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Budget Friendly Sensory Play: Using what you have at home

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

If you're anything like me, you often find yourself looking for a quick and easy activity to set the kids up with. I'm the first to admit that I am not the most organised person and sometimes our household feels a little (ok, very) chaotic! I barely make the time to shower let alone plan out activities for the week! This activity that I am about to share with you is going to be simple and easy to put together, not to mention it's using materials you are likely to already have in your house! It's also guaranteed to captivate your little ones attention for a decent chunk of time.

Ready to find out my go-to sensory activity?

Yup. It's rice and scoops in a tub.

I am fairly certain that the majority of those reading this will have rice in their cupboard and if you look through that overcrowded utensil draw, there is bound to be something that your little one can use to scoop and pour the rice.

And no, it doesn't need to be colourful to grab their attention!

By all means, if you'd like to take the time to colour your rice you certainly can. It is simple enough to do and can be used over and over again if stored correctly. But, the truth is just plain rice will work just as well. The kids will love hearing the rice fall into the container, or running their fingers through the rice to see how it feels, or scooping it up with their hands or a utensil and letting it fall into the tub below.

Yes, it can be a little messy.

If you're not too keen on the messy aspect of this, I have some tips for you...

Tip #1 - Play with it outside

If you're likely to skip out on sensory or messy play because of the mess it creates, then taking it outside is a great option. You won't need to worry about spills and cleaning it up will be a lot easier also.

Tip #2 - Put a rug or sheet underneath

It won't stop the mess altogether but it will help to contain the mess and it can easily be shaken into the bin, or back into the container when you've finished. An extra tip, grab a couple of chairs/stools and a fitted sheet and make a playpen of sorts.

Tip #3 - Create rules and boundaries (and stick to them!)

It's no secret that children need a set of boundaries/guidelines to live by and sensory/messy play is no different. Yes, you want your children to have fun and explore, but you also want them to know what your limits are. These limits will probably be different for everyone. One of my rules when playing at home, is "the sensory base stays in the tub". There are times when a pour goes wrong and the base scatters everywhere and that's ok for me, I just encourage them to pick up what they can and try to keep it in the tub next time. I might even adjust the tubs a little to have the containers in the middle to help them contain it. If, however, they are becoming silly and I can tell they are tipping it outside the tub on purpose, I remind them again "the rice stays in the tub, if you keep pouring it out we will have to stop." It works well enough as long as I enforce the boundary if needed. Yes, there are tears and its not pretty but the rules are in place for a reason, whether that's for safety or your sanity.

Here are some ideas for utensils to use

Laundry powder scoops



Egg cups

Milk jugs

Measuring cups and spoons

Slotted spoons

Plastic containers

Small bowls

Tubs that your dips come in

Bath salt scoops



Plastic bottles

Kids kitchen toys

Flour scoops



Shot glasses

Medicine cups

Happy Playing!


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