Kinetic Sand Vs. Play Doh: What Is Best For Your Child?

Play doh has long been a childhood favorite, and many people fondly remember playing with it when they were children, but now there is a new messy play material out on the market that is in competition with play doh; this is kinetic sand. So, out of these two materials, which one is best for your child?

Play doh and kinetic sand aid in many aspects of childhood development, but they are very different materials. The one that is best for your child depends on your child’s age, their understanding of instructions not to eat it, any allergies your child may have, for example, a gluten allergy.

Play doh and kinetic sand do have a lot in common when it comes to aiding in your child’s development, but they do differ in a few ways. We will go through just what kinetic sand and play doh are as well as their cons and pros so you can make your decision on which is best suited for your child.

What Is Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic sand may be a fun and educational toy, but most people do not know what kinetic sand actually is, so let us go through it to better understand it and how it can help in the development of your child.

Kinetic sand is a molding material that’s official creation date is unknown, but kinetic sand was officially trademarked as a toy for children in 2014. Kinetic sand is actually just normal sand, but instead of being coated in water like wet sand, the kinetic sand is coated in silicone oil.

This mixture is also sometimes dyed into various colors to make the kinetic sand more fun and appealing for children, but you can get kinetic sand in just the standard “sand” color too.

Kinetic sand is great for tactile stimulation as well as sensory awareness, hand-eye coordination, fine motor development, and it fosters the development of creativity in children as they can create different shapes and objects with the sand.

However, there is a recommended age group that kinetic sand is appropriate for when it comes to children, which should be followed to ensure that the children play with kinetic sand safely. This age group is three years and up.

Kinetic sand is not toxic to people or pets like dogs, but it is still not recommended for it to be ingested as it may cause an upset stomach.

Unfortunately, in the time we are living in, children are not as active as they should be, so getting them interested in something like creative play is great as it can entertain them for hours as well as having a positive impact on their development.

What Is Play Doh?

Most of us know about play doh and even used to play with it when we were children ourselves, but what is play doh actually, and how does it help in the development of children?

Well, play doh is a modeling compound that is now used by children for arts and crafts and, by some people, in home projects.

However, play doh was not originally intended to be a toy for children. Play doh was invented in 1930 and was intended to be used as a wallpaper cleaner to clean soot and dust from walls in homes and offices. 

Play doh was then re-marketed in the 1950s as a children’s arts and crafts material; this is because the company did not make as many sales as they wanted when it was advertised as a wallpaper cleaning tool.

Play doh is generally a great tool in helping the development of children as it helps with fine motor development, hand-eye coordination, tactile stimulation, as well as the development of creativity in children.

Just like with kinetic sand, play doh also has an age recommendation when it comes to children being able to play with it safely. The recommended age to start introducing play doh to your children is two years and older. This is due to a few reasons, but mainly as the play doh can be a choking hazard for children younger than two years old.

Play doh is not considered toxic, but it is not a good idea to ingest it either as it can contain some ingredients that can upset the stomachs of your little ones, such as surfactants, inhibitors, and fragrances.

These ingredients are only found in store brought play doh, but you can make play doh at home only using water, salt, and flour, which is less likely to cause any problems in your child’s digestive system.

Pros And Cons Of Both

Like many things, both kinetic sand and play doh do have their benefits, but they also have some cons associated with them too. These pros and cons can come from various categories, but they should all be considered when you want to find the perfect creative developmental toy for your child.

So, let us go through the pros and as well as cons for both of these creative materials so you can choose the best one for your child.

Pros Of Kinetic Sand

Kinetic sand is a great art and crafts material to have on hand for your children to play with, and it helps with your child’s development in various ways.

A great pro about kinetic sand is that it is easy to clean up once the play session is over. This is because kinetic sand sticks to itself and nothing else, making clean-up a breeze, which is a win for parents everywhere.

Kinetic sand also does not dry out and turn into normal sand or a hard clump of material when it’s left out or a piece of it is missed during the clean-up after a play session. The reason for this is that the kinetic sand is not covered in water to make it “wet” but is rather coated in silicone oil which does not evaporate.

The kinetic sand is also not toxic even with the silicone oil that covers it; the worst it can do is give your child an upset stomach which should go away by itself in a few hours.

Even though the kinetic sand is technically coated in oil, it leaves no residue on your hands or the surface that it is being used on. Kinetic sand is actually an anti-microbial, so your child’s hands will stay clean when playing with it.

Kinetic sand is also hypoallergenic; this means that children with allergies can play with the kinetic sand without any issues; this also includes allergies like gluten allergies, which a lot of people do not think about when it comes to arts and craft materials for children.

