Glitter Cloud Dough Beach Sensory Tub

I am officially in LOVE with Cloud Dough! It is one of the easiest play recipes to make, requiring only 2 ingredients from around the house, feels fabulous between the fingers, can be formed and moulded into shapes, is easy to clear up and lasts for ages! What a brilliant play substance! It really should have another name though as it’s really nothing like dough and every bit like silky, damp sand.
Ever since we made our mouldable sand a little while ago, I’ve been keen to make a larger batch of the cloud dough/ sand recipe to fill a sensory tub for more sustained play.

I’ve also really wanted to experiment with adding colouring to it, and I can officially say, it doesn’t work! * We used nearly half a bottle of purple and then one third of a bottle of pink colouring, and it mixes in just a tiny amount but won’t distribute throughout the whole. I’m guessing this is because of the oil since food colouring is water based and therefore won’t combine easily. Any other guesses? Interesting for experimentation! We DID add plenty of purple and red glitter and that dispersed beautifully, making the whole tub shimmer and shine as they played.

* edited to add:

We have since coloured it very successfully using powdered paints! See our pink cloud dough cup cakes here for  how-to!


  • 7 cups any type of flour (we used economy plain flour)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or baby oil (we used vegetable this time)
  • as much glitter as you wish!
Mix it all together until the oil is evenly dispersed throughout the flour. Use your hands. Thats’s it!

We tipped it into a large, shallow tub (we got some “boot boxes” in the supermarket this week that are a great size for sensory tubs!) Then we found some large and small shells of different shapes and colours, pebbles and driftwood.

Because of the nature of the sand/ dough, it is possible to make beautiful imprints from the shells.

And you can make gorgeous sand castles which can be decorated with shells, just like really being at the beach! C has been obsessively making little sandcastles ever since the tub was put together, and has been making up some wonderful stories about buried treasure and pirates!

This is much nicer to clean up than wet sand and softer too, although it feels and behaves very similarly.
Learning Links:
creativity: creating sculptures, moulds and impressions, decorating and pattern making using shells
literacy: language and storytelling development
sensory: explore new materials using all of the senses
fine motor: make balls, mounds and impressions using delicate pressure from the fingers, squeeze and sift through the dough

Cakie: 3 years 4 months
Pop: 21 months


  1. says

    Ohhh that looks so much fun. I was going to try colouring with some of the paste rather than liquid food colouring as I have some from birthday cake making I used that to colour our playdough and it worked much better than the liquid colour giving a stronger colour to our dough as well.

  2. says

    Lovely! I used pink food colouring (silver spoon) to make a batch and it took the colour really well?? I did use baby oil though so maybe that’s the difference. Don’t give up- it does work! X

  3. says

    Yay. Granny baby sitting tomorrow and thin this will be a great activity to leave her to do with the twins. DO you know for how long or how well this “sand” keeps?

    • says

      What a FAB Granny you have! Wowsers! It seems to last for ages- our last batch is still fine and we made that at least 4-6 weeks ago. Keep it in a tupperware box. I don’t think the ingredients can really go off so it may last quite some time! Have fun!

  4. says

    This is a lovely idea. Max is all about cars and diggers in it atm but i think this will definitely go down well with Katy!

  5. says

    We have had the same batch, uncovered since we made it for the play challenge in November and it i still great!

    I would suggest sifting powdered food colouring with your flour, before adding the oil. The powdered colour is expensive, but the colours are intense so you don’t use much.

    • says

      Haha good point Charlotte, in that case I’ve had mine even longer as you got your recipe from me! hehe. I’m not very good at keeping track of time.
      I’ve never seen powdered colouring- interesting! What is it for generally?
      I’m planning on tracking down some powder paint soon too if I can and I reckon anything that constistency should work well. Thanks for the ideas!

  6. says

    Oh I’m so going to try this one! My son is a bit tactile defensive so going to the beach is a bit of a worry for him if it gets on his hands. This would be perfect for him to try in his home environment which is a little less threatening. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Clare says

    Thank you so much for this idea, both of my girls are having a fantastic time playing with this. Lots of talking about what they are doing and making.

  8. Leanne says

    Going to try this soon with my 18 month old – just worried he’ll throw it everywhere! I think I enjoy playing with these things more than him at the moment!!

  9. Anonymous says

    You can add cinnamon to get the sand colour. Thanks so so so so much, cause I was looking for an alternative to my sons playing in the dirt, for health reason, now I have no worry. Whoever came up with this is a genius. I want to try oatmeal and rice to get varying textures. Thanks again.

  10. Anonymous says

    You can get food coloring that is used in candy making that might work. Since chocolate has a high fat content and does not react well to water, I believe that the special food dye is oil-based…

  11. says

    I was lying in bed after an eventful, fun filled day wondering how on earth I could get the sand dough colored. The only thing I could come up with was if you could add powdered tempra paint to the flour before adding the baby oil because you can’t color the baby oil? I didn’t try it yet because I don’t have any on hand. Now I’m wondering if anyone had tried this?

  12. Anonymous says

    I just made this for the first time for my nearly 4 yr old, just flour & sunflower oil… He loved it! He used cups and little bowls to make sandcastles and cocktail sticks to make flags! I’m going to invest in some powdered paint now to colour it… Unless anyone knows if the colour paste works as I have all of those? Also some glitter :)

  13. says

    My grandkids just left. We made koolaid playdough last night and had a wonderful time… Now I find this! I don’t think I can wait until they are back. Is it okay to make this for myself? Um… I could give it to them next time I see them, right? Maybe I’ll make a quarter amount – just to try to be sure it will work for them. What do you think? It’s my responsibility to be sure they would like it.
    I love this site. I’ll be sending a link to my kids for their kids!

  14. says

    I did this today and coloured one batch green and one batch red and one batch pink with regular liquid food colouring It took a lot of mixing with the back of a metal spoon and some kneading through but worked great. All my 4 loved it aged 2,4,6,7.

  15. Anonymous says

    how about the alcohol based coloring for candy? i think that would work well with the oil.