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sensory box | Atomic Bee Ranch

Tag Archives: Sensory Box

Summer of Mess: Colored Rice

2015-08-12 09.25.56 Making colored rice is incredibly simple. I scooped out a cup or so of rice into a Ziploc bag, mixed a splash or two of food coloring with some rubbing alcohol in a small dish then dumped that on top of the rice. Then I zipped up the bag and shook until it was fairly evenly coated. 

I did a rainbow of colors and laid them out to dry in the sun. 2015-08-12 13.19.31It took a couple hours, but the rubbing alcohol dries out pretty quickly. Then I told Cam we were going to make tie-dye rice and mix all the colors in a box. She was so excited and got out her metal play dough molds. There was a lot of scooping and pouring. I mixed in some magnetic letters for her to find and match up to their outlines. She was less interested in that and more interested in cooking with it, making cakes and pies and soups. 

2015-08-12 13.19.18If you try this…

…make sure the rice dries all the way before playing with it. Otherwise the food coloring will get all over your hands.

…use liquid food coloring. The gel stuff doesn’t dissolve well in the rubbing alcohol.

…this stuff pours nicely so get out cups, bowls, scoops, and funnels. 

…it keeps for awhile so make sure you can dedicate the bin you’re using to the rice for a week or so.

…also get ready to be sweeping and vacuuming rice up for the time it’s out. 

Activity in the Hive: Sand Play

Around Christmastime we found kinetic sand on sale for really cheap at the craft store. We bought two boxes and put them on a tray for Cam, but it was so popular that we bought several more and a medium sized bin to contain it all. It’s been incredibly popular ever since and inspired Cam to ask if we could play in her outdoor sand pit, which we were able to do this past week because the weather warmed up a bit. I see a lot of small world play around the blogosphere, which is small scenes set up, usually in some sort of medium- penguins and packing peanuts, fairies and a flower pot filled with dirt, etc. Cam is not quite to the point where she wants to play in that way, but she is happy putting toys into the sand to push around, fill, and bury.

Why This Activity

Playing with sand is an awesome way for kids to get sensory feedback. They’re using their hands to manipulate it. They dip their hands and feet and bodies into large sandpits. They squish and pat and knead and form and break and stomp…there is so much to do in sand. And a lot of it’s physical. The kinetic sand box is a bit like an older version of those sensory boxes of rice they played with when they were babies. They’re engaging their sense of touch, but also working fine and gross motor muscles too. 

Plus, you know all those Montessori scooping and pouring activities? Cam could not care less about a couple pitchers on a tray. I tried to put some of those together and she was so uninterested she wouldn’t finish watching the presentation. She’s happy enough, and capable enough, to pour herself a glass of lemonade, so if there’s purpose to it she will be do it. In the sand, she gets to practice all those things. She scoops and pours with a variety of implements and vessels. To her there is purpose there. 


Dreaming UpDreaming Up: A Celebration of Building written & illustrated by Christy Hale

I talked about this book last week in the Diverse Bookshelf. It’s a great collection of poems that show kids using building toys (from sand to sticks to sofa cushions) and pairs them with famous buildings. A lot of sand play, especially outdoor sand play, can involve creating sand castles and the like so a book that shows real buildings and shapes and emphasizes the form of architecture can be excellent inspiration. 

Diggers goDiggers Go written & illustrated by Steve Light

A book of sounds. This is a really fun one to read aloud, but it also is great to pair with a sand bin that has little cars and construction equipment models in it. The current favorite in our house is the wrecking ball. 



Inside we have the kinetic sand in a clear plastic tub with several types of toys:

Kinetic sand: If you haven’t seen this stuff yet check it out. It’s sand that’s been combined with a binder that allows it to be lumped together, but still maintain the properties of sand. The best part for me is that it doesn’t dry your hands out and isn’t dusty. It’s definitely expensive, but craft stores often sell it and keep your eye out for coupons in the paper or the mail. Our local Michael’s carries it and we routinely get 40%-off-one-item coupons.

Plastic tub: I just bought something at Home Depot. The size will depend on how much sand you have and how much space you want to give your child. You can also choose different depths. I chose something fairly compact and deep so that it wouldn’t take up too much space and the sides help keep the sand in. We originally started with a tray, but a lot was ending up on the floor. 

Toys: We have these toy trucks in our bin, because Cam loves construction equipment. They’re really inexpensive and surprisingly durable. I also threw in some old kitchen molds. The things you would use to make tiny jell-os or panna cotta. You could also try spoons, measuring cups, and ice cube trays. The molds are to make shapes and mounds in the sand. If you have Play-doh molds and tools you can also use those because of the properties of kinetic sand. Or go for little animal figurines.  


