How To Dye Rice For Sensory Bins

Did you catch my post a few weeks ago on how to find success with dyed rice sensory bins? This post will give you tips on rice sensory bins, as well as our favorite tools for rice play. Today, I wanted to share how to make the dyed rice! Here’s my tried and true recipe plus some tips! This rice is taste-safe but does not mean it should be eaten by the handful. 

Materials: 

1 cup dry rice
1 tablespoon vinegar
Lots of food coloring! Liquid or Gel
Sandwich bags
Sheet pan
Wax paper/ parchment paper/ tin foil (optional but nice to have) 

Instructions: 

Place the rice and vinegar in a plastic sandwich bag. Squirt in lots of food coloring. The more food coloring, the deeper and better the color will turn out. 

Sandwich bag with rice, vinegar, and food coloring

Shake the bag until the coloring is evenly spread through the rice! 

Spread the rice on a sheet pan to dry. I like to cover my pan with parchment paper (or something similar) to keep the pan cleaner. If this isn’t possible, it’s fine to place the rice directly on the pan. In my experience, it has always washed off with a little soap and water 

Dump the rice on a sheet pan
Spread it thin. This is one cup of rice on one half of a standard size cookie sheet.

*The thinner you spread the rice, the faster it will dry. 

*For an even faster dry time, put in the oven on the lowest setting. If it’s a sunny day, place outside to dry. 

After about 30 minutes, you will have to break up chunks of rice that stick together.

The rice is dry once you can run your fingers through it and it doesn’t leave a residue of color on your fingers. 

Other Tips: 

Use the 1:1 ratio for rice and vinegar. You can do 2 cups of rice, 2 Tbs vinegar, and so on… 

The sandwich bag is a great way for kids to get involved in making the rice, they do great at mixing up the color into the rice! 

HOWEVER, we’ve had our fair share of little fingers puncture the ziplock bag, sending rice everywhere and food coloring places you don’t want. Teach your kids to mix the bag with flat hands and rub, like this!

If you’re looking to use less plastic, a glass bowl and spoon work great to mix as well. Make sure to rinse and dry the bowl and spoon before starting another color so you don’t mix colors.

Store in a gallon Ziploc bag or tupperware container. 

The rice smells strongly of vinegar for a time. Leave the baggie or container open all day or through the night to get rid of the smell before sealing and storing. Once the vinegar smell goes away, I have never found the strong smell to come back.

The rice can last for years and years stored in an airtight container!

Feature Friday: Matthew Winters

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here. 

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Matthew Winters. Matthew is a Jr. High English/creative writing/yearbook teacher, and technology instructional coach. Talk about the jack of all trades in the education world! Here’s what Matthew has for us today!

What is your favorite part of teaching Jr. High? 

“It is the energy the students bring to the classroom. Most students are starting to figure out who they are as a person and what they like to learn about and it is a genuinely great time to teach students.  They are inquisitive and engaged in a way that encourages great discussions.  A lot of people have misconceptions about teaching junior high school, they have too much energy or they are frustrating, but nothing could be farther from the truth.”

What is one of your favorite units you’ve taught? 

“Every year I do a unit on Romeo and Juliet and I use Michael Ford’s ‘Hip Hop Architecture’ to teach students about rhyme scheme and poetry.  We break out the legos, build little cities out of lines from Shakespeare and famous songs, and end up making a 3D city of their own poetry. It gives them another perspective on poetry and how it looks and feels. During that same unit, we take an old sword fighting of Shakespeare’s book that I found and actually choreograph the fights in Romeo and Juliet using markers/pens as swords. It gives another perspective on a play that students often come into school thinking is a romance.  It helps them to visualize the performance rather that just seeing it on the page or screen.”

If you could recommend one book to read, what would it be and why? 

