Few natural substances are as appealing to kids as sand and water – each offering a seemingly endless supply of playtime potential. Well, as long as you don’t try to mix them. Water can not only reduce the structural integrity of any sand sculpture in the blink of an eye, but wet sand sticks to just about everything, becoming a gloppy pile of unusable mud. Imagine a world where sand and water didn’t mix, imagine the endless possibilities never before imagined. Imagine how much fun it would be. Why couldn’t science tackle this age-old dilemma and make everything right in the world? Why couldn’t a special type of sand be devised that was so impervious to water that one could even sculpt underwater structures with ease. (And if it isn’t asking too much, could you make it available in the three different bright colors?)
Brave scientists, never ones to turn down a challenge, snapped on their lab coats and went to work to solve this gritty dilemma in the 70s and the result was, of course, Magic Sand. OK, so maybe their first priority wasn’t exactly to make every kid’s wildest dream come true. When the idea first occurred to try coating sand with a waterproof chemical, it was to aid in the cleanup of oil spills. Pour a little on the surface of the water and it just might be able to cause the oil to descent downward where it could easily be scooped up later.
As altruistic an idea as that was – luckily for the children of the world, it was also surmised that this magical sand might also be fun to play with. Produced originally by Wham-O, it was marketed in 3 bright colors, and sold in little genie-esque bottles. Pour it into water and watch most of it float to the bottom, where it could be sculpted into any shape the mind imagined. But the best part was when a handful was grabbed and brought back to the surface. Amazingly enough, it remained dry as a bone, as if it had been scooped directly from the desert (granted, a desert filled with blue, red and yellow sand.)
The only difficult thing about Magic Sand was that it was quite a challenge to retrieve all of it from the water and replace it back into its little bottle so that it could be enjoyed again and again. But with a little effort, it could be done – although you might need a bit of parental assistance to see the project through. And, not only was Magic Sand a strange, yet decidedly cool, substance to play with, but it would also make its way into science classrooms across the country, where it was used in many an experiment. And for those with a green thumb out there, it has another interesting use. Mix some of into the soil of your favorite plants and the chances of over-watering them, and thereby causing the roots to rot which effectively kills the plant, were greatly reduced.
Magic Sand was one of those toys that kids were completely amazed by, then played with it a few times, and then moved on to other items in the toybox. But for anyone who ever dipped their hand into a fishbowl of the stuff, and pulled out a fistful of dry power, it was an experience not soon forgotten. If you played with this miraculous substance as a kid, we would love to hear your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to a product that truly seemed magical.