Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rice Diving

I have a friend who has a son that is almost two months older than Kieran. We are both stay at home mamas, and we both enjoy doing fun, "educational" things with our toddlers. Neither one of us is drilling our kids with flash cards or making them memorize things by rote, but we do like to plan fun activities that happen to have a bonus, like painting with colors or talking about seasons. The best part is that they live less than ten minutes from us by car, so we have started meeting on Monday mornings to do a "Toddler Activity Time." (Please help us think of a catchy name, I love catchy names and have not come up with anything acceptable yet.)

We take turns hosting each week, and last week was my turn. I planned two activities. The first activity was simply making pictures with stickers. My mom got Kieran some fall-themed foam stickers, so while the boys stuck their stickers everywhere we talked about the red and yellow leaves, the orange pumpkins, the brown and red turkeys, and the green trees.

For our second activity, I filled a bowl with rice and buried seven or eight small toys (magnets, small wooden playfood, marbles, and matchbox cars). This one was definitely the bigger hit. Our friend loved digging his hands deep into the rice and groping around for the toys. Kieran was a little more tentative - he delicately moved the rice around the top, then he started digging deeper when he felt comfortable with the material. They both got so excited when they found something buried. Kieran has actually requested that the rice bowl be left on the table - he's gone back to play with it several times in the past week.

Depositing a wooden broccoli tree in the basket.

A marble!

Sensory activities like finding toys in rice, digging around in sand or beans, or getting messy with finger painting or shaving cream drawings are not only fun, but they also help improve something called "tactile perception." Tactile perception is the term that describes how your brain sends information to and from your fingertips. Improving your toddler's tactile perception helps him feel more confident performing tasks with his hands and fingers.

Here are a few more sensory activities you can do with your toddler:

  1. Shaving cream painting: find a clean surface (the dining room table? We prefer the outdoor picnic table), spray on some shaving cream, and let your toddler go crazy. We sprinkle in a few drops of food coloring to make things interesting. (You can also use whipped cream or pudding)
  2. Put dried beans in a large tupperware bowl. Let your toddler sit on the floor with the bowl of beans and a few utensils (a spoon, a measuring cup, etc.). Kieran has loved this activity ever since he was about a year old. Just be careful that your toddler does not try to eat any of the beans!
  3. Nature table: go on a walk and pick up different things you find (leaves, acorns, pine cones, grass, rocks). Bring them home and put them on the table for your toddler to examine. This is a great activity to do throughout the year to use when talking about seasons.


  1. I say you give up trying to come up with a clever name for Mondays and just make it Toddler Tuesdays. That or call it Monday Munchkin Madness. Or Munchday Madness. Or Toddler Time... Can't touch this!

    Except the MC Hammer reference doesn't work since you frequently do tactile activities. Darn.

  2. tactile activities hmm todays children that means PS3 and what ever the others are called. I think parents today forget they have KIDS, Deana and I might not be the best parents in the world but teaching has been fun. Tyler plays musical instuments, kenzie loves to cook, they sing, dance and all kinds of things because we didnt let them stay in the house to play video games all the time. They are both very good students as well. Trust me I train kids everyday and the Military uses video games to train, some do good and some cant function outside the game.

  3. That bowl of rice will be fun forever (we have ours in a bin with a tight fastening lid) Amelia still loves it and is almost 4. She did request that I take the bugs out the other day and put something new in. So I need to come up with a new theme, the bugs were in there for about a month.

    Another good option for the sensory bowl/table/bin/whatever ... cornmeal.

    We also love the sensory bottles. they have 5 different ones at school that are awesome.

    Also the pop bottle tornado is a good one.

  4. When my cousin and I would get together with the kids on Mondays we called it "Monday Fun-day", but since we had to switch it to Wednesday cause of Luna's preschool we now call it "Wednesday Kids-day".
    I love the hiding things in the rice activity!! Great idea.

  5. Hmm, right now I'm really liking Monday Fun-day, thanks Jesse :)
    Tammy, thank YOU for getting MC Hammer in my head.
    Monty - I expect that someday I will have to give in to video games, but I'm trying to hold off on that for awhile ;) I have seen studies that show how video games can be beneficial - the trick is to not let it consume every spare second of their time.
    Rebecca - what are sensory bottles? Also, Amelia will have to come over sometime when we have the pool full of beans out. She would love it!

  6. I used oatmeal for #2, so it was edible, lol. I didn't want to stunt things by having to stop her from shoving stuff in her mouth.

    Although Lilly loves flash cards--she picked them out herself at Target to play with. Yeesh, you make it sound like I sit her down and demand she names them all, lol, she just looks at the pictures/words, asks me what they are and I tell her. *shrugs* Simply demonizing a valid learning play item because some teaching method says it's mean or whatever (because with the abundance of people I hear going on and on about how evil they are, it must have a source) is ridiculous. I mean, that's like saying no books that focus on counting or colors. (sorry, that's been building up)

    Thanks for the digging in rice idea, btw, I bet Lilly would like that!

  7. Heather, I didn't say kids couldn't play with flash cards in an enjoyable manner. I said I'm not *drilling* Kieran with flash cards. There's a difference, I'm sorry you didn't pick up on that.
    I like the oatmeal idea, I'll try that next time.

  8. Like I said, it's not you, but that's just the air I've always got from flash cards, lol. Which says a lot about the mom friends I have ;)

    The oatmeal is also another texture. Dry cereal also works.