In defense of making a mess during playtime

Toddlers will love the texture and colors of the homemade rainbow rice. Credit: Provided
Toddlers will love the texture and colors of the homemade rainbow rice.
Credit: Provided

Sometimes, it’s nice to stick the kids in front of “Frozen” so you can have a couple hours of peace and quiet. But those blissful moments aren’t meant to last anyway, even if you could make them. Any parenting expert will tell you the benefits of active play and how it’s important to a child’s development.

Sisters Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener, co-authors of the new book “Recipes for Play: Creative Activities for Small Hands and Big Imaginations,” believe playtime should engage all five senses. “There is no substitute for real life experiences. For example, there is only so much a screen can tell you about a flower,” the book’s introduction states. The book is packed with ideas for parents and teachers for making playtime not only engaging, but a little messy – and what toddler doesn’t love a mess?

To keep things manageable, they outline their recipes with clear set-up and clean-up times, that way it’s not just a messy free-for-all. Below is one of the book’s many recipes for play, Rainbow Rice.

Rainbow Rice

You will need:
Rice – 2 lbs is a good place to start
Plastic bags (Make sure they don’t have any holes.)
Hand Sanitizer or white vinegar
Food coloring
Old newspaper
A large sheet suitable for playing on
Tools for tipping and mixing, such as child-friendly pots, pans, mixing spoons, bowls and beakers

1. Decide how many colors you want to make. Divide your rice into plastic bags accordingly. For every handful of rice, add a good squirt of hand sanitizer, or about a teaspoon of vinegar, and either a few drops of artificial coloring or about a quarter teaspoon of natural coloring, depending on how bright you want the batch to be and how much drying time you have. Remember that natural coloring requires more volume than artificial to achieve similar results.

2. Squeeze out the air and close off each bag, than massage the color through the rice. When you’re satisfied with the evenness of color distribution, pour the rice our onto a sheet of newspaper and leave to dry. Drying time depends on the distributor used.

3. When you have your stash of dry and colorful rice, lay out the big sheet, bring out some tools for tipping and mixing, and watch your children go to town.

4. When they’re done with the mess, simply remove everything that isn’t rice, collect the corners of the sheet, and funnel your rice into a container, ready to play with another day. Vacuum up any grains that escape the sheet, and no one will know – until you post the pictures online, of course.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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