Sensory Alert!: Rice Bin
Alright, I have work on the brain! But my work is fun! I love being an OT. Today my daughter and I participated in her homeschool preschool program. We’ve been on sort of a hiatus because of other stuff going on but we decided to do a little today. We read about Joseph in the bible and his coat of many colors. We talked about how his family came to him for food. This is what led us to playing with rice!
It’s an easy activity. It can oftentimes be a little messy so I try to do it outside but today we just let the mess happen! It’s great that you can teach your kids that it’s okay to explore and let life (and mess) happen and that in the end, you can clean it up again! Isn’t it true? There always seems to be redemption in the end, especially when God is involved (or should I say, invited to be involved!).
We played with the rice for a little while and then we upped the activity by adding food coloring to the rice and making a rainbow of colors (playing off of Joseph’s coat of many colors). It was easy. Just a few drops of food coloring and then stirred it in with the rice. (A word of caution: many kids do not respond well to food colors and additives within their food. While they typically won’t be consuming the rice, it is something to be aware of. In an ideal world, if this had been a planned activity, I would have sought out more natural forms of food coloring.)
From the OT in me, here is why I love this activity:
- Tactile-The number one thing about this activity is the tactile exploration. Kids can run their fingers through it, let it drip on their hands, bury their hands, etc. It provides a vast array of sensations. It’s great for kids that avoid sensory stimuli, crave it, or none of the above! Overall, it’s great for the tactile system. Adding other objects into the bin also encourages tactile discrimination, distinguishing between 2 objects through the use of the hands.
- Fine Motor- While this may be a less of a fine motor activity than others, the clean up is where you can really get into the fine motor. Picking up those small grains of rice is a great pincer grasp exercise.
- Cognition/Communication- With the colors, you can have lots of conversations about the colors. With other added elements, smells, toys, other objects, there is lots of conversation topics if you are doing this activity together. What about numbers too? Count some of the rice, or objects within the rice? Possibilities are endless!
- Self-Regulation- It can be a great activity to increase calming in your child. (Ok I have to admit I have had kids with the opposite experience–picture millions of grains of rice flying around the room!). Many kids will sit and attend to this task for a good period of time (ahh! attention to task skills!).
- Olfactory- While we didn’t do it during this activity today, adding a few drops of essential oils to the bin can provide another sensory input. You can add scents based off their alerting vs. calming qualities (i.e. peppermint, wild orange, eucalyptus may be alerting while lavender, vanilla,or calming blends may provide more calming). The rice of itself tends to have a scent which provide a olfactory sensory component for those who may be overwhelmed by smells.
- Visual– With the added colors, you can play games identifying colors, separating colors (ooh! that plays with the fine motor pincer too!), you name it! Have fun exploring different objects within the rice. Visually finding objects of similar colors hidden in the rice, etc. There are some great theme oriented rice bin ideas at Imagination Tree.
- Gross Motor Coordination- My daughter stirred the food coloring into the rice, which demonstrated to be a great task for developing the coordination to stir, without stirring too fast so that all the rice flew out. She was also using her cars to race up a ramp and dive into the buckets too. All great upper body coordination tasks.