Have you ever seen those Pinterest perfect pictures of sensory bins and wanted to try it out, but were afraid it would be too much work? That was pretty much me up until about two weeks ago (at the time of writing). After a lot of procrastination, we tried out our first sensory bin filled with colored rice, and it was a hit!
I’ll be honest, I was very surprised by how easy it was to put together our sensory bin—and clean up. I don’t even know why I had it in my head that it would be a lot of work. Because it definitely wasn’t.
If you’ve been nervous about trying out a sensory bin, go for it!
They aren’t anywhere near as hard as we tend to think in our heads. And they have tons of great benefits for your child’s growth and development.
In this post, I want to share with you how we made the colored rice filling for our sensory bin. It only required three ingredients, and took about thirty minutes to make, start to finish. Keep reading to learn how to make your own.
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Colored Rice For Sensory Bins
Alright, before we get into exactly how to make the colored rice, let’s take a minute to talk about sensory bins.
Maybe you don’t really know what they are, or how to put one together. That’s totally okay—that was definitely me until just recently!
What Are Sensory Bins?
Simple put, sensory bins are bins filled with objects that stimulate the senses (taste, touch, sight, smell, sound).
Sensory bins typically have some sort of filler—such as water, rice, sand, etc—that serves as a base. Then, you simple need to add other objects into the filler. Here are some ideas of things you could add:
- Small figurines
- Plastic toys
- Objects that have a lot of texture to them
- The list goes on!
Once your sensory bin is put together, all you need to do is grab some inexpensive scoops or tongs. Your toddler can use these scoops to scoop out the objects or dig through the filling.
Or perhaps your toddler would rather touch the filling and objects. When we did our sensory bin a few weeks back, Elijah was very interested in sliding the bin back and forth to sift the objects up to the top of our colored rice.
Whatever your toddler wants to do with the bin is fine. The whole point of sensory bins is to allow your toddler to explore and learn by using their five senses.
What Are The Benefits Of Sensory Bins?
Sensory bins are very beneficial for toddlers. These activities help toddlers to explore the world with all five of their senses—or at least as many of them as possible with your particular bin.
Toddlers can learn a ton from sensory bins, such as:
- Different textures—this can be great for toddlers who are sensitive to some or many textures
- Problem solving
- Motor skills—especially fine motor skills
- Taste exploration—if your bin happens to be safe for tasting
- Sound experimenting—if your bin has objects or filling that make different sounds
- Smells—especially if you have scented objects included
Sensory bins can be a great way to foster independent play. Even though you will still need to keep an eye on them during sensory play, toddlers are often able to explore relatively on their own.
Or, you can explore and interact with them to help guide some of their learning. For example, you might point out certain colors to them or name the colors they are interested in to help them learn the names of different colors.
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Easily Make Colored Rice For Sensory Bins
Now that we know a bit about sensory bins, let’s talk about how to make colored rice to fill them with.
I personally really like rice to fill sensory bins, because it’s pretty easy to clean up afterwards, and you can make a ton of bright colors to use. And you can save the rice and reuse it in future bins as well!
To get started, here are the ingredients and items you will need to make your rice.
Ingredients & Items Needed:
- White Rice (2 cups)
- Food Coloring
- White Vinegar (1 tsp – 1 TBSP)
- Ziploc Bag (quart or gallon size)
- Cookie/Baking Sheet
Step 1: Combine Ingredients
First, put your two cups of white rice into a quart or gallon sized ziploc bag. For our sensory bin, I used two cups of rice for each color, and used four different colors.
It ended up being plenty to fill the bottom of the fifteen quart bin we used (with plenty of rice to cover up our objects). If you end up needing more or less, you can double or half the amounts I used to get the right amount for your bin.
I used both a quart and gallon sized bag. The gallon size was easier to mix in, but the quart size was easy enough too, and was probably less wasteful. Use whichever works best for you.
Next, add in anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.
Honestly, it doesn’t have to be an exact measurement and you can definitely eyeball it without messing anything up. If you need an exact measurement to get you going, start with half a tablespoon and add a little more if needed.
Finally, add a few drops of your chosen food color.
If you plan to mix two colors to make a new one (example: blue and red to make purple), you might want to mix them together in a bowl separately before adding to the bag.
This will help you get a more even color. Otherwise, you just have to be sure to mix it very well in the bag.
Also note that the more drops of food coloring, the darker/deeper the color will be. Use fewer drops for lighter coloring.
Step 2: Mix the Bag
Once all your ingredients are in the bag, close the bag. Make sure that the zipper is secured tightly.
Knead the rice around with your hands and fingers until the rice is coated with the food coloring.
If you are mixing two different colors, this step may take a bit longer to get the colors to mix together well.
If you find you are having a hard time getting the color to mix with the rice, try adding a little bit more vinegar. Or, if kneading it is the problem, try using a gallon size bag instead.
Step 3: Dry the Rice
Once all the rice is colored with the food coloring, open the bag and dump the rice onto a cookie or baking sheet. Use a spoon or other utensil to spread it out into an even layer over the sheet.
Let the rice sit at room temperature until it is dry. The exact drying time may vary, depending on your climate and the amount of vinegar and food coloring you used. Personally, it only took about thirty minutes for my rice to dry.
After your rice is dry, it is ready for use. You can use it immediately, or save for later.
If your rice dries in clumps or gets stuck together, just use a spoon to scoop it into a new, clean ziploc bag. Then you can can squeeze the bag with your hands to get the rice to break up.
And that’s all there is to it!
How do you plan to use the colored rice?
What about you—how do you plan to use the colored rice you make? What’s your favorite sensory bin activity to do with your toddler?