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We love rice play, in big quantities using our Ikea FLISAT table with TROFAST storage boxes, and small quantities in these Ikea GLIS boxes. However, if you don’t have access to an IKEA, there are plenty of other options out there. Creating a sensory box doesn’t have to be expensive either.
Key items for the box should include:
A box with a lid - we love the GLIS because it is sectioned and makes organizing a breeze. We used these ziploc brand contianers for smaller gift sensory bins.
Colored filler - rice, pasta, chickpeas, or beans (instructions are below)
Scoops - while tiny wood scoops are our favorite, they can be a bit more costly. Plastic spoons are practically free and work just as well.
Something to pour into - tiny buckets like these ones from dollar tree are great. We used these cauldrons for our Halloween themed sensory boxes. Craft stores often carry a selection of small buckets and bowls in the party section; and when all else fails, dixie cups are a cheap option.
Small trinkets - plastic animals, plastic insects, mini erasers, pom poms, cars, party favors, vase filler, and the list goes on and on. I get the majority of our trinkets from Target dollar spot and Dollar Tree. When it comes to Dollar Tree basically the entire store is filled with resources, seriously walk up and down every aisle.
How to dye filler:
Pour rice (or whatever filler you are using) into a ziploc bag, add paint (acrylic, tempera, food coloring, or liquid watercolor), shake until it’s mixed, then layout on parchment paper to dry. Pro tip: use fluorescent paint to dye your filler for a black light glow!
When it comes to picking your paint, acrylic works great for all the things (rice, pasta, chickpeas, beans) and dries super fast. Tempera paint takes the longest to dry, and you'll end up with some small clumped pieces; still totally usable. Food coloring is my least favorite because your limited to only a few colors, but it's also a super cheap way to dye rice. If you're going to use it, opt for the liquid version not the gel. I haven't had any issues with food coloring rice or pasta, but my beans always turn out spotty. Liquid watercolors work great for rice and pasta, and the result is similar to food coloring, but there are more color options. I don't recommend it for coloring beans as they also turn out spotty in my experience.