Questions Kids Ask: How do you make sand?

We count ourselves as very fortunate in living the beside the sea.  We actually live beside the English Channel rather than the sea but it is big enough that there is little difference (at least to our boys).


Our beach though is mostly pebbles – the pebble beach of Brighton – but that didn’t stop Son1 asking today’s question when we went there recently.

How do you make sand?

Sand is quite fascinating, right?  It has different textures and colours and uses.  Some sand is hard and others soft.  Some is yellow and some is white or black or red.

To be counted as sand, the grains are smaller than gravel (less than 2mm) and bigger than silt (more than 0.0625mm).

It is made by the erosion of rocks (and minerals) by weather over years and years, breaking down large rocks and making smaller and smaller grains.  Brighton beach pebbles are on their way to being sand – they are generally more than the required 2mm – but give us a few centuries and we might get there.  Underneath the pebbles, there is sand and if you go out beyond the pebble line (when the tide is out), there is a coarse sand there.

Sand is used for lots of things from building sandcastles to making artifical islands (in the Persian Gulf); from changing the draining nature of soil (by adding more) to making glass; from Wudu’ (an Islamic ritual washing) to increasing the traction between wheels and rails in the train network.  It tells stories of the rocks and minerals that make up an area, of the journey the sand has taken and, for arenophiles, it is a great thing to collect.

Taking it further

How about trying to make some sand?

  • Find a tough metal or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and add some pebbles.
  • Close the lid and shake it for as long as you want.
  • Pour the contents onto some white paper and you’ll see some chips of rock that have broken of.
  • If you repeat this for long enough, then you can make sand.

Looking closely at individual grains of sand is a fun thing to do.

  • Get some darker paper (for contrast), sand and a magnifying lens.
  • Sprinkle the sand and spread it thinly.
  • Look at it through the magnifying glass.
  • Try with different types of sand to see the difference (dry sand, wet sand, sand from a building site, sand from the sand pit).

What happens when you put a bit vinegar in the sand? Why?

Sand is made up of lots of different materials, including iron.  Place a magnet inside a sandwich bag and move it through your sand.

How many bits are collected?  Is this different for the different samples of sand? Why did I suggest putting it in a sandwich bag?

Next time

I’m still collecting questions from our boys – do you have any more that you’ve had from your kids?  My aim is for the videos to be less than a minute and for these blogposts to help continue the conversation and feed our kids inquisitiveness.



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