Our outdoor sand pit is pretty good sized, but a small one would have made Cam just as happy. Beware, neighborhood cats may find that they like your sand pit too, as well as slugs and snails. Invest in a cover of some sort!

Sand pit: There are a couple options here. We built a wooden frame and filled it with sand. It’s connected to our gravel pit and our bark pit that has the swing set. There are also large plastic pits (shaped like crabs and turtles) that are made to be sand pits. Large toy stores usually carry them and certainly Amazon has them. 

Sand toys: We usually pick one or two up a year in the dollar bin at Target. The set I’ve linked to here is on Amazon and is very inexpensive. What you want are several different sizes of shovels and scoops. Some buckets, also various sizes. A sieve is awesome and a tower with a funnel and wheels is also cool. Alternatively you could use things from your kitchen- measuring spoons and cups, bowls, serving spoons, funnels, etc.

Tonka Trucks: We were both incredibly fortunate and incredibly unfortunate. My husband’s grandmother saved all his toys. All of them. This made going through and cleaning our house difficult, but we have a lot of great toys for Cam that we didn’t have to buy. We still have all of his old toy trucks, including the old steel dump trucks. I know they are a bit expensive new, but they are awesome and since they are metal, if you protect them from moisture (i.e. bring them in in the winter) they should last indefinitely. Ours are over 30 years old and still going strong. Cam loves to fill them with a shovel, drive them across the sand box, and dump them making hills and valleys. 

Water: In the warmer months, this is a must. If you buy one of those plastic sand pits, station it near a hose or hose bib if possible. If you build one, consider placing it near water. We weren’t able to, but we fill buckets and walk them over. Cam doesn’t seem to care. Wet sand is a whole new experience and it allows you to clump the sand into castles and hills. 

Sensory Box: Colored Rice

Wednesday of last week we gave another sensory box a try. I found instructions online on how to dye rice in fall colors. It’s surprisingly simple: Measure out as much rice as you would like into a large Ziploc bag. Put in a couple generous splashes of rubbing alcohol and some squirts of food coloring. Close up the bag and massage and shake the rice around. Once the rice is all evenly coated and as brightly colored as you want it to be ,dump it out onto waxed paper to dry.

My red rice turned a little pink as it dried, but Cam didn’t care. She was super excited to get in there and throw the rice around. She also sampled a handful, after which she made a face and didn’t do it again. I did notice that the rice will leave a dust of food coloring on your hands, so be forewarned. I had Cam play in this in just a diaper and I wiped her hands afterwards. All in all, a winner. Now I want to find some small fall items (apples, pumpkins, spiders, etc.) and hide them in the rice.

Sensory Box: Oatmeal

I recently read about sensory boxes and realized I had already done one with water. Per the blog post I read from Pink and Green Mama, I decided to try out some more. I went over to Walmart very early in the morning to avoid the crowds and bought a huge tub of oatmeal as well as a plastic bin and some plastic measuring cups with colorful handles. The day before I had found some large plastic spoons in the dollar bin at our local hardware store. I dumped the oatmeal into the bin and placed the spoons on top.

Cam was thrilled to run her fingers through the oatmeal and scoop it up. She also had a grand time dumping it on the floor. I had my handy little dust pan and whisk on standby, so clean up wasn’t difficult. Cam also tried eating some of the dried oatmeal and fed me a few grains, but that didn’t last long. All in all, it was success and we’ll be doing this again soon. On to colored rice next.

Wonder Boxes

When Cam was about nine months old, maybe even eight, I began putting together what I call Wonder Boxes. They are just little bins of things she can paw through and explore and examine. They’ve been so popular I have kept them around and continue to add to them. Any container will work. I happened to have closet/dresser organizers from IKEA that I was using to organize things in her room. They come in several sizes so I was able to have some smaller and larger Wonder Boxes. I filled them with anything and everything. The box in the kitchen has all kinds of kitchen items that I either had duplicates of (wooden spoons and spatulas, for example) or items that I rarely use (a sushi press I don’t think I’ve ever used).


It’s been really interesting to watch which objects become more interesting to her over time. For awhile she was really into cards so the box from her room has a lot of Starbucks gift cards. Currently the orange spatula from the kitchen box gets carried around A LOT. My husband just found it by his side of the bed the other day. The little pie crust punch, seen in the picture below, has also been a particular favorite.

I feel compelled to note that Cam has always been pretty good about not putting things in her mouth, so I went with some smaller items. However, if you try this, be aware that items can pose a choking hazard.