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Whew! It’s a hot day on the desert! Our desert small world includes animals, plant-life, tumbleweeds, and moldable sand cloud dough!
We’ve made sand dough in the past, but this is different. It smells like snow dough, but has a gritty texture. It’s soft and flaky and uses just 3 ingredients. After experimenting with cloud dough, I decided to mixed the two recipes together! It’s a great sensory material for kids. Let’s make it and build our landscape before we explore the desert!
Fun Fact Alert!
What is the worlds hottest desert?
The Sahara, ‘Great Desert,’ is the world’s hottest desert, and the third largest desert after Antarctica and Arctic, which are cold deserts.
Moldable Sand Cloud Dough Recipe: (per batch)
- 3/4 cup baby oil
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups play sand
We made 3 batches (6 cups flour, 6 cups sand, and 2-1/4 cups baby oil). No play sand on hand? Substitute sea salt to achieve the grainy texture.
- Pour flour into a large bowl and add baby oil.
- Mix well; it will form into small clumps.
- Add play sand and continue to mix with hands or spoon.
- Using a large spoon, mash down any remaining clumps until it has a smooth, gritty texture.
The spoon option isn’t necessary, I just wanted the sand to be more desert-like before he started. C loved the mixing part! The aromatic punch is a sensory delight! The contrast between the soft and gritty really makes molding it so fun! 3 ingredients, easy, reusable and moldable — can’t beat it! To reuse it, just seal in an airtight containers or zip-lock after playing! Let’s build our small world landscape!
Small World Materials:
- Large Plastic Tub
- Desert TOOB Animals
- Green Moss Shapes
- Styrofoam or Floral Foam
- Decorative “hay-like” Vase Filler
- Play Rake, Cups, Shovels (optional)
Here’s our pre-animal landscape! All building materials are from the Dollar Tree. The rocks came from our rock garden in our backyard. This small world is simple to set-up and uses just a few materials. Total cost was just $2 for the moss shapes. The ‘tumbleweeds’ or hay-like filler [not pictured here] is also a Dollar store steal! Other than that it’s just toothpicks, 2 small pieces of vase foam to hold the cactus, and our rocks! As an added touch, I raked the sand cloud dough to resemble wind-swept sand. Simple, fun and full of imaginative play!
The moss ball shapes come in a 4-pack, so you can make one big one or two smaller ones. We purchased two of them from the Dollar Tree. Michaels has moss balls as well. A few other alternatives to the moss shapes are sponges or green hand dusters from the Dollar Tree. Simply remove the handle from the duster, bend the fabric in half, and rubber band at the bottom.
To construct the cactus, simply follow the diagram.
- Pierce a toothpick through your base (if needed, cut the toothpick points off.)
- Add a moss shape, then repeat until finished.
- Add two toothpicks on the bottom to attach the cactus to your foam base.
- Using floral foam or styrofoam, cut a small square larger than your cactus.
- Attach the cactus to the floral foam base.
Now that we’re all set-up, let’s explore the desert together! Safari Toobs animals include an explorer, horned lizard, saguaro cactus, road runner, scorpion, snake, coyote, big horn ram, bobcat, armadillo, mountain lion and prairie dog. It’s HOT!
Mr. Explorer is brave roaming the sandy desert alone! Conditions are so harsh in the desert. Camels have thick coats that protect them from hot days and cold nights. Food and water can be scarce, but they can go for over two weeks without eating or drinking.
C had a blast molding the sand cloud dough! Even scorpion played along!
Watch out for rolling tumbleweeds! It’s ‘hay-like’ vase filler, also a Dollar store find! The Tumbleweed is a plant that breaks away from its roots and moves around by the wind. These plants can be as small as a soccer ball or as big as a car. They grow and spread very quickly because the hot, flat desert terrain makes it easy for them to travel.
Stone Plateaus, or hamada is a type of desert landscape consisting of high, largely barren, hard, rocky plateaus, with very little sand because this has been removed by deflation. Ever try rock balancing? Try it, its super fun!
The thorny devil lizard was C’s go-to animal!
The Thorny Devil is a type of lizard that is approximately the size of a human hand. It’s covered with cone-shaped spines and has a spiny hump behind its head. They use this hump to protect themselves from predators by putting their head between their front legs and exposing the hump.
Rocks are so fun to play with, especially when you make caves and tunnels! We’re focusing on simple, easy to set-up small world play!
Ouch cactus! Prickly pear cactus are present in North American deserts. All have flat, fleshy pads that look like large leaves. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions — water storage, photosynthesis and flower production.
Snake! C loved the rock tunnels!
Molding, stacking, and crushing the sand cloud dough was fun! C kept saying, “Bop-boop, SMASH!” Apparently spiky lizard was the smasher.
C had a blast! He kept giggling and signing. I’d say it was a fun, educational, and sensory stimulating kind of day! Thank you for exploring with us!
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