Making and playing in a rice box is a fun way to spend a cold winter day, a rainy day or really.. any day! I have seen kids from one to four enjoy this activity for hours. Yes - hours. And, it is something that keeps interest time and time again.
All you have to do is get a container of any shape/size that you want, as much rice as you want and not worry about the mess. It vacuums or sweeps up fairly well. We also found putting a sheet down helps to curtail a lot of the mess. A couple words of caution: this can be slippery on hard or tiled floors and if you have any house kitties, you may want to make sure this is covered when left unattended. :)
We started out with the small rice box (approximately 9 lbs of cheap white rice) in the top right of the above picture and later upgraded to the larger size (12-15 lbs). Gumby liked having the multiple containers so we kept them. This is a wonderful open ended, sensory activity because it involves all five of the senses. In addition, pouring and transferring the rice improves balance and hand-eye coordination and introduces basic mathematical concepts such as full/empty, more/less and counting. Sometimes, it leads to us cooking a meal with rice. Gumby likes to pour the rice, sit and touch the rice, run her feet through it, put her animals and favorite characters in it, bury them in it, etc. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Gumby loves arranging other toys in the rice.
It could also have variations, try oatmeal or beans for example for different textures. We added a bag of 16 different beans into the box below. Gumby enjoyed the large and small, yellow, green, blue, red, and white beans. She wanted to taste them (and she did), but I also bought another bag that we are going to put half into the rice box and cook the other half so she can *really* taste all the different beans and see how cooking the beans changes their texture (and taste!)
Have you made a rice box? What type of variations have you tried? What other 'things' are good for getting your hands diry and playing in?