This rainbow rice sensory bin is a fun way for kids to explore textures and colors. Perfect for toddlers or sensory kids, and it makes a great homemade gift too!
WHAT IS A SENSORY BIN?
A sensory bin is a large container filled with items specifically chosen to stimulate the senses. They often encourage fine motor skills, and child led exploration.
Sensory bins are also an easy way to let your kids play with things that would typically make a big mess. With a sensory bin, the mess is contained, and far easier to clean up.
In addition, sensory bins can encourage language development, help improve focus and concentration, and give opportunities for play based education.
A bath tub is also a great place to contain messy sensory play like this toddler paint bath.
BENEFITS OF RICE SENSORY PLAY
A rice sensory bin gives all the benefits I explained earlier. But what specifically are the benefits of RICE sensory play?
For toddlers and preschoolers, along with stimulating the tactile sense (touch), sensory rice also helps them work on fine motor control. The uncooked rice is very small. They can scoop it up in their hands, but they can also work on picking up individual grains of rice. They can also use cups, bowls, and spoons to scoop and stir the rice, which encourages their hand eye coordination.
The rainbow colors of the rice are very visually stimulating. You can definitely do a rice sensory bin without dyeing the rice, but the rainbow rice really activates the visual sense.
There is also an olfactory, or smell, stimulation with rice sensory play. Your toddler or preschooler may or may not notice or point out the smell of the rice. My son Corban is 5, with sensory processing disorder, and is pretty sensitive to smells. He regularly announces, “I have an excellent sense of smell!” And my three year old, when asked, says the rice smells like popcorn.
There is an auditory component to rice sensory bins as well. You get the sound of the rice hitting the bin, being swished around, and being dropped into different containers. You can explore how it makes different sounds with plastic, metal, glass, or ceramic cups and bowls.
It’s up to you if you want to allow a gustatory or taste sense experience. My kids always ask if something is safe to eat when we do a sensory activity, because they have always been very oral and we had to teach them to ask. It’s safe to taste a small amount of the rice, but not to chew on as it could damage their teeth. I let them take a little taste, and they were not impressed and did not put it in their mouth again. It was nice that I didn’t have to worry they’d stuff their mouth full of rice!
HOW TO DYE RICE
If you’re not sure how to dye rice, it’s actually quite easy. All you need are some gel food colors, plastic zip top bags, and uncooked white rice.
- Divide your rice among the plastic bags.
- Squirt a different gel food color into each bag of rice.
- Seal the bags, squeezing most of the air out.
- Squish each bag around, getting the color all over the rice.
- Spread the rice out onto a foil lined baking sheet.
- Bake in the oven at the lowest setting (ours is 170F) for 5 minutes then remove and let cool. This dries the food coloring so it doesn’t get everywhere.
- Pour into a jar in layers, or just pour directly into your rainbow rice sensory bin.
TIPS FOR DYEING RICE
We decided to make neon rice, but you can choose whatever colors your kids want.
Because our jar was so big, and I was making the rice for a large rice bin the kids would share, I did one cup of rice in each color. We started with 5 cups, and decided to add one more color to fill the jar completely.
Don’t squeeze ALL the air out of your bags before sealing or it will be really hard to get the rice to move around inside the bag. Just enough that you can easily manipulate the rice.
Some dyed rice recipes call for rubbing alcohol, olive oil, or vinegar. But they really aren’t necessary. Plain old food coloring works great, and doesn’t stain once it’s dry.
On that note, try not to touch the rice until the food coloring is dry. If you don’t want to use the oven, you can just leave it sitting out on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes.
SUPPLIES FOR A RAINBOW RICE SENSORY BIN
Here’s everything you need for a rainbow rice sensory bin. You don’t have to buy them here, you can find many of these items at the Dollar Store. But if you do buy anything from one of these links, we get a small commission. Thanks for supporting our family business!
HOMEMADE GIFT IDEA
A sensory experience is the perfect gift! Rainbow rice makes a great homemade gift for a preschooler, or a sensory kid. You can just layer it in a nice jar (like this spaghetti jar), and it’s so pretty you don’t even need wrapping paper! If you’re not sure whether or not they have something to use for a rice sensory bin, you can include a small plastic tub, an under the bed box, or even a rimmed baking sheet.
MORE SENSORY ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS
We are all about sensory play here at Eating Richly, so make sure to check out our other fun sensory activities and art projects. There’s Shaving Cream Paint, Sensory Slime, Baking Soda Art, a Fluffy Slime Recipe, and even a Food Safe Toddler Goop Recipe.
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