“A few years ago I met Dan Ryder (Twitter: @WickedDecent) at a conference, read his book with Amy Burvall (@Amyburvall) Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom. Since then I have used his thoughts on creatively accessing student growth, adding choice in a project, adding media in a variety of ways into our classroom, and looking out for more than just the academic portion of a student’s life in my class, looking for social emotional learning and creativity throughout the curriculum. That would be my recommendation, but better yet go follow both Amy and Dan on Twitter and learn with them.”

How have you seen education change in the years you’ve taught?

“Technology has probably had the largest impact. Over the last year, before COVID, I built up grant money to buy a classroom set of Oculus Quests. This gives students the opportunity to experience cutting edge technology in the classroom and it is just becoming more and more accessible to schools. However, personally I have felt a shift in how we are accessing students and realizing that students are more than just academic profiles. The shift towards discussions and plans on social/emotional learning, portfolios instead of tests, and student choice has refreshed a lot of teachers in engaging ways.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it?

“Student voice is a key part of my classroom. I try not only to encourage asking questions of the course and its curricula, but also how we do assignments, due dates, and how students present their materials. This has led to some really engaging moments discussing novels, but also discussing the purpose of English Language Arts classrooms and the ways that students are assessed. As a teacher, I have to let go of the classroom reins to some degree, but it has helped a lot of my students find the purpose in the classroom and some have reengaged with the course materials in interesting ways.”

What is your favorite way to use technology in the classroom?

“First off, technology for technology’s sake is not a way to run a classroom. Make sure that there is a purpose to using the technology and that it is appropriately engaging students. With that said, I love making videos with students. I started by doing a silent film festival with my students during my first year and now we do projects with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to show how to change the world. As an English teacher, making videos hits so many of the standards I need to have students learn in one project it was just simply a great choice, but also it is just so much fun to make videos with my students.”

What advice do you have for teachers who are worried about using tech in their classrooms?

“Take a bit of time every day. Learn a new skill and add to it the next day. By the end of the year, you will be so far from where you were that you forget what it was like to teach without technology. When I started 3D printing with students I had no background in the process. I learned each day by trial and error and now five years later I can do things that I had no idea I could do like prototyping frisbees for PE or printing models for set design or making branded items for my school.”


I love walking away from an interview with new people on Twitter to follow! Thanks again, Matthew for the great interview. I hope we can all take these insights on technology and apply them to our classrooms. 

An Enneagram In Education Page Just For You!

Just jumping on really fast to let you know that I’ve made a new feature on the blog- an Enneagram in Education page WITH BUTTONS! I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s so satisfying to click on a link with a button instead of a long URL. Much more aesthetically pleasing as well!

Click on your enneagram type and it’ll bring you straight to the post about your enneagram type and the learning style that comes with it. It may teach you a thing or two about yourself in a classroom setting and how best to get the most out of your education!

As of now, I have not written about every type yet, so not all are up. By the end of the year I will have gotten to all nine types. Enjoy!

Cover photo by infographicnow

Rice Sensory Bin Tips

Hello, early educators and parents of littles who are ready to dive deep into the sensory bin world! Sensory bins can be daunting given the mess that can come with it. But I’m here to help ease your fears and bring more sensory play into the world. First, a few other resources for articles: 

One Big List Of Sensory Bin Fillers

Tips For Sensory Play In General

Here are my tips specifically for RICE sensory bins. 

SET BOUNDARIES: Before you even begin, set boundaries. Our number one rule is to keep the rice and tools inside the bin. This idea of rice in a bin to play with can be new for the majority of kids and we can’t just assume they know to keep the rice nicely in the bin. Give them good boundaries BEFORE you give them the materials. 

SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS: One thing I firmly believe is that we have to set kids up for success before we expect them to perform the way we want and expect them to. Even if you set them up for success, accidents still happen. The best solution I have found for keeping rice contained is to put the sensory bin on top of a quilt or rug. Then it can easily be shaken off outside or vacuumed up when you’re done!

