As a mom of two young girls, I sometimes struggle with not seeing the forest for the trees. I get caught up in every day life and chores, and household tasks. While my oldest daughter is always keen to help with any task I’m working on (and has quite a few of her own to do) it’s also important for some strictly play time. She’s a curious and intuitive child after all!
All across pinterest and Facebook I see beautiful sensory trays. A rainbow of colored rice perfectly laid out for little ones. I thought it would be so fun to try that at home and give my daughter something to focus on for a little while… because let’s be honest, just washing dishes alone can feel like a break to a stay at home mom!
I decided to use quinoa instead of rice because my family isn’t too willing to eat quinoa. I LOVE it, but have to give it up for my diet. If you decide to try a sensory tray for your own child, I would recommend rice or some other larger medium. The quinoa is so tiny and it bounces when it inevitably hits the floor. Haha! We spent the afternoon vacuuming up every little grain that filled my cracks in the wood floor. I turned that into a fun activity as well! Who can vacuum up the most!
We started by filling 7 small bags with a 1/3 cup each of dry quinoa. Then we added a few drops of food coloring to each bag. I tried to stick with rainbow colors, because those are what she loves! Make sure the bags are closed TIGHT then let your child squish the quinoa (or hopefully rice if you’re smarter than I am ?) into the coloring until it’s evenly distributed. When you’re happy with the color empty the bags onto a baking sheet and let dry. Once you can touch the grains without coloring coming off on your hand they’re ready to go!
We used some small ocean figures and small spoons/medicine cups for playing. My daughter is so interested in colors and matching right now, this was perfect for her. She matched her animals to the correct colors (other than the white beluga whale, who she said “Loves all the colors even though he is just white”) Matching didn’t take too long, and she quickly started using the small spoons to scoop and fill the medicine cups. This simple activity kept her occupied and focused for the entire afternoon.
Now something you may be wondering is what does the end result of this activity look like? No way will these colors stay separate and stay in the tray! You would be correct. It’s a mess on your floors, your chair, your table, your child, your ceiling somehow. Only kidding on the last one. Mostly. You will be left with a small sea of brightly colored grains. Instead of just tossing them out I used a funnel and filled a quart mason jar with the mixed colors. But now what?? What on earth can you do with a jar of colorful quinoa?? Initially the plan was to let my daughter keep it in her room because she thought it was so pretty. After showing my friends, one of them had an even better idea!
I took her advice and turned the collection of quinoa into a sensory jar. I gathered up some small trinkets (buttons, a ring, a tiny clothespin, a rubber bumper, a pearl, a small blue spool of thread, and a tiny black clip) and pushed them into the jar making sure to push them down as far as I could. Gave the jar some good shakes to mix everything up and it’s done! It’s an awesome calming down tool. My daughter can spend some time looking for the individual items inside the jar. Sometimes it’s just fun to watch (and listen to!) the quinoa rattle around in the glass jar.
This was a super simple, fun activity that ended with no waste- which I love! Using items and accessories I already had in my house I was able to create hours of fun for my toddler. That feels pretty great!