The Best Play Dough and Play Sand for 2-Year-Olds

Last Updated on December 2, 2022 by admin

Since I originally posted about tactile toys for 2-year-olds when my own kid was 2, I’ve noticed a bit of a craze with kids making and playing with slime and other squishy playthings. Maybe it’s not even a new trend. In the 90s, I remember getting something called GAK as a gift. I also remember that GAK ruining a wicker end table when I left it unattended. (Yes, it sunk into all the crevices! Sorry, Mom.)

Tactile toys continue to be a big source of entertainment for kids. However, most of the trendy slime and putty out there won’t make a good gift for 2-year-olds. You probably already know why: Some 2-year-olds are definitely going to try to eat it.

However, there are some products that are safe generally for the 2-year-old crowd, especially if you’re pretty sure your own 2-year-old is past the phase where they like to put things in their mouths.

Play Dough

My 2-year-old loved playing with play dough, mostly as pretend mud for his vehicles to “get stuck” in. (He had to call many pretend tow trucks as a result.)

You can make play dough at home (I used this recipe). However, considering that products like raw flour can actually be unsafe to handle and eat, store-bought “doh” might be a safer option.

Play-Doh

Play-Doh is the dominant choice for tactile play, and it does market itself as being for ages 2 and up, so it probably won’t do much damage if swallowed. The biggest problem with all forms of play dough, including the Play-Doh brand, is that it dries out fairly quickly and leaves crumbs everywhere. The other problem, from my environmentally conscious perspective, is that it creates a bunch of un-recyclable plastic (at least my city doesn’t recycle #5 plastic) once you don’t need it anymore.

Play-Doh also comes with lots of different playsets and bundled-in accessories, which can make this brand an ideal choice for gifts.

Aroma Dough

Aroma Dough Set, $38

When I wrote this post in 2021, Aroma Dough said it was OK for ages 2 and up. It looks like they’ve changed the recommended age to 3 now. I’ll still list it here, though, because it might be the only safe option for kids who are allergic to things like gluten. Aroma dough is free of irritants and allergens (it’s free of synthetic fragrances, soy, gluten, dairy, and more — although I don’t know how many of those ingredients are in Play-Doh.)

Play Sand

Kinetic Sand Dino Dig Play Set, $12
Kinetic Sand Dino Dig Play Set, $12

I preferred Kinetic Sand to play dough for my kids because it doesn’t dry out. It’s mostly made of sand, but includes polymers that make it stick to itself. This makes it interesting to play with, but I’m guessing that also makes it extra dangerous if swallowed, so you’ll definitely need to monitor its use with young toddlers.

This stuff does get dirty over time as your 2-year-old repeatedly drops it on your not-swept, pet-hair-covered floor (or is that just me?), which makes it a little less sticky and more likely to leave bits of itself behind. It’s also much more expensive than Play-Doh, but I still think it’s worth it to reduce the mess and the guilt that comes with consistently having to throw away the dried-out dough you accidentally left exposed to the elements. One more note about this sand that you might find helpful: If this lands on a hardwood floor, the silicone left over from the sand can make the floor really slippery, so watch out for that.

Other Options for Sensory Play

Want to find a gift that comes with zero risk of a sticky, florescent-colored diaper after playtime? Consider water tables, splash pads, or mud kitchens — all of which also give toddlers a chance to explore different sensations and textures with their hands.

For even more gift suggestions, check our our full gift guide for mess-loving 2-year-olds.