KEEP THE BOUNDARIES: When lines are crossed, don’t be afraid to take a break from the rice. Separate the child and the bin however you can, take a minute for a break, and come back to try again for success when you feel the child is ready. 

FIND THE RIGHT TOOLS: Too many tools, not enough tools, or the wrong tools can make or break the sensory bin experience. We’ve done our fair share of experimenting with tools and here are our favorites. 

  1. Scoops and spoons 
  2. Small bowls 
  3. Ice cube trays
  4. Small people or animals for pretend play 
  5. Holiday-themed toys (usually from the dollar store) 
  6. Puzzle pieces for a puzzle find. Expect this to be messier because they’ll be pulling pieces out of the bin. 

PRAISE THE POSITIVE: Applaud and praise the correct behaviors. 
“I love how you’re sharing so nicely with your friend!” 
“You are keeping the rice in the bin so well. I am proud of you!”  

TASTE SAFE IS NOT AN AFTERNOON SNACK: Dyed rice is typically made taste safe (recipe coming soon!). Just because it’s taste safe doesn’t mean it should be eaten. It means you don’t need to call poison control if it ends up in their mouth at some point. With diligent supervision and boundary setting, babies as young as a year old can play with sensory bins full of rice. More on that in the next point. 

The first experience of a sensory bin looks like sitting right next to the child, helping them scoop and play. When rice is inevitably put in their mouth respond with, “Yucky! No no!” and help them spit it out. Repeat over and over. It takes multiple times to remind them and in multiple settings! Be diligent and they’ll understand. Take it away if you need to. 

IT TAKES TIME FOR RICE TO BE AN INDEPENDENT ACTIVITY: To go along with the last point, it takes time for any sensory bin to be an independent activity! If you’re a parent, handing your child a rice bin with toys and tools for the first time so you can make dinner isn’t setting them up for success. Rice bins are a side-by-side activity to teach your child self-control and pretend play. 

In an early childhood educational setting- model, model, MODEL how to play with any sensory activity. Set a responsible adult next to the bin with a handful of kids to monitor and keep the boundaries. 

Given time, independent play with rice is possible! 

Do you have any tips for rice sensory play you can add to this list? 

0-Gap Masks: 2020 Scholarship Winner

This is part of a series of interviews with our scholarship recipients for our 2020 Build A Better Future scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our 2021 program, click here”. 

Sarah Lee and Angela Rhee are our first international students to apply to our scholarship. They come from South Korea and have made a huge impression on the team at Honors Graduation. During this unprecedented time in our world, Sarah and Angela wanted to help their community the best they could. When schools in South Korea were reopened after being shut down due to COVID-19, masks were strictly required to be worn for all students. Unfortunately, not all students had access to a mask and therefore, couldn’t attend school.

Together, they set out to develop the 0-gap mask initiative. A program to deliver masks that maximize facial fit to healthcare workers, low-income families, and people in high risk groups for COVID-19. The 0-gap masks are antiviral and conform precisely to the users’ face. They also developed a beard version which utilizes an additional layer that seals all gaps. Both serve to maximize facial fit to prevent pollutant/bacterial leakage. As many high quality masks remain unaffordable to low-income families, their main goal is to distribute free masks to underprivileged families and senior citizens. 

After donating masks to the Da-ll charity organization and receiving positive feedback earlier this year, Sarah and Angela realized that regardless of the number of individuals, their initiative helped low-income families and individuals in their local community. The impact they feel they have made feels much bigger than they realized, especially at a time when masks are in such high need. They also feel that their initiative helped people to understand the importance of facial fit and not just the filtering abilities of the masks they choose to wear. 

Longterm, Sarah and Angela hope to obtain a provisional patent and connect with the UN Development Programme to distribute 0-gap masks to underprivileged students, outdoor workers, and individuals with facial hair and facial disfigurements. Targeting countries like Bangladesh, India and China they hope to expand efforts to the most severely populated regions around the world. Using the funds they currently have, they plan to purchase mask filters, breathable fabric and a programmable sewing machine to continue producing masks. 

