Synopsis of Toy
Sculpting with sand is an art of endless possibilities. You can make a sprawling castle replete with moat and turrets, you can make a gigantic open tunnel maze for your new sand crab friends, you can use your matching plastic pail and hand shovel to try to dig to China, or at least to the earth’s fiery core, and in terms of letting someone bury you up to the neck again, well, once was enough for that. The only problem with sand art is its high vulnerability to water. A rogue wave, your brother and his pail, the below-the-surface water that crept up into your work when you dug down deep enough…all brought irreparable harm to your masterpieces.
But what if sand weren’t so susceptible to water? What if you took sand, and say, doused it with Scotch Guard, like your mom used to do to your tennis shoes, just before you bolted out of the house to perform your annual interpretive puddle-jump dance? Think of it…you would be unstoppable. You could build whole cities and/or see real ones, if your parents would just show a little support for your China plan.
Wham-O was right there with you. And no, it’s not technically Scotch Guard, but it’s the same idea. Magic Sand is actually just regular old beach sand coated with a water insoluble silicon compound. When it was first developed, by the way, the boys in the lab coats thought it might be useful on oil-contaminated water, even for trapping petroleum spilled out of oil tankers in the ocean. When it was sprinkled on the floating ick, Magic Sand would cling to the oil, clump up and sink. And at that point, hypothetically, it could be dredged from the bottom. More domestically, Magic Sand can also be added to your houseplant’s potting soil to work green thumb magic, and we could all use a little help in that department. Over-watering, no matter how well-intentioned it is, blocks the movement of air in a plant’s nether regions and therefore causes the roots to rot. A little Magic Sand mixed into the regular soil makes over-doing it more difficult, because the Sand’s hydrophobic (oh, set the dictionary down…it basically just means ‘scared of water’) grains will repel water and permit air to flow between them instead. Goodbye root rot. Hello, houseplant flair.
We all love a little practicality now and then, but now let’s get back to Magic Sand as a toy. Wham-O’s unwettable Magic Sand came in three colors (red, blue and purple), and was sold in little plastic genie bottles. When you poured the Sand into a bowl of water, you could build little sand rafts that would eventually sink when they got heavy enough, you could draw flowers or write your name, and you could pile up a series of pillars and towers for your own underwater city. The sand took on a silvery shimmer while submerged, but when you took it out of the water, the grains were perfectly dry. If you could get it back into the genie’s bottle (which was no small feat, and maybe a mom-assist is in order), you could use the Sand over and over again.
Science teachers loved it, because it could be used in a whole slew of class experiments. Parents loved it, because it was non-toxic and affordable, and if they knew a thing or two about the history of their kids’ toys, they could steal a little Sand to mix into the soil of those prized ferns. When asked what their plant secret was, they could just say, "It’s Magic."