Making our first sensory tubs: Rainbow rice, fuzzies and dice

One thing I’ve read about on a ton of homeschooling/unschooling blogs is the “sensory tub.” (And, yes, they’re all over my favorite site, Pinterest, too.)

Though I usually see them referenced for younger kids, I really thought Ashar would love one. She is incredibly tactile, and when she has something to fidget or “stim” with, it can be a huge help. When she doesn’t… then she’s an incredible nail and finger-biter, cuticle-picker, etc. (So, yes, I admit my “mom motives” on this were a little selfish.)

Anyway, I showed Ashar this recipe for rainbow-colored rice and explained that we could make a cool box of stuff that feels good, just to play around with.

Rainbow rice for sensory bins

She was THRILLED. So, today, we made rainbow rice, bought a couple of fairly cheap plastic containers with tight latches at Target, and made our first sensory tubs. (Or, as Ashar calls them, “Rice stuff boxes.”)

Ingredients for rainbow rice for sensory bins

It’s pretty simple – separate your white rice into a bunch of zipper bags; in a smaller container, mix 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring, then pour into the bag – and then find a “squisher” to help mix it up!

Rainbow rice for sensory bins, before drying

We made nine colors altogether, and then poured them onto wax-paper-lined cookie sheets and sat them on the deck to dry. Luckily, that only took less than a couple of hours, because we brought them in when it started to rain!

Once the rice was dry, Ashar mixed the colors, and then we started assembling our tubs. The one you see below is our “house tub,” a large one; we also decided to make a “rice car box” for trips; this is smaller and a little less full.

Making rainbow rice for sensory bins in homeschooling

With this rainbow base, we just started adding “stuff that feels good.” I was thrilled, because this turned into a whole-family project. Chris was photographing (which I greatly appreciated!) Ashar contributed a bag of kidney beans and a bag of black-eyed peas; she’d asked for those when we all went to the grocery store Sunday – cheap and good-feeling! I found some buttons and some cotton balls.

My mom went upstairs and came back with one of the MANY leftover centerpieces from our wedding; they were simple glass containers with blue and white river stones in them, and she had the awesome idea to use the stones. Ashar got a brainstorm and went downstairs to our game shelf and came back with her container of extra dice. I wandered upstairs to her playroom and found some tiny plastic farm animals. Ashar was willing to use some of her neon pompoms, or “fuzzies,” from some recent craft projects. In it all went, and we ended up with a container that is completely full of good feelings.

Sensory bin with cotton balls, rice, beans and dice

Here’s the best part. We ALL stood around, running our hands through it, examining the textures, playing games Ashar made up (like, “Let’s find all the dice,” or “How many farm animals can we find?”), scooping with a measuring cup, making stacks, making volcanoes… and just enjoying the good feeling of feeling stuff.

Today might have been the best example so far of why unschooling rules. We spent most of our day on this project, it cost us very little, we all thought creatively, we worked as a team, and we had a GOOD TIME. Plus, now we’ve got something fun that our whole family will enjoy messing with for who knows how long.

Happy Monday. I hope your day was as full of good feelings as ours was!

You might also like...

10 thoughts on “Making our first sensory tubs: Rainbow rice, fuzzies and dice

  1. Super fun … I can’t get over how alike the two of you are. This is good because I used to do these sensory things with my girls when they were younger — but I’ve stopped most. BUT recently they found an old jar of lentils that I used for that purpose and goodness did they just pour and dig and move things around for like the longest time. I guess if you think about it, we all still love playing in sand or water … I will try some of the sensory bins for after school fun. thanks for the idea. So glad you’re happy … I’d go a little crazy homeschooling my twins but a part of me wishes I could do it !!

    • It’s funny, I’m actually going “less crazy” so far than I was with Sarah at school all day and doing homework what seemed like all night. Of course, the other part of me is crazy – I’m still working both a full-time and a part-time job, albeit mostly from home, and my work hours tend to be, like, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

      I think the coolest part was how much my mom enjoyed the bins! She has arthritis in her hands and very dry skin, and she said the rice felt amazing and smoothed her skin (I assume it’s a light exfoliant.) Good times!

  2. Hi Joan! This is Heather from the blog about the pinterest cardigans. I’d be glad to share my pinterest profile with you. I joined pretty early on and didn’t think to do anything creative for my profile, so for now it’s just pinterest/heathergross I should probably change that, but for now that’s how you can find me! 🙂

  3. This looks like a great project! I think it’s neat that the whole family helped 🙂 Thank you so much for joining Favorite Resources this week! I’m sorry I didn’t pop over here and comment sooner…somehow time managed to get away from me.
    I have, of course, seen sensory tubs before (how can you miss them, right?!), but I didn’t think of making them with my girls because they are older than the age I usually see them for. But, you know what? I think my younger daughter would really enjoy this project! She is a very tactile kind of girl. I will show this to her and see what she thinks 🙂
    If you’re interested, this post would also be perfect for our Look! What We Did! link up (
    Thanks again for linking. Good to “meet” you!!

    • Susan, thank you so much for suggesting that – I’m going to go link up now! I appreciate you! I just have to say how much I’m surprised by how much EVERYONE enjoys this – no matter the age. Maybe that’s my calling – to share the wonder of sensory tubs for older kids 🙂

  4. It’s amazing what something as simple as a rice sensory box can do. We have just recently started using a rice “treasure box” which contains several rocks from our daughter’s rock collection. She stirs it up with chop sticks to find the buried “treasure” – we use it not for when she is fidgety but rather to ward off tantrums. When she starts in on a tantrum I suggest we use the treasure box and there is an immediate shift. I wish we had started using this tool sooner. Great post – thanks for sharing!

  5. I’m so glad you weren’t put off by the fact that sensory tubs are often used for toddlers. When my son gets his rainbow rice out I really enjoy getting down and playing with it. I find it incredibly therapeutic. I think sensory tubs are great for all ages.

  6. Hi. I’m visiting from the Kid’s Weekly Co-op. You’ve inspired me to make some rainbow rice. Thank you! I love the communal aspect of this experience. P.S. I also think that your Sarah looks so much like you 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.