Making the most of the beautiful sunshine in the garden has been my major aim this week. Being out in the fresh air and combining that with some creative activities is the perfect opportunity to introduce new things to BB — this week we used rice.
I actually saw this activity on the wonderful Em & Me – Rainbow Rice Play Scooping & Pouring, and knew that my son would like his own take on this activity.
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How to dye the rice
I used pure food colouring gel* to colour the rice, in a food recycling bag (that way I could reuse the bags for our little waste caddy and not cause excess plastic wastage) and created a rainbow of six colours to play with.
Originally I did add a little water to try and spread the gel around, but the rice got very sticky and I soon reverted to simply squirting a small amount of gel into the bag before holding the top of the bag closed and massaging the colour into the rice. It gave us a multi-tonal rice but I liked that even more than a uniform colour!
How long does it take to dry?
The rice dried pretty quickly, but I had given myself a days grace to make sure that it had dried completely. I arranged it into a tray in stripes of colour and left it overnight so that no colour transfer was a possibility — a rainbow coloured BB wasn’t what I wanted. With this activity anyway.
It lasted a few seconds in its beautifully aesthetic lines before BB jumbled it all up, after I introduced the rice into his Tuff Tray*.
Structured and unstructured play
We had three days of use from the rice, doing activities that I left in the tray for a few hours for BB to keep going back to. I know at his age his attention is on everything, but we did manage to have a few good half an hour sessions in the rice which was good enough for me. He definitely leads our play sessions, although I do my best to encourage him into play if he’s apprehensive.
Here are some of the main activities I set up for him:
Scooping and pouring
He used containers to scoop the rice, pour it into other containers and to move it around the tray and used his hands to try grasp the rice in huge clumps and smaller grain-by-grain movements. He could also use sweeping movements with his arms to flick the rice everywhere so I’m glad we did this activity outside!
Today was about mark making in the rice. Making sure the Tuff Tray was evenly covered in a thin layer of rice, he traced his hands around the tray leaving tracks. This was about him taking the lead, so I praised him for marks he made and encouraged him to simply drag his fingers, hands or toes around the tray.
Sorting and organising
Not much rice remained today after two days of play with it, but I drew chalk circles onto the Tuff Tray and encouraged BB to poke rice into the circles. We managed for a little while before it was back to flicking rice out of the tray!
How to the rice after use
Each day I packed the rice away into clippy top boxes, until the last day when not much remained at all. The leftovers went into our compost bin. I do plan on rice play again, but I think a fresh batch would be best — I want to hide things in the rice for him to find, so we need a considerable amount and not just half a clippy top box!
What if baby eats the rice?
Also, importantly: yes. He did. He ate lots of the rice, despite my best efforts… And he’s just fine. We had a few interesting nappies the next today that resembled unicorn poo, but he didn’t get sick, explode or die. When he stuffed his face with the first few mouthfuls despite me trying to distract and dissuade, I googled hurriedly to check he wouldn’t die of some terrible food poisoning from uncooked rice and… No. Toddlers the world over have done this activity with no harm if ingested.