Whip up a DIY Valentine's Day-themed sensory kit with just a few items you likely have on hand at home — it's easy, fun, and inspires creative play.
Keeping three toddlers occupied with creative things to do was a full-time job while my family was home during the pandemic. That's when I found an easy at-home way to make a themed sensory bin that was safe for toddlers by using rice. Opting for rice instead of water beads or beans lowers the risk in case of ingestion and makes cleanup a breeze — even when spills are inevitable. Plus, it's fun to dye your rice to customize it for different holidays — like Valentine's Day!
Here's a step-by-step guide to creating your fun Valentine's Day-themed sensory bin:
Valentine's Day Sensory Bin
What you'll need to make pink rice:
- Uncooked white rice
- Gallon zip top bag
- White vinegar
- Red food dye
Directions to create pink rice:
- In a gallon-sized zip top bag, combine 1 cup of uncooked white rice, a few drops of red food coloring (for gel food coloring, only a teeny amount is needed), and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. Seal the bag securely.
- Shake and knead the bag to ensure the rice is evenly coated. Adjust the batch size based on the size of your container or if you're preparing multiple bins. Vary the amount of dye for different shades or colors for a multi-hued effect! Know that more drops of dye means deeper, darker colors.
- Spread the rice in an even layer on a baking pan lined with paper towels or a dark towel (to avoid dye transfer). Let it air dry for at least 6 hours.
- Once dry, pour the rice into a low, shallow bin or container.
Additional items for sensory bin activities
These add ins are optional but make for an easy way to lead children in the guided activities below.
- pipe cleaners
- colored paper
Cupcake liners, small bowls, tongs, beads (if age-appropriate), old costume jewelry, dice, plastic coins, cookie cutters, fake flowers, small ice scoops, and small figurines also all work well in a sensory bin and encourage creativity.
Guided educational activities for your sensory bin:
- Letter Seek and Find: Cut out shapes and letters to spell a secret message
- Number Hunt: Cut out shapes and numbers for chronological ordering.
- Shape Sorting: Use a tray or muffin tin for sorting various shapes.
- Color Sorting: Sort items by color using a tray or muffin tin.
- Scene Recreation: Use figurines to recreate a scene from a favorite movie.
- Shape Creation: Use materials to outline a heart in the rice.
The wonderful thing about a sensory bin is it fosters open-ended play, encouraging children to explore and use their imagination. Let your child's creativity lead the way for endless fun!
Erica Alhorn is the publisher of Macaroni KID Wheaton, Ill.