a special feature from Vanessa Geppert*, Education Coordinator CMEE

My fondest summertime memories of visits with my grandparents included trips to the beach. These were an opportunity for my grandfather to share his love for the local ecology and my grandmother to share her love for the occasion to be playful and imaginative outdoors. One of my favorite activities at the beach was to build a sandcastle. It always amazed me what could be created with sand, water, shells and other natural treasures available on the shore.  I always wanted to be able to save those creations from the inevitable crashing wave!

Just recently, I discovered a wonderful way to create a lasting sand creation! Through my research, I have found that many current children’s craft books and websites offer recipes for sand clay. With a few ingredients from my kitchen, some clean sand and an old pot, I was able to create a lasting sandcastle.  The great thing about this project is that you don’t have to live near the beach to create a summertime keepsake with your grandchild. Many of the supplies are available at craft stores, pet stores, or nurseries; just let your imagination take root.

Summertime Fun Clay Art02As many cooking recipes require testing before you try them out on friends and family, I suggest you do the same with the following recipe for sand clay.


2 cups clean sand *

1 cup corn starch

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 ½ cups hot tap water

Cooking Supplies:    

1 old pot or any metal pot (not a non-stick pot)

1 wooden or large serving spoon

1 cookie sheet

Parchment paper or waxed paper

Decorating Supplies: 




Drift wood, small pieces of bark or large wood chips



*If you get sand from the beach it should be cleaned ahead of time. Soak it in a bleach and water solution (1/2 cup bleach to 6 cups water) for about 20 minutes. Drain as much of the liquid as possible, rinse and then drain again. Then, spread the sand onto a cookie sheet and put out in the sun to dry.


1. Mix dry ingredients in the pot and then add the hot tap water.
2. Place pot on medium heat and stir mixture constantly. At first, it will look like nothing is going to happen but be patient. Once the mixture is well heated, it will begin to thicken. This will take about five minutes.  Then, the milky liquid will begin to adhere to the sand.
3. When the mixture gets very thick and the liquid is completely gone, remove pot from the heat. While the clay is cooling, be sure to clean the pot and cooking utensils.
4. When the clay is cooled enough to handle, have fun creating a sand castle!

Small pieces of the sand clay will begin to harden in less than an hour — but a large piece will take days to dry completely.

Other uses for sand clay:  

Foot or Hand Impression (Roll clay in a ball, flatten and then have child step onto the clay or put his/her  hand print in the clay. Decorate with shells or pebbles around edge and use a tooth pick to write into the clay)

Star Fish (Roll clay into a ball, flatten, cut out a star, round the edges with your fingers, add some shells or pebbles)

Don’t miss my next article on how to make your own terrarium!!

Vanessa Geppert is the Education Coordinator for the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, NY. She is a former kindergarten teacher and has over ten years of experience working with children.  Vanessa comes from a family of artists and scholars and has a degree in Visual Art. She specializes in project based learning and art-infused education. In addition, she is the mother of six children whose ages range from 15 to 21.