Homemade Colored Sand

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Have you ever thought about making colored sand? It is possible to color sand, easily, and get the kids involved in the process, too. Here, we are covering how to color sand as a sensory play material for the sandbox, for art, and for homemade colored sand fun!

We have been playing outside so much recently.  Our sandbox is right outside and the kids are in there daily. We added a little color to some of the sand this week and have been having fun with our colored sand!

Color sand for a sensory play experience with many therapy benefits.

Color Sand for Developing Skills

Kids love to color sand, and the process is a fun motor and sensory activity to support development of a variety of skill areas, too:

  • Eye-hand coordination to pour and scoop the sand
  • Bilateral coordination to pour sand into a bag or container
  • Gross motor skills, heavy work, proprioception, and motor planning skills to shake the containers of sand and paint
  • Executive functioning skills to mix and color the sand
  • Tactile sensory play to manipulate the mixed textures of dry sand and wet paint.
  • Fine motor skills to pinch the crumbled dry clumps of colored sand
using food coloring to make colored sand

How to Color Sand

We made a simple batch of colored sand very easily.  This simple recipe is a great activity for kids to make as a cognitive and direction-following activity. Read on for directions on how to make colored sand…

Big Sister helped me with this and we had fun while the little kids were napping.   So how did we make our colored sand?  

  1. Scoop a little sand into plastic baggies.
  2. Add around 10-15 drops of food coloring.
  3. Seal the baggie and shake it up. (great for some gross motor play!!)  
  4. Let the sand dry and have fun playing.  

We left our sand right in the open baggies and let it dry overnight.  If you wanted to play right away, you could spread the sand out on a tray and it would dry much sooner.

Color sand for sensory play
add food coloring to baggies of sand

Color Sand Activities

Once you have mixed a batch of colorful sand, you can use it in various sensory and motor activities.

Make Color Sand Pictures

So the next day, we spread the sand out on a tray and played!  She loves making pictures in the sand and telling stories (like Nina on Sprout!)  This was such a fun activity.  

Practice Writing Letters with Colored Sand

We spread out the sand onto a low tray and used it as a writing tray. My preschooler told me all kinds of stories, made words, and we practiced some lower case letter formation.

Big Sister is knows how to make most lowercase letters and can copy all of the letters.  This is a great activity for letter formation and practicing handwriting.  

Use Colored Sand for Pre-Writing Skills

For kids that are still working on diagonals, crossed lines, and shapes, a sand sensory writing tray is a great tool to work on pre-writing skills. The tactile feedback offers muscle memory for forming lines and shapes.

The sand adds a sensory aspect to letter formation. Using a large tray like this one adds whole arm movements which are perfect for the young child who is just learning letter formation.  I love the contrast that the white tray adds to the colored sand.  

We played for a long time with this (again during Little Kid nap time).

colored sand on tray for child to form letters

Of course, when you have bags of colored sand, you have to mix the colors together to see what happens πŸ™‚  

Color sand for a sensory tray.

Grade the colored sand activity for therapy

How can you grade this activity for different aged children? There are many ways to color sand and use one batch with several ages. This is especially good for families with children at various ages. Consider the contamination aspect when using a batch of colored sand in the therapy setting.

  • Toddlers would love to explore the colors and sensation of the sand on their fingers.
  • Pre-writers can copy and trace shapes, zig-zag and intersecting lines
  • Early writers can trace upper case letters.
  • Older hand-writers can copy a word from a card positioned off to the side. 
  • Practice spelling words with school-aged kids.

    We saved our bags of colored sand and will be using them again.  Have you done any projects with colored sand? 

Finally, after playing with your homemade colored sand, use the opportunity to add this tactile sensory play experience to your toolbox of handwashing activities!

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

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10 thoughts on “Homemade Colored Sand”

  1. The mess wasn't too bad with this one. The sand stayed pretty much on the tray, though we did play out on the porch, just in case πŸ™‚ We've had MUCH bigger messes!

  2. Does the sand bleed colors if it gets wet? I'd like to do a HUGE batch of this for my son's sandbox but I'm afraid when he puts water in the sandbox he color will bleed and he will get dye all over himself.

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Color sand for sensory play

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