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? 

Will Distance Learning Ever Really Go Away?

Digital learning is no stranger to any teacher across the globe. COVID-19 has overtaken so many aspects of our lives, and schools have taken a hard hit as well. 

Google Classrooms

Zoom 

Google Drive with sheets, docs, and more

Prezi 

More Zoom. 

Emails on emails on emails. 

And Zoom. 

All things that majority of teachers are all too familiar with. 

Someday, our lives will go back to normal. Someday, far in the future, we won’t have to wear masks, apply hand sanitizer every three minutes, or tremble in fear when we accidentally cough at the grocery store. Instead of hearing coronavirus in the present tense, it will all be past tense. Someday we will be reading about the toilet paper shortages in history books and recalling memories of quarantine to our kids and grandkids that were too young to remember. 

But when it’s all over, will our schools go back? Will we continue to have our standardized learning that took place before COVID? A teacher using technology as a resource in the classroom. Or, will this pandemic change our teaching? Will Zoom still continue to be a meeting place for teachers, administration, and students? If we didn’t have to spend the gas and time driving to a common location but instead meet from the comfort of our own homes, will we? Or is there an added value of face-to-face communication? 

I’m eager to see how our world changes and adapts to this new-normal, even when the pandemic is over. What are your thoughts? Will everything go back to how it used to be, or are we adapting and changing? 

Let’s Grow With A Growth Mindset!

Have you heard of a growth mindset? Many schools are embracing and adopting this idea for their teachers and students to study and use in their work. What is a growth mindset? Why is it important? How can we use it to our advantage? 

There is research that our brains can and will grow. Our learning is not limited to our brain’s capacity, but to our drive and work, we put into the learning. Having a fixed mindset is thinking, “I am who I am. My personality, abilities, and intelligence cannot change because they were predetermined when I was born.” A growth mindset is saying “I can learn and change who I am and how I act if I am willing to put in the time and effort to grow, stretch, and learn.” 

Challenges, failures, and shortcomings are welcomed with open arms to those with a growth mindset because they view them as an opportunity to grow and learn. This infographic is one of my favorites to show the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. 

Carol Dweck Ph. D, who has researched the idea of a growth mindset and wrote a book on the idea states, 

“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

So now that we know what is it, why is it important to us? Well, the obvious is for our students. Let’s teach them to have a growth mindset, let’s show them how they can positively affirm in their minds that they may not be able to do it… yet. But with work, they can. 

But let’s also remember ourselves. Wherever you are in the education field, not only are you educating students, but you’re educating yourself as well. You are constantly learning about new teaching methods, new education findings, information on your students, information about your school. The education never stops when you’re an educator yourself, so apply this to you! 

Maybe that ESL endorsement class is hard for you. The homework is overwhelming and time management isn’t in your favor. You can’t do it… yet. But you can do it if you try! 

I have told my daughter for as long as she could understand me, “We can do hard things!” and I’ve said it to her often, as well as had her repeat it back to me while she is attempting something difficult such as riding a bike for the first time. I recently changed our positive affirmation to give her a little more information and confidence. 

“I can do it if I try.” 

We can do hard things and I want her to remember that. But I also want her to know that “if I try” is just as important in repeating and saying to ourselves. We can try new things, we can do hard things if we try!”. 

How do you use a growth mindset in your classroom? What have you seen as an outcome of using a growth mindset not only for your students but for yourself? 

Quote and info-graphic from brainpickings.org

#TeacherMom Struggles: What’s The Balance?

The other day I handed my 2.5-year-old scissors for the first time in her life. When handing them to her, I had a moment where I realized this was probably her first physical exposure with scissors herself instead of watching me use them, so I gave her a quick tutorial on how to hold them. 

Within minutes she was frustrated. She didn’t know how to cut the paper I had given her. I originally started her on this project so I could have a few minutes to cook dinner, so you can imagine my frustration when I had to go back over to show her, yet again!, how to hold and use the scissors. She worked diligently, and very, very slowly on cutting up a big sheet of construction paper into tiny pieces, struggling and asking for help the whole way. 

Once she had completed the construction paper, she moved on to the next task without consulting me first. The blanket. Luckily, we have some fairly dull kid scissors that won’t cut up the fabric so the blanket was saved, yet it still wasn’t okay. 

But it made me think that if I were teaching in a preschool, kinder, or first-grade classroom (maybe even older) and we pulled out scissors for the first time in a while, I would have an explicit lesson about what is okay to cut, scissor safety, and more. Yet with my daughter, I didn’t! A couple of thoughts I had about this situation-

  • Using scissors seems like such an every day, easy task to us who have used them for years and years. This is absolutely not the case with a toddler. 
  • Explicit instruction can do wonders. 
  • New activities such as using scissors aren’t for “from a distant” parenting. I should have chosen a safer activity I knew she could be successful and handle on her own. 
  • I try to turn off “teacher mode” often around her because while it’s valuable, I want to be play focused and not “coach” her too much throughout our day. But sometimes, teacher mode is okay and should come out. 

