My boys sure are lucky. Not only do I spend an embarrassing amount of time on preschool/mommy blogs and Pinterest (thanks a LOT, Meghan), but I have some Really Clever and Creative Friends. And from these blogs, that damned time-suck Pinterest, and my very creative friends, I steal. All. The. Time. I steal their recipes, I steal their crafts projects, and I steal their Entertain The Kiddos Ideas. And my kids are all the more well-fed, subjected to arts and crafts, and thoughtfully entertained because of it.
This idea comes from an amalgamation of suggestions from two of my Most Clever Mommy Friends, Meghan and Krissy. These two former teachers were born to be around children. They were two of the best teachers that I ever had the good-fortune to teach beside, and their kiddos are some of the luckiest kids on the planet. And Holy Cuteness, you guys need to brace yourselves if you ever happen to be in a room with all four of their babes at once.
So here it is, our latest Stolen Idea. We put together a Rice Table.
We already have the requisite outdoor toys, sand box and water table. But this we'll keep indoors. Great for too hot or too cold weather...especially when the Baby is here and we need a low-key entertainment option.
We started with a large under-the-bed storage box. I chose one with wheels to make putting it away in storage (the floor of our large coat closet near our family room) a cinch. Make sure to get one with a locking mechanism to keep the lid in place when not in use. I added three largish-size bags of rice and...the best part...Rainbow Star-Shaped Pasta! The stars are itty bitty and I divided 4 1-lb. boxes among six large Ziploc bags. To each bag we added a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring (just add a drop at a time until you get the color saturation you're going for, especially in the secondary colors, orange and purple...you'll probably find green coloring pretty easily). Squish up the bag until all of the pasta is dyed and let dry. I kept my bags sealed overnight, then opened them to let them finish drying the next day.
The kids jumped right in. Max immediately began grabbing handfuls to fill up the measuring cups and other small containers I included in the box.
Evan started a bit more slowly, first using some of the tools I included (spoons, popsicle sticks, stirrers, cups with handles, etc.) in order to avoid hand-to-rice contact. This is a great Sensory Table for kids with tactile sensitivities or Sensory Processing Disorder. It allows for graduated sensory involvement (for instance, using tools first, before getting fully submersed in rice), unlike shaving cream (which Evan was unwilling to play with until just recently) or sand (which is hard to get unstuck from between the fingers, causing extreme discomfort to some kids).
Before long, all the pasta mixed up with the rice making the whole box "Rainbowed," according to Evan (and "Pitty!" according to Max).
And Evan began to get a little bolder, using the work trucks (a MUST at any play space in this house) to get a bit closer to the rice.
Meanwhile, Max got busy making me soup and birthday cakes.
Until finally, after about half an hour, Evan Made Contact. And after he mustered the courage to do it, Evan proclaimed, "It feels good! Soft and silky. It's not itchy!" Total Sensory Success.
And, to no one's surprise, Max didn't stop with Hand Exploration. This kid's sensory experience is more of a Whole Body Experience. And he loved every minute of it.
Fair Warning: This is an indoor project not for the Anti-Vacuuming-After-Play. Although I put a large picnic blanket under the bin, rice was Everywhere. It vacuums up easily, though, so I hope that doesn't deter you. If you want your kids to use it outdoors, just make a portable table. It shouldn't be kept outdoors all the time as it will attract bugs.
I really can't believe it's taken me so long to put this activity together. Both boys really loved it and benefited from the sensory exploration. They didn't realize that's what they were doing, though. Evan was just a Worker Man at a Job Site and Max was just hard at work, mixing and stirring and cooking up a storm in his kitchen.