Rice and lentil sensory play and train village

It was a rainy indoors sort of day yesterday, so I was planning a simple sensory play session. We do this every so often: a tray of raw rice, a bunch of toys (e.g. cars, pots, cooking utensils, plastic animals…) and free play. I like to vary it from time to time by adding lentils, sesame seeds, chickpeas or the like.

But when we started gathering toys I began looking a bit further than the favourite car box, hoping for some inspiration to mix up the activity again. And so I started rummaging through the trains box, and decided I could come up with a quick and easy train village small world.


I made one up on one tray, and then Zeph asked to start his as a basic play tray with just the lentils and rice, which he poured in, and some trusty old cars. So today was a bit of both.

Elly added a roaring dinosaur and lion to terrorize the train village and then took a break. Zeph soon moved over and caused chaos with snow on the tracks and high winds blowing down all the trees. They both enjoyed the pots and pouring, and then Zeph started trying to separate the lentils from the rice. Now, with chickpeas this works to do by hand. You can also use a colander to sort them by size because the rice is small enough to fall through and the chickpeas aren’t. But with rice and lentils? Not so much. This did actually cause some frustration this time round, but for all that this is one of our tested and loved activities.

It is almost certain to end up with bits of rice and lentils scattered around the floor, but it’s easily swept up… or why not try it in an outside area if you have one and the weather is right?

Little kitchen helpers: rice

Living in South Korea we eat a lot of rice. In fact, my kids have phases where just about all they seem to want to eat is rice and κΉ€ (gim – Korean dried seaweed, very similar to nori) – breakfast, lunch, dinner.

They also both love to help preparing it for cooking. Elly will often find the rice cooker and ask to ‘cooh-cooh’ (cook cook), even when he has just eaten, or there is rice waiting for him on the table.

First they help to measure cups of rice into the rice pan. I normally scoop it out of the sack and let them tip and count it in as letting them try to scoop normally results in a) rice everywhere and b) an completely unknown quantity of rice in the rice pan.


Then they help me wash the rice. Zeph likes to turn the tap on and off to cover the rice. But the favourite bit for both of them is definitely getting to put their hands in the water and play with it. Or eat it, if your name is Elly. We often use this opportunity to talk about ‘transparent/see through’ and ‘opaque/cloudy’ as we watch the starch wash out and change the water. Next it’s back to counting cups – as we add water this time.


Last but not least one of them takes a turn to flick on the switch on the rice cooker. Or we turn it on and off a few times so they both get to do it.