Hands-On Alphabet: Rice Sensory Bin

It's time for another guest post! Next up is Megan from Twin Talk. Megan is a mom to toddler twins blogging about cheap and easy educational activities for toddlers. Some of my favorite posts are What are Tot Trays?DIY Zipper Board Tutorial and The Cheapest, Easiest Sensory Bin Ever! She's joining us today with an easy, educational sensory bin idea that anybody can whip up in a few minutes.

I have 19 month-old twins, B & C. They’re quite a handful and I find myself constantly looking for new and exciting activities for them to do. During the week, we have an amazing nanny who has helped us in teaching the twins their letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Learning the alphabet, in particular, has been thrilling for the toddlers. They love to identify letters in matching games or books, and know just about all of them. In addition to the rapid pace in which they’re learning, my son, B, is highly sensory-stimulated. Typically impatient and strong-willed, I’ve discovered in the past few months that when he’s knee-deep in a sensory activity (like our Valentine’s Day Soup water bin), he’s calm, focused, and determined. A whole new toddler.

It’s for these reasons that I decided to implement our latest sensory bin (and themed for St. Patrick’s Day!) – the alphabet rice bin. Now, after a year on maternity leave, I’m back at work full-time as an elementary school teacher. My husband has a good job as well, but money is tight. When I choose what activities and crafts to do with the twins, the first thing I look for is the money factor. I’m looking to go as cheap as I can– under $5 if at all possible. In addition to money, I don’t have time to spend setting up and taking down an activity. I need it to be easy and quick! The alphabet rice bin fit all of my criteria and was a huge success. Here’s what I did:

I purchased foam letters from the dollar store, which was, of course, quite cheap. Then, the night before the activity, I colored some rice green for St. Patrick’s Day. That wasn’t necessary in the implementation of this activity, but it was something I had been meaning to do anyway, as it can be used for all sorts of crafts and activities. I also recently colored rice for Valentine’s Day and it took me about 10 minutes. Here’s my tutorial for dyeing rice – two ingredients; so easy and quick!

I have used both large and small bins for our sensory activities. When contemplating which to use for this one, I wanted the main focus to be on the alphabet and less the rice, so I used a small bin. I prepped the activity by popping the letters out of their holders and burying them in the green rice. I put out a few spoons, threw a cheap tablecloth down on the floor and let the twins go to it!

As usual, they loved the sensory bin the moment they sat down. They have always thoroughly enjoyed scooping, dumping, and the way the rice feels in their hands. However, this bin took an educational turn (which was what I was hoping for!). I had put out the letter holders on the ground, hoping the twins would see that letters were missing. As they began unearthing letters from the rice bin, they would shout out the letter they were holding and desperately search for the spot to put it. This activity kept them busy for almost an hour!

In the end, it turned into a 3-part educational activity: They scooped and poured rice, digging up the letters. They identified the letters and the colors that they held in their hands. Finally, they used their fine motor skills to place the letters back into the foam puzzles. It was tricky and they needed assistance at times, but it was very rewarding for them as they realized that yes, they knew each letter coming out of that bin.

It was rewarding for me as well. For one thing, I’m still in awe that my young little “babies” know the alphabet and are so excited to practice and demonstrate their new skills. In addition to that, this activity was unbelievably cheap, simple in its construction, and a breeze to set up and clean up. I’ll be adding it to our sensory bin rotation for sure!

If you wanted to do this activity but skip the mess that a sensory bin can bring, just using the foam letters could be fun enough. Popping them out, identifying them, and putting them back would be not only great fine motor practice but educational as well!

My name is Megan and I have 1.5 year old boy/girl twins. I started blogging at Twin Talk when I was struggling with infertility treatments and needed a supportive community who knew what I was going through. After the babies were born, I began blogging about surviving life as a mom of twins. But my true passion started when my babies grew into toddlers. The more they learn, the more I aim to teach them, and I have recently reshaped my blog. Now, I blog about super cheap and easy educational activities and crafts for toddlers and I'm loving every minute of it!


Viviana is a blogging mom to a toddler and a preschooler, sharing ideas and resources for early education. She specializes in unique, hands-on printable activities that are educational, fun and inspire creativity in young minds.

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