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Sensory play with rice

Emma plays with dyed rice

Colored rice on trays was another popular sensory tray activity for my sick kids last week. They loved drawing in it, and picking it up and watching it fall through their hands.

Lily plays with dyed rice

I made Lily some pink rice later in the week, and she became absurdly attached to it. I couldn’t even put it away without her collapsing into tears. That girl loves pink!

Cost-benefit analysis:

  • Prep: Getting out colored rice (see this post for instructions on how to make colored rice) and trays – less than one minute
  • Initial entertainment: 5-20 minutes, depending on the day
  • Clean-up: 2-10 minutes, depending on how messy the kids get with the rice
  • Cost: Less than $2
  • Lasting value: QUIET play, followed by calmer children

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

15 thoughts on “Sensory play with rice”

  1. Hi there!
    I have been so not diligent in keeping in touch! I haven’t touched my pens for quite a while due to numerous circumstances…but You are deff. next! Loove this sensory play! How did you color it? Did the color get on their hands (like turmeric) or is it a watercolor?
    You need to write a Sensory Play Book! I need all your great ideas! I’ll draw the pictures for you next to your kids great photos! :)
    My daughter is very into sensory stimulation, she takes OT in daycare. She loves to do everything NOW and the more messy the better! :)
    Thank you for always making my mornings w/ your posts!♥

    1. Thanks for your very nice comment! It sounds like you’ve been very busy!!!

      I would love to make a Sensory Play Book! Hmm… =)

      For the rice, I just put a couple of drops of food coloring, and a drop of hand sanitizer (rubbing alcohol or even white vinegar would also work, although the vinegar would take a little longer to dry) in a bag, and shake it all together to distribute the coloring evenly. Then I spread it out to dry, which doesn’t take very long, and it’s ready for play time!

  2. I love the cost-benefit analysis. I’ve never done this with my kids, I’m sure they would enjoy it. I think I’ll plan it as an outdoor activity–then there’s even less worry about clean-up!

  3. I love your idea of including a cost benefit analysis. Last time I got out our coloured pasta the clean up was HUGE. It’s been a long time since we have used this so I think my cherubs would like to play with this again. I think even Taleea would love digging around a tub of this – I’ll just have to work out a way to try and contain the mess a bit.

  4. I FINALLY managed to make some today (with a recipe from Tried and True: 2 tbsp vinegar, a few drops food coloring, 2 cups rice – shake and let dry) and the girls already loved the shaking. :) I hope the stinging smell of vinegar will fade with time.

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