Food, Glorious Food: Rice!

Published on: September 23, 2018

Out of cost-effective, fun ideas to engage your little ones with? Worry not: with just a few food items from your pantry, create a whole new world of wonder for your child to explore! By Lucy Baker Reprinted from BAMBI News SEPTEMBER 2016 One of my favourite materials to use for sensory play is food. It is so easy to get hold of and relatively cheap compared to many other sensory materials here in Bangkok. This time, I would like to share with you one of my top five food-based sensory tubs along with a few ideas of activities to create with food items. For many of these activities, a plastic tub is a must. You can buy them in a range of sizes from Home Pro (฿300-500 depending on size) or you can use the under-bed IKEA storage boxes called Samla (approx. ฿450 with a lid). The great thing with these boxes is that it contains the mess in one place and you can seal the lid and save for future play.  I would also recommend placing a large plastic wipe-clean mat under the tub if your little one is inclined to be messy. Such mats can often be found in Home Pro, Chatuchak Market or being sold by street-side vendors, costing approximately ฿100 per meter.

Fun with Rice

This is certainly our most-played-with food sensory item, as it is so readily available and cheap here. You can keep it simple and use white rice for a snowy-themed tub or use brown rice for a soil or dirt effect. If I’m short on time, just tipping some brown rice in a tub with my son’s monster trucks or diggers is enough to keep him entertained while I prepare dinner. 

Dyeing Rice

My favourite way to use rice, however, is to dye it to make themed tubs. Dying rice is really easy to do and, best of all, it is something that my son loves to help with.
  1. Half fill an empty 1.5L bottle of water with rice, squirt in a pipette full of food colouring and a few drops of white vinegar.
  2. Shake well to coat the rice with the colour.
  3. Then lay it out on tin foil and let it dry for about 30 minutes. The dyed rice will last for months as long as it doesn’t get wet.

Rice Ideas

The rice is often just a base material more than anything, which attracts my son to the task. For example with number matching, he enjoys burying the numbers or just mixing the rice colours and scooping it. Inevitably it turns into a race track or construction site with his diggers and tipper trucks! Rainbow rice – Use this for colour, number and letter hunt tubs, scooping and mixing, and making rainbow rice jars.  Camouflage rice – Create an army-themed tub with shades of brown and green camouflaged rice, army vehicles and shelters made from seaweed and rocks. Flag rice – Use different-coloured rice to create a flag picture in a tub, with themed items from that country. Frozen rice – Put dyed-blue and white rice in the freezer overnight and put it in a tub with arctic-themed animals for a cold sensory experience! Photos courtesy of the author.

About the Author

A former Bangkok physical education teacher of 4.5 years, Lucy now resides in Connecticut, USA, with her husband, son and daughter. Lucy claims to have no expert training in the area of creative play, but has been expanding her skill set over the past years. She loves nothing more than seeing her children immersed in one of their creative play activities. Follow Lucy on Instagram @findthelittlemind and
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