Rainbow rice is making the rounds on Instagram big time right now. If you search the hashtag, #rainbowrice, you’ll see a plethora of beautiful activities from all around the web.
What’s the deal? Why are all these people making rainbow rice? How do I make some of this magical rice? Ugh, but my kids are going to throw it everywhere and I’ll be stuck cleaning up for hours! I’ve got you covered, my friends. Let’s break this down.
Why is this material beneficial?
When your children engage in rice play they have about a million opportunities learn.
They are exercising fine motor skills. This is important for writing, zipping coats, buttoning pants, tying shoes and all sorts of life skills.
They are learning to pour, scoop and dump. Do you want your child to pour their own juice in the morning without all the mess and chaos involved? Well, practicing with sensory materials is the first step. Pouring with rainbow rice over a large tub is great practice for even the youngest toddlers.
Children are learning about math when they engage in rice play. They are practicing estimating, and experimenting with concepts of weight and volume.
When children play with rice they are story telling and delving deep into imaginary play.
Most importantly, when children are working with rice, they are engaging in child-led learning. In my opinion, that’s the best kind!
How to make simple rainbow rice:
Six lidded containers or ziptop bags.
Paint- either washable tempra paint or liquid water color.
Uncooked white rice
Divide rice into the bags or containers and drop in the desired amount of paint.
Shake it up and massage the color onto the blank grains.
Dump it out and let it air dry. It won’t take long. Maybe about an hour or so.
The Set Up Details:
Here’s how to set up for rice play without an insane amount of clean up. (Please note that there are lots of different ways to do this. )
For starters, define a space. Either outside or on a big tarp or sheet inside. If you are inside, an uncarpeted area works best.
Find a giant under the bed box and set it on the tarp. Then, take a shallow bin and put it inside the under the bed box. This is the bin where you will put the rice. Add in some scoops, spoons, small bowls and pitchers.
Using a small bin inside the larger bin is a way to contain the overflow. It spills back into the larger bin, making clean up MUCH easier.
Recently, we have been using our Ikea Flisat table for all sensory play. It is simple and defined and I just love it. If you have a young toddler, however, I would go with the bin method on the floor. Clean up will be much more manageable that way.
Managing Clean Up
Keep a dust buster and a small hand broom and dustpan nearby. Teach your littles to sweep up spills outside of the box, but know that you will need to do the majority of the work.
Define the rules and set some limits. For me, throwing of anything is out of bounds. We put it away and try again another time. No judgement, no yelling. Just simple limit setting.
Pro Tip: Start with this as an individual quiet time activity. Having children practice using the bin on their own, BEFORE adding siblings or friends in the mix is a great way to nail down the limits of what you are comfortable with.
When the play is over, SAVE your rice by sealing it in an airtight container. This can be used for months and months.
Thoughts On Food-Based Play:
When I was a classroom teacher, I never used food based sensory bins. If you are a teacher consider this as well. I didn’t want to assume anything about the food security of my students, and you shouldn’t either. As a parent, I am okay using this as a sensory base because I know that we will use it for months and months and that I will not be “wasting” something that is an important source of nutrition for many families.
Still Want More?
While I have been making rainbow rice for my children for many years, I was recently SO inspired by the amazing Anna over at Imagination Tree. Check out her blog post on the easiest rainbow rice. She is a phenomenal resource for all things PLAY.
Also? Do yourself a favor and search #rainbowrice on Instagram for a zillion great ways to use it.