The Science of Kinetic Sand

Originally published March 2020, updated January 2024.

A recipe for learning and fun

Kinetic Sand is a great way to have fun and learn about science at the same time.

You’ll only need four ingredients for this simple recipe.


  • 6 cups of play sand
  • 1½ cups of cornstarch
  • 2 tsp of dish soap
  • ¾ cups of water, or as needed


  1. Add the play sand and cornstarch together in a large container with a lid.
  2. Mix until it is well combined.
  3. In a separate container, mix the water and dish soap until it becomes bubbly.
  4. Slowly add the water and dish soap mixture to the sand and cornstarch.
  5. Continue mixing until it is well combined.
  6. If the mixture is too dry, add more water until you have reached the desired consistency.
  7. Cover your Kinetic Sand when you’re finished, so it doesn’t become dry.

The science behind the sand

Kinetic Sand stays together, allowing you to easily mold and create shapes. Kinetic means “togetherness due to movement and energy” and is used to describe Kinetic Sand because, unlike the sand at the beach, Kinetic Sand sticks together when force is applied to it.

When a liquid is added to cornstarch it starts to become thicker, similar to how sand becomes heavier with water at the beach. In this recipe, adding your wet ingredients (water and dish soap) to your dry ingredients (sand and cornstarch) makes the Sand heavier and thicker. Adding just the right amount of the wet ingredients allows the sand and cornstarch mixture to stay dry enough to not stick to your hands, but wet enough to stick together.

Recipe courtesy of One Little Project, opens a new window