We all love buying and receiving new toys for our babies. But have your ever noticed how the wrapping paper, box or plastic is usually far more entertaining than the contents themselves?
I’m not saying toys aren’t great. They are! But it’s not always necessary to have a lot of expensive ones. You’ll be surprised at how much stuff you already have in your house that can be a great source of entertainment and learning for your baby.
Sensory play enhances learning through hands-on activities that stimulate your baby’s senses such as touch, sight and smell.
By colouring an ordinary household ingredient like white rice (simple instructions below), we can provide a range of skills and sensory stimulation for our little ones.
- Colours! Using different colours for the rice starts building the concept of colour and being able to tell colours apart.
- See it! The colourful rice adds a wonderful visual dimension to the sensory play. Not only is it visually appealing, but babies can also watch it as it moves.
- Feel it! Rice is a great medium that helps our babies explore through touch. Sitting in the rice and feeling it on their feet, legs and hands is an amazing way to introduce an exciting new texture and stimulate the tactile sense!
- Hear it! The grains of rice make a soothing rain-like sound as they play with it.
- Pick it up! Picking up rice grains builds fine motor coordination.
- Play with it! Holding a cup or funnel with one hand while pouring rice into it using the other hand promotes bilateral integration (using both hands to achieve a task).
Coloured sensory rice is super quick and easy to make (no cooking involved!), and what’s more, the rice grains are tiny so they aren’t a choking hazard (but still supervise your baby!) 🙂
How to make it
Measure out 1 cup of rice, and pour it into a tub with a lid. I used an empty 1L yoghurt tub, so I could just recycle it if it got stained with food colouring.
Next, pick your colour! For the food colouring, I prefer the gel colors (available from baking shops, Party Spot, West Pack etc.) as they produce much more vibrant colours and there’s a wide variety of colours to choose from. Squirt a reasonable amount of the gel onto the rice in the tub.
Mix the gel in as best you can, using a spoon or stick.
Once you’re done mixing, add ½ a teaspoon of vinegar to the mixture. This makes the colour stick to the rice.
Then put the lid on the tub and give it a really good shake! You’ll be impressed by the results!
Finally, spread it out on a tray to dry. If you put clingwrap or foil on the tray first, it will be easier to pour the dried rice into a ziploc bag for storage.
Wipe the tub with a piece of kitchen towel, and start your next colour!
I left all the rice overnight to dry.
Once it’s dry, pour into a ziploc bag or clean container for storage, and you’re done! Your little one will have many happy hours exploring colourful grains of rice (warning: cleaning up after a play session can be a little time consuming…)
- Cheap, uncooked white rice (1 cup per batch)
- Food coloring (different colours)
- White vinegar (½ a teaspoon per batch)
- Measure out 1 cup of uncooked rice, and pour it into a container that has a lid.
- Add the food colouring (gel or liquid will work). The more you add, the brighter the result will be. Mix the colouring into the rice.
- Add the vinegar, close the lid of the container and shake it really well.
- Pour the rice onto a tray lined with foil or clingwrap to dry.
- Start again!
Ideas for using the rice
- Keep the rice in ziploc bags (make sure they are well-sealed) for a mess-free sensory experience for your baby. They will enjoy pushing and prodding it, and the feeling of the rice under the plastic. Older babies can stack the bags into towers, or push over towers that you build for them. If each bag has a different colour, you can start pointing out and naming the colours – it’s never too early for this!
- You could even add other things into the bags for your baby to discover as the rice moves within the bags – large buttons, tinfoil balls, feathers, small toys etc. Use a variety of things from around the house!
- Mix the rice colours, and pour into a big tub for your baby to sit in, They’ll enjoy the sensation as they play with it using their hands, and feel it on their feet and legs!
- Throw in some cups, funnels or sandpit toys to add to the fun. These toys will help your baby to learn to do things using two hands.
- You could also pour the rice into a sand table, so your baby can stand, using the table as support if necessary, while playing with the rice.
- Hide some toys such as plastic animals or insects in the rice for your baby to find. Make sure the toys you use are not a potential choking hazard!
Once you’re done playing, store the rice away for another time.
Who would have thought that a simple bag of no-name brand rice could be so beneficial for our babies’ development? So next time you’re out doing grocery shopping, throw a bag of cheap, white rice into your trolley!
Tip: you could use bird seed instead of rice.
Contributed by Zoe Sevitz of Clamber Club Babies Wendywood
Cell: 083 561 7890