After visiting a local children's museum and watching the babies play with all kinds of sensory exhibits, I wanted to start making the babies a few sensory bins of our own. I decided to start with rainbow rice because it seemed fun and Baby A has been especially interested in pouring things from one cup to another, which would be a perfect thing to do with rice.
During my research on Pinterest, I found there are a lot of ways to make rainbow rice. I decided to use what I had on hand and experiment with coloring the rice and adjust as I went. For the rainbow rice sensory bin I made, you will need:
- 25 pounds of rice
- food coloring
- white vinegar
- Ziploc bags or other container for mixing and storing
- 28 quart storage bin
Step 1: divide your rice
I wanted many different colors for my rainbow rice so I divided my giant bag of rice into smaller gallon Ziploc bags.
I put about 5 cups of rice in each bag, giving myself 9 bags. You can make as many or as few colors as you want!
Step 2: mix your colors
I used food coloring I had on hand which happened to be the classic primary colored liquid food coloring and some neon gel food coloring. Other recipes call for cake decorating food coloring gel or Koolaid so I suppose you can use those as well if that's what you have on hand.
I used 2 tablespoons of white vinegar as my mixing agent. This helps the food coloring spread and set into all of the rice. I added about 40 drops of food coloring to the vinegar to start. Some colors I felt needed to be darker so I added more. Use your own judgement. If you want pastel rice, use less food coloring. If you want very rich, vibrant colors, use more!
Step 3: color your rice
Next I dumped each color mixture into one of the prepared bags of rice. After you add your color, seal the bag and get to shaking and moving around that rice. The color will spread and dye the rice. This part is a great job for kids to help with.
Just make sure you double check that your bags are sealed! I vigorously shook this bag of green rice and it turned out to be open! Oops!
You are done when all the rice is evenly colored.
Step 4: let the rice dry
A lot of recipes I read had you spread the rice out on baking sheets or paper towel. That seemed like a lot of messy work so I just left my bags open to dry. The rice will harden up and get clumpy so you need to squeeze it and shake it around every 10-15 minutes or so until it stops clumping. Let the bags sit open to dry for at least an hour.
Step 5: store your rice
I stored my rice in the Ziploc bags overnight and then transferred them to the container I would be using for sensory play.
I found this 28 quart container at Target for about $4.50. It is the perfect size for this amount of rice.
I poured in each bag of rice and ended up with bin of very pretty rainbow rice!
Step 6: play!
Add some toys to the bin and let your kids have at it!
I used a lot of kitchen tools because that's what my kids are into right now - cups, spoons, and a few other tools to scoop the rice. You could use any toys you have on hand - animals, people, vehicles. Mix and match and let your children's imaginations take over.
There you have it - a rainbow rice sensory bin. I'm writing this after one day of having our bin and can say that it is a huge hit! I set it up in the kitchen on top of a quilt but I will be investing in a plastic tablecloth or tarp for this and other future sensory bins. The babies played with it in the morning before lunch and were looking for it when they woke up from their afternoon nap. I expect it will provide hours of exploration and entertainment this winter!