They have plans to bring their respective universities since that would allow them to reach a wider pool of resources and connections. Sarah will be attending The University of Chicago, while Angela will be attending Northwestern University. Both universities have an opportunity for them to further their initiative. At Northwestern, there is a center for research innovation which would help them in further developing the 0-gap mask prototype. The University of Chicago hosts a competition called The College New Venture Challenge, which would help them obtain more funds. 

Enneagram In Education: Type Four

This is part of a series using enneagram in education. For more information on why enneagram in education, refer to this post.

Enneagram type 4, the romantic, or the individualist. 

A few words to describe this type: 

Creative. 

Intuitive.

Daydreamers.

Withdrawn.

Sensitive.

Artistic. 

Let’s pull this into a classroom setting. If you’re an enneagram type four, you’re the daydreamer in the back of the classroom doodling in a notebook. Your key motivator as a type four is to be unique and different, always having the most artistic work. As a true artist, you’re very focused on what’s missing. Whether that’s within yourself, or in your work. You can also be sensitive to criticism, feelings can be hurt when something negative comes up.

How to get the most out of your education as a type four. 

  • Don’t just focus on the negative of feedback, remember to focus on the positive as well.
  • Embrace the artistic side of you and find a way to make your work creative. 
  • Get involved in deep conversations with peers about topics that are interesting to you. 
  • Create aestically pleasing notes and workspace for school work to motivate you. 

Highly personal, individualistic, “true to self.” Self-revealing, emotionally honest, humane. Ironic view of self and life: can be serious and funny, vulnerable and emotionally strong.

– The Enneagram Institute 

Type 4’s go to type 1 in growth and type 2 in stress. 

Are you a type 4? What is important for you to have a successful learning environment? 

Cover photo: Enneagram Worldwide 

Dear Teacher: Thank You For Your Service

Dear Teacher, 

How are you? No, really. Take a minute to close your eyes and really think. How are you doing? 

This school year is unlike any other. Instead of walking into your classroom, putting up creative borders and posters around your classroom, and setting up for students, you sat at your computer waiting for emails, calls, or anything that would indicate how you would be teaching this year. 

Virtual? 

Hybrid? 

In-person? 

Masks? No masks? How much plexiglass would be installed in your classroom? 

It’s natural and okay to feel overwhelmed by the state of this school year. So many of you were told one thing, only to be changed last minute. Those expecting to be all online had to curate a socially distant classroom experience in a matter of hours because districts and higher-ups changed the protocol in the 11th hour. Some who spent all summer working on their socially distant classrooms were changed to all online and had to revamp their whole curriculum overnight. 

You’re expected to teach our “lost generation”, those who won’t have the opportunity at the same education as others have. It can put a certain level of guilt on you as their main source of education! 

But you’re a good teacher. 

You’re trying your best. 

The students are the center of your work. 

How do I know? Because it takes a special heart to be an educator, especially in today’s political world. And I know you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t care about your students as much as you do. 

Think back to one year ago, did you know the term “socially distant”? Would you have ever imagined teaching with a mask on all day? Did you ever see yourself on Zoom teaching concepts that really need to be taught in a personal setting? Like…. How to write….? 

No. No one saw this coming, no one could have prepared us for today. 

Your students are the same way, they were blindsided one day in March when nearly every school shut down with very little notice for an undisclosed amount of time. 

Doctors and nurses on the front lines treating COVID are heroes and need recognition. But maybe our teachers are being somewhat forgotten about. Here you are, putting in as much time and effort as these doctors. You’re working long shifts and giving your whole heart and soul to bring the education back to your communities, putting your life and your family’s lives at risk while you do it. 

Instead of nursing COVID patients back to health, you’re nursing our lost generation back to education. You’re providing our society as a whole a brighter future through your efforts. 

You are seen. You are of immeasurable value. You are the heroes we need right now. 

Thank you for your service.