I started to incorporate this very simple sensory activity when the boys were both small.
It has been a great way to encourage self directed play while at the same time improving fine motor skills, creativity, and self esteem.
The most common ways that the kids have played with rice, beans, and pasta are:
Scooping, Measuring, Pouring, Transferring,
All of the kids love this activity, and it seems very therapeutic and calming. I was so worried at first that they would just make a big mess all over the place. Honestly, it has been a great activity to teach them boundaries with messes. (Play with the rice as you’d like, just keep the rice on the tray.) Then I give them the little hand broom and dust pan and they get to clean up the mess! What a fun way to teach a life skill!
Though we’ve been using rice, beans, and pasta for several years, this is the first time that I have colored the rice. I bought a huge 5 pound bag of rice on sale for around $3, and used about half of it. I also used a quart sized bag for each color.
The directions are pretty simple: To the Ziploc bag, add food coloring (several drops) and about 1/2 teaspoon rubbing alcohol. Add 1 cup of uncooked rice to the bag and zip closed. Shake to cover the rice completely. Pour onto a paper towel lined pan, and allow to dry. Store in a clean Ziploc bag or a container. We mixed all of our colors together, but you could keep them separate too.
We recently found a great wooden tray and tea set that we’ve been using. You can also use an empty bin with measuring cups and spoons set out. I have saved various sized bottles with lids and put a funnel out for play as well. The first few times I sit right with them and show them how to scoop, and pour, and use the funnel. After that, I stay close by but let them take the lead.