Arboretum News

Kids Activity: One-ingredient Kinetic Sand

Explore a new texture with brown sugar.

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Brown sugar has some of the same properties as kinetic sand. Photo by Reba Luiken.

By Reba Luiken, Arboretum coordinator of informal interpretation

Fight the boredom blues with this easy, no-prep activity. It makes use of an ingredient you might already have on hand, and it’s great for multiple age groups if you’ve got a young learner who still mouths everything.

Just pull out some brown sugar from the cupboard and play! Brown sugar is something I almost always have on hand, and it’s completely edible. (Editor’s note: If you find some crusty, dried brown sugar in the back of your cupboard, place it in an airtight container with a piece of bread for 24 hours, and the moisture from the bread should make the brown sugar soft again.)

While it is safe for babies and toddlers who still put things in their mouths, I’d recommend it for slightly¬†older kids. For little ones, I tend to prefer things that are safe to eat but won’t encourage it by tasting very good. However, this is a great option for times when a younger sibling might decide to help.¬†

Gather the supplies. Photo by Reba Luiken.

– Brown sugar
– Tools for playing (measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc.)


1. Prep your space. Like sand, brown-sugar has the potential to get messy, so you might want to move outside or put down a tarp or sheet underneath your play space for easy clean up. Make sure everything is nice and dry to reduce stickiness. 

2. Measure out a cup of brown sugar onto your play space. I used 2/3 of a cup, firmly packed.

3. Play!

Create “bricks” of brown sugar and try to stack them. Photo by Reba Luiken.

– You can save the sugar for future play by keeping it dry in an air-tight container.
– Use a small container to help you pack the sugar to make bricks to build with.

1 comment on “Kids Activity: One-ingredient Kinetic Sand

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