Kinetic sand can last a very long time as it does not have an expiration date, and it will not grow mold, and it’s easy to clean up, so your batch of kinetic sand will not shrink over time. So, you will be able to keep your children entertained for years with this art material. 

Kinetic sand is not only great fun for your children, but you can sit down and enjoy it too. This makes it the perfect bonding activity for you and your child, plus it is quite a relaxing activity too, so say goodbye to your stress, at least for a little while.  

Cons Of Kinetic Sand

Even with all those lovely pros that kinetic sand has to offer, it does still have some cons attached to it, too, unfortunately. And even though there are not many cons to go over, it is still important for you to be aware of them just before you make your decision. So, let us go through the cons of kinetic sand.

Kinetic sand does have a recommended age group that is appropriate for use during a messy play session. It is recommended that you only begin introducing kinetic sand to your child once they are three years old or older. This age recommendation is a bit older than most other age recommendations of other materials like kinetic sand.

Kinetic sand is also generally quite a bit more expensive compared to other materials, and you can not find kinetic sand in every toy or kids store, meaning that it may be slightly difficult to get your hands on in certain areas.

Pros Of Play Dough

Play doh is a really good molding material for children to use and play with to flex their creative muscles and to help with other areas of childhood development. However, these are not the only pros that play doh has though. So, let us go through the rest of the pros of play doh.

Play doh is a pretty inexpensive messy play option for parents to buy compared with other materials like it that are out on the market today. Play doh is also generally non-toxic, so if your child ingests it, then the worst they will get is an upset stomach, which should settle down by itself in a few hours.

Play doh is a fun material that can keep your child entertained for hours, which then allows you to have some free time to work or clean the house or whatever your schedule requires you to do.

Play doh is also a great way for you to have some bonding time with your child where you can both enjoy the activity, plus it might just bring up some nostalgic feelings for you from when you were a kid.

Cons Of Play Doh

Even though play doh is a very valid messy play material for your child, there are some cons to play doh that you should be aware of before you make your decision about whether it is the best play material for your child or not.

Play doh does leave residue on both the hands of the children who play with it and the surface it was placed on for the messy play session. This residue can be difficult to get rid of and may require multiple washes to do so.

Play doh can be a bit tricky to clean up as it can break into small pieces during the messy play session, and these small pieces can go everywhere. Play doh can also dry out quite quickly, only taking a few minutes of being left unattended before it starts to harden.

So, if you miss some small pieces of play doh during the clean-up, they will harden quite fast, and there is nothing more painful than stepping on a hard shard of dried play doh.

Play doh, especially homemade play doh, is considered a food product; therefore, it can expire and grow mold after a while. This means that play doh does not last as long as it should or as long as you would want it to.

You may need to throw the play doh away after a few play sessions or if it has not been played with for an extended period of time.

Play doh is not hypoallergenic; in fact, it may even cause some mild allergic reactions in children that have a gluten or wheat allergy, as flour is the main ingredient for play doh. 

Play doh can also spread bacteria as the bacteria sticks to and grows on the play doh easily; this also accelerates the growth of mold on the play doh.


Kinetic Sand– easy to clean up
– does not dry out
– non-toxic
– leaves no residue
– Is hypoallergenic
– long-lasting
– has a recommended age group
– more expensive
Play Doh– very inexpensive
– generally non-toxic
– very entertaining
– leave residue
– difficult to clean up
– dries out quite quickly
– can expire and grow mold
– not long-lasting
– can cause mild allergic reactions
– can also spread bacteria

Which One Is Best For Your Child?

When choosing which is best between kinetic sand and play doh for your child to play within a messy play session, you need to take into account the age of your child, your child’s obedience to instructions as well as your child’s allergies.

If your child is three years old or older, and they are good at following instructions to not eat the material, and they have allergies, then kinetic sand may be the best option for your child.

However, if your child is two years of age or older, and they are not good at following instructions to not eat the material, and they do not have allergies, then play doh is a good option for them to play with during messy play.

However, this decision is mainly up to personal preference as no matter which messy play material you choose, your child will still be getting the same developmental help from both of these options.


Kinetic sand and play doh are both really enjoyable materials for your child’s messy play session, and they can both keep your child entertained for hours while helping your child’s development at the same time. Both materials have their pros and their cons, but ultimately, the decision is up to you. Enjoy your messy play session with your child!


Article checked by:
Dr Binu George – Consultant General Pediatric
(MBBS, FRCPCH, Dual CCST (UK), Paediatric Neurodisability)
Head Of Department, Child Development Department at
NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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