Even though this toy is moldable, the drawback is it can be dry and messy, compared to kinetic sand.

Store the moon sand in an airtight container to keep it fresh for longer.

Can you fill a sandbox with kinetic sand?

Yes, you can. But depending on the sandbox size, it might cost you a pretty penny. Also, this toy is designed as an indoor toy, for those rainy or snowy days when the kids can’t play outside.

It’s best to place the kinetic sand on a tray or a big piece of paper and play with the sand inside the borders of the tray or paper. Much easier clean-up too.

Please note that the original Kinetic Sand was discovered by Jonas Modell and Staffan Thuresson in the 1990s. Today it is trademarked and produced by a Canadian company, Spin Master Ltd.

Hopefully, this helped you on your quest to understand kinetic sand and the difference between it, and other competitors.

Image Credits: Canva Pro

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