Mistakes were made! The first time a child picks up scissors they don’t need a quick tutorial, they need a sit-down, explicit lesson! I know that. I guess as a #teachermom, I expected myself to have a perfect balance of teacher mind and mom mind, and while it seems to work out some days, it doesn’t others. So here’s to me working hard at this balancing act of #teachermom life! 

You #teacherparents out there, do you struggle with finding a balance between being a parent and being a teacher to your kids? 

Slowing Down To Remember The Simple Learning

After 2-3 months of virtual learning, who’s ready for a good old fashioned “read out of a book” and “use pencil and paper” kind of learning? My mind is going back to my early school days of chalkboards, chalk, and big hefty erasers. Just take a minute with me to go back in time and picture the one-room schoolhouses full of heavy desks and children of varying ages all learning in the same room. What would they think if we explained our schooling methods now, especially today while schools are closed but we are still finding creative ways to learn online? 

Zoom meetings, iPads, Google Classroom, emails, and virtual learning are all jargon that kids as young as preschool can comprehend. Boy, learning has taken vast leaps and bounds since the one-room schoolhouse where all work was done on a simple slate! Even thinking back to my own elementary days, email was still a term that everyone was trying to wrap their heads around. 

Photo from Mrs. Beach’s Class– A quick read I highly recommend

Oftentimes I find myself longing to live in a simple time period where going to school was a luxury and nights were filled with candlelit dinners, reading, and music instead of extracurriculars, tv shows, and work on the computer. However, I am grateful for our opportunity to gain knowledge even amidst a global pandemic that shut down the world for a time. 

How are you feeling after a few months of virtual learning? Are you hyped up and ready to keep going, or are you coming with me back to the one-room schoolhouse for a little break? 

A Letter To The 2020 Graduates- Pt. 2

Recently I wrote An Open Letter To The Graduating Class of 2020 and for how well it was received by graduates, I knew it needed a part two. Although, this time I’m going about it a bit different. 

I asked around for what advice others would give and brought them all here. So instead of hearing from one person, we can read the responses of multiple, and even some who are graduates themselves. Here’s what they have to say. 

“It is okay to mourn this. It sucks for sure.”

“You will be better because of this. It will teach you to appreciate everything that is to come. And honestly, the best is yet to come. You guys have so many great things about ahead. The classic line of “the best is yet to come” is so true!”

“Life sucks sometimes. Be happy anyway. Congratulations, we are proud of you!!” 

“I understand what you’re going through. Part of you puts on a happy, optimistic face and say “it’s okay there’s life after high school” “at least we’re at home and get to sleep in” etc. but all you want is a traditional graduation, your senior sunset, bbq, slideshow, sob, and all-nighter. You don’t get to take pictures on the front lawn with your favorite teachers and friends after graduation in your cap and gown.”

“You’re a part of history and we are proud of you!”

“The lack of celebration doesn’t diminish your effort, you still did it!”

“We, seniors, are keeping a happy face on and trying to stay positive, which generally is true! It just doesn’t feel fair when your family/parents/school doesn’t try to make up for it. Bigger and better things are coming!! But it’s okay to want what feels important and deserving now. And no matter how much you want to have what you’ve worked for, it’ll be made up to you at some point in your life! We’ve got this class of 2020!”

“No one else has ever experienced this! It is unique to the class of 2020.” 

“Your life is just starting. This isn’t the end.” 

“We’re proud of you. You get your diploma either way. Your degree means the same, either way.” 

“Congratulations on reaching a major milestone in your life! This year has been so much different than anyone could ever have expected. While you may not get a traditional graduation experience, you definitely are part of a historic event. The graduates of 2020 will always be remembered for the unique situation they faced. Life is always full of challenges, but also opportunities. We are so excited for you and the opportunities you now have. We can’t wait to see you continue your successful life.”


You did it, and you deserve the recognition for that. It sucks that this is the timing, but how many other people can say that they’ve been a huge part of history like you? Congratulations, you did it! 

Tips For High School Graduates- Congrats Class Of 2020!

Hey, high school seniors! It’s graduation season! That means you just successfully made it through more or less twelve years of schooling, that’s incredible! While graduation is exciting, it can also be so daunting. Pestered with questions of, “Where are you going next?” and, “What career are you going to have when you graduate?” fill your time. Let me give you some tips that can help you get through this transitional time in your life. These tips are both from me and trusted friends of mine. 

  1. You’re only 18 years old, you don’t need a concrete plan for the rest of your life. This is a great time to explore options and see where you want life to take you, so take that time! 
  2. The options for after graduation are endless, take your time to break each down and decide what you really want to do. 
  3. Listen to the experience from others to help you decide where you’re going and what you’re doing. 
  4. Find a way to serve. The best way to be in tune with yourself and what you need is to forget yourself- really! Find some way in your community that you can serve and reach out, especially if it’s in a field of work you hope to pursue. It may lead you down a path you never knew you wanted to go down as well! 
  5. Let others share the excitement with you. I know during a global pandemic it can be hard to find a way to get together with close family and friends to celebrate your achievement, but great creative! Drive-up parties are popular right now where friends and family drive up, stay in their car, and talk to you from a safe distance. Once they are done, they pull away and the next car drives up. 
  6. Read this post about an open letter to the graduating class of 2020. 

Happy graduation! You did it!