Sensory Play and Exploration with Rice

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My 3 year old LOVES sensory play!  She loves getting her hands "dirty" whether it be touching and playing with the texture of pom poms or thick creamy shaving cream.  So when Sarah from Little Bins for Little Hands suggested a child led sensory exploration challenge using rice, I said, "We are in!"  

Often searching online you will find some awesome "parent led" sensory bins with fun themes and little trinkets added for play, but this exploration activity stuck to the basics; a bin, rice, and a willing participant (or two!).  Our rice filled sensory bin was all about the child; sure I was there to facilitate, encourage, engage, roll-play, etc. if needed, but all that came second to me supplying my kiddos a bin of rice and letting them explore and play as they saw fit.   

I picked up a 3lb. bag of rice from a local grocery store for about $4, emptied it out in a cardboard box, and "let them at it!" Ha!  I personally loved each of their reactions: 
My 6 year old, whom never really got into this form of abstract play said, "Oh cool!..... {sits down}.... "Now what do we do?"
My 3 year old, exclaimed, "Wow!" and dug her little hands in right away.
My 1 year old wasn't quite sure what the fuss was all about for a while, then slowly inched his little hands into the bin of rice and was MAD when I took it away {more about that in a moment!}.
It wasn't nice enough to go outside, so I set this up on a  picnic table the kiddos use in the kitchen.  When my 6 year old asked, "What do we do?"  I said, "Play! Explore!... do whatever you'd like."  It just so happened that there were a bunch of cars lying nearby, so my son grabbed those and they buried them, made it "rain" rice, made huge mountains, and soon after they raided my kitchen cupboards for different utensils.
They played great together for quite a while, but then something happened-- that first grain of rice fell on the floor.  Oh, how I cringed inside.  But quickly tried to dismiss it, but one grain led to a few more... and a few more.  The final draw was when a basket that had holes in it made an appearance and baby boy grabbed it and rice flung everywhere.  Sigh.   Rice 1. Mom 0. Ha! 

However, I kept the bin in sight so that we could try this whole child led sensory bin challenge again and see if my kiddos explored it a bit differently.... and sure enough, they did.  For another round of play, my daughter grabbed some Easter eggs and had fun filling them up and pouring the rice out.  And then, she realized her feet needed to explore, too!
Another day, big brother had the idea to add my kitchen nesting cups to the rice bin.  They filled each cup up and made a tower and had fun dumping them out.
So was our sensory rice bin challenge a success?!  I think so!  All of my kiddos explored and played with the rice in their own way.   What I had to keep in mind was there is no right and/or wrong way to play-- well, except when rice purposely gets thrown, that is a big no-no, and thankfully that didn't happen!  

This challenge truly allowed me to step away from the creative process and encourage my children to unleash their creativity and imaginations as they saw fit.  This challenge encouraged communication and language; it offered unlimited creativity; and created a bonding experience for my kiddos.  My kiddos were "in control" of the play and I could sense an aurora of confidence and ability as they explored the rice in different ways.

But what this challenge taught me was to do more of this!  Was it messy? Yes.  Did it send my insides in panic mode? Yes, sometimes.  Did I have my vacuum and broom handy? Absolutely!  Will I do this outside next time? Probably!  Nevertheless, I am glad we accepted the challenge!  Will you?!

Have you played with rice and/or some other type of simple sensory bin filler?  Several other blogs took part in this challenge.  I dare you to see how they accepted the sensory bin rice challenge.

I'd love for you to follow along so you never miss out on one of our fun activities we share at School Time Snippets!
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