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Big Top Circus Sensory Rice

Roll up, roll up! Our circus inspired rice is perfect for sensory play in a tray or bottle and it’s so easy to make.

circus sensory rice

To make this sensory rice you will need

  • Rice
  • Ready mixed paints
  • A tray or bottle
  • Additions like pom poms, ribbon and paper bunting. Popcorn would be perfect too!
  • Glue

Colour the rice

We used 1kg of rice to fill a tray, this can be scaled up or down depending on what you intend to fill. Pour half of the rice out into a container, this will be the white stripes. Leave the remaining half of the rice in its bag and add a generous amount of ready mixed paint. For a more vivid colour add more paint, we added lots for a really bright red. Squish this around in the bag until all of the rice is coated and then pour out onto a tray to dry.

Children will love squishing the paint and rice together, try putting it in a ziplock bag so it is safe from leaks.

Fill the bottle

Use a funnel or rolled piece of paper to fill a clean, dry bottle in layers. Add any other items as you go, we went for pom poms in our but you could use anything you like. Fill the bottle right to the top and glue the lid on securely. As the bottle is shaken and rolled the stripes will mix together over time, depending on how tightly packed it is.

To remove a stubborn label glue from a plastic bottle, try applying a little oil and scraping away the glue.

colourful circus rice for phonics

Store it

The rice can be stored in its bottle or in an airtight container like a jar, tub or ziplock bag and as long as it is kept dry, will last for ages!

Link it to learning

Whether you are making this sensory rice for a baby, toddler, preschooler or school-age child, it can be linked to learning in lots of ways. In the list below, the brackets indicate which part of the Early Years curriculum each activity is part of.

For babies

  • The vibrant contrasting colours are visually stimulating for little ones (Expressive Arts and Design)
  • The sound of the rice in the bottle is rewarding as baby shakes it (Communication and Language)
  • It rolls away when pushed (Playing and Exploring)

For toddlers

  • Add and name different coloured stripes, ribbons and pom poms (Expressive Arts and Design)
  • Make lots of bottles to line up, sort and group (Mathematics)
  • Provide containers for pouring (Shape, Space and Measure)
  • Use a bottle half-filled with rice to shake and make music! (Exploring Media and Materials)

For pre-schoolers

  • Put in different animals to name (Understanding the World)
  • Add letters from their name to copy using their finger through the rice (Literacy)
  • Supply spoons, scoops and jumbo tweezers for picking up pom poms (Physical development)
  • Add cut out shapes to name (Shape, Space and Measure)

For school-age children

  • Add letters to sound out and practice formation (Reading)
  • Write words in the rice using sounds they already know from their phonics learning (Writing)
  • Great for recognising and making repeating patterns (Shape, Space and Measure)
  • Add some scales for weighing, comparing and balancing (Shape, Space and Measure)
  • Use as a medium to practice number formation (Number)
  • Pour out on a large, flat surface and shape the rice into pictures (Being Imaginative)

Links to books and films

  • The Greatest Showman
  • Dumbo
  • Paddington 2
  • Madagascar 3
  • Dear Zoo by Rod Cambell

For more sensory play ideas, have a look at our Spring sensory bags and shaving foam colour mixing articles.

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Natalie Cotton

Mum and early years teacher in the UK helping to make learning fun and creative.

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