Recipe for Mouldable Sand

Last week we had a go at making golden shimmery cloud dough but it turned out to be something quite different to what we expected! Thanks to the lovely Kierna from No Such Thing as Bad Weather and a reader called Rachel, I was introduced to a new recipe which makes a totally different end product! 
It’s amazing how many different play substances you can make at home, with very few ingredients!
(New and improved!) recipe for cloud dough or mouldable sand:
  • 5 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup baby oil
Mix well together and PLAY! That’s it!

Counting out 5 cups of flour into a tub- more or less accurately!

 We made some and LOVED it! (I’ve since gone back to our original post and had to rename it simply as “dough” as it is definitely NOT like this “cloud dough”.) What this reminds me of most of all though, is a type of mouldable sand like the branded Moon Sand or Moon Dough (though not as hideous to clear up!!) You can squeeze it, form it, shape it, and use it to make little sand castles or dough shapes. And it smells wonderful and feels silky soft! A great thing to try as an alternative to play dough!

Stirring in 1 cup of delicious baby oil with a spoon

Cakie got very serious about the making of the dough and wanted to be totally in charge. Which meant she did the counting out of the cups herself, great for measuring and counting using 1 to 1 correspondence. She tipped in about half a cup of glitter to make it really sparkle!

“This is very sticky Mummy!”

 She used lots of descriptive language to try and explain what it felt like between her fingers, as the ingredients transformed from dry to sticky, then became silky soft and squishy at the end.

Tipped into a tray for easier play

 We tipped it into a tray for easier access and added mini flower pots, cups, spoons and paintbrushes for exploration.

Filling and emptying and making “sand” moulds

 She filled up the pots and used them to make sandcastles which she then decorated with cocktail umbrellas and glass pebbles. We were very impressed that the dough retained its shape so well, and this is why we ended up referring to it as sand instead! Just like a silky soft damp sand. Wonderful!
“Ta da! I made a sand castle!”

We stored ours in a container with a lid a week ago and so far it has been played with a few times and is still just as soft. Hopefully it will last as long as play dough! I’ll let you know :-)

Learning Links:

  • maths: counting using 1:1 correspondence, counting reliably up to 5 and beyond, measuring, filling and emptying, talking about capacity
  • knowledge & understanding: changes of consistency, describing and exploring materials 
  • creativity: model making, imaginative play, storytelling
Cakie: 3 years 2 months
Pop: 19 months


  1. Anonymous says

    I tried this recipe with my daughter this morning and I was amazed! Not only did it keep my daughter busy for almost 3 hours but I couldn’t keep my own hands out of the bin. It really has that nice cool feel that nice soft sand has, and the added glitter really makes the mix look like sand!

  2. says

    Carine- our golden cloud dough recipe used vegetable oil and wasn’t the same- it was stretchy and dough like. But I know Tinkerlab did a cloud dough recipe with oil which seemed to work for her, so maybe give it a go? Use less for a test maybe?

    Anon- sounds wonderful, THREE hours?!! amazing!

  3. Anonymous says

    Really like the sound of this to try with my class – I’ve been keen to find a recipe they can follow and make themselves (and while I love no-cook playdough they need an adult for the hot bit). Is it possible to add food colouring to it?

  4. says

    Wonderful, Anna!! The ratio of your flour to oil is slightly different than the one I used, and I thought about experimenting with more/less oil to see what happens. I’d recommend the same to your readers. I thought the canola oil worked well, but I didn’t try baby oil so I have nothing to compare it to. A recipe book is in the works :) I love the addition of glitter. So pretty.

  5. says

    Monkeyboysmom: No no noooo! Not 1:1 ratio in the ingredients, sorry for the confusion! It’s 5 cups of flour to 1 cup of baby oil. At least that was what we tried anyway and it worked well!

    The 1:1 refers to a mathematical learning objective for little ones, in that they count objects (or in this case cupfuls) saying the correct number as they do each one. This leads to accurate counting and is something young children often aren’t able to do.

  6. says

    Rachelle, good thinking! I think a lot of these home-made recipes are really just as much about experimentation and science as they are about creativity! What’s canola oil? Would like to try it! And yes, a recipe book is something I’d love to do too!!

  7. says

    We added glitter and food colouring – the colour fragmented and looked great. However this experiment was not so successful for us though, because we did it outside today when it was warm and the ‘dough’ was so crumbly that all the things my 3yo built were a bit fall-overish in the breeze. I think we prefer salt dough experimenting…

  8. says

    I did it today with my 3 and 4 year olds and they both loved it. i also added some sea shells and rocks for them to make their sand sculptures. I do have a question though, how do you store it??? for how long can it be stored?

  9. says

    Hi Lana, that’s great feedback thanks! I don’t know yet how long it lasts as ours is only about 2 weeks old! But we are storing ours in a plastic container with a lid- it’s not quite air tight. So far it’s still lovely. I shall wait and see how it turns out, but considering the ingredients, I don’t see why it should go bad any time soon, unless it gets wet?

  10. says

    I made this today with cooking oil (olive) and it worked just fine, although I did try once before and ended up with a peculiar doughy substance. This time though, it was perfect. And we definitely had more than 15 minutes of fun. I plan on adding food colouring to the oil next time!!

  11. Anonymous says

    I just wanted to say that with baby oil, it’s probably NOT a great thing for a young child who is still sticking things in their mouth, as baby oil can actually be deadly if it gets into the lungs (like if they cough with it in their mouth and inhale some). It coats the lungs and suffocates them; there is no way to get it out. I’m writing this because we made this with baby oil for my 12 month old, and had a pretty good scare. He is okay. I think we’ll try an olive oil version of this in a bit. :)

  12. Anonymous says

    Hi Everyone I am a playleader on a childrens ward of a hospital and love your ideas for the sensory tubs – cant wait to try the cloud dough !! great for those stuck in bed and traction patients for all ages !!

    Thank you so much

  13. says

    Ok so I just read one of the previous comments about baby oil being dangerous, I got worried because my 21 month old while pretending to make pie was also pretending to eat it! I am unsure if he got any in his mouth or not…
    So I called poison control after reading your comment (and googling it only to find out how children have died!) They assured me that since it was mixed with the flour already and not just pure liquid I had nothing to worry about it, except maybe some loose stools depending on how much he ingested. I am still being a paranoid mommy right now though and through the remainder of the mix out, I think we find an alternative to the baby oil…