Beach Fun: Sand Balls

Geek Culture

For those folks headed to the beach this weekend with the offspring for the final hurrah of summer, I offer a fun alternative activity to the tried and true sandcastle: sand balls.

Hikaru Dorodango, or "happy mud balls" have been covered before in the pages of Make. The technique works equally as well on the beach where there is easy access to lots of wet and very dry sand. The finished ball won’t be nearly as shiny and smooth as a worked mud ball, but they have a beauty in their "raw" state just the same. The activity is delightfully tactile, and who can resist the appeal of the sphere?

The steps:

1. Gather up a generous amount of wet, wet sand from the water’s edge.
2. Squeeze out as much water as you can as you compress the ball – think snowball!
3. Once you’ve compressed out the water, start sprinkling dry sand over the ball and work it in while making it as round as possible. Gently smooth out bumps and divots with dry sand and the meat of your thumb.
4. Keep covering the ball with dry sand and smooth your ball to get it as round as possible. Work it this way for about 3 to 5 minutes (or longer depending on your need for relaxation…)

Get the kids making balls with you and you just might have complete strangers getting involved. A recent trip of ours to the Great Lakes had people insisting we were using some kind of mold to get ours so round. But no, bare hands only! The differences in size between "grown-up" and "kid" hands makes it all the more interesting.

Once you have one ball, you will want to make more. Set them up in "zen garden" style. Make an arrangement near the water’s edge and wait for the tide to reclaim them.

The balls are natural bridge between the fleeting and the permanent. They hold up well to handling and play, but require a gentle touch and will disappear instantly on contact with water. (There’s a geeky philosophical litany that can be inserted here, but I leave it to you, dear reader.) Have fun!

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