Play with your food – Turn your pantry into play opportunities!

Ever find that despite your home being over run with store bought toys, it is the household items that the kids want to play with?   The pots and pans, a ball of string, a cardboard box, the wooden spoons?  Well put the toys away, open up the pantry and you will unearth a tresure trove of play opportunities!  Behind that can of three bean mix, I bet you will discover……


Colour me happy.  Uncolored rice naturally works as well as coloured rice for any of these activities but coloured rice is way more fun!  Simply place the quantity of rice you want into a zip lock bag.  Place a few drops of food colouring and a few squirts of hand sanitizer into the bag and shake! Lay the rice out on a tray to dry in the sun!  The hand sanitizer (alcohol) helps the colour to set!  Kids love helping to shake the begs but unless you want a “rice shower” make sure they are securely closed first!

Shake it baby!   Make a maraka.  No childhood is complete without a bottle filled with rice for shaking!  Try different sizes and shapes of bottles to create your own shaking band! Just don’t forget to secure the lid!

Sensory Play.  Forget the sand pit, exploring in rice is a sensory adventure.  Fill a large storage container with rice and then add

  • Gardening tools, shovels, buckets gloves, flowers for some gardening role play without the dirt. (Check out this amazing sensory rice garden below from
  • Small toys burried underneath the rice for some fine motor exploration and seeking! 
  • Funnels, bowls, jugs, spoons and cups for some role play cooking or just pouring mixing

Chopsticks  This one is for the older kids.  A great fine motor and hand eye coordination activity ask them to pick up grains of rice with their chopsticks and put them into another container!  Or mix up some rice, small pom poms, craft paddlepop sticks or match sticks and even some small toys in a container and ask them to sort it, not using their hands but the chopsticks!!! 
Craft it.  Make a rice picture.  Let your child paint some glue onto a piece of paper into any design they like.  Sprinkle rice over the glue and shake off any excess.  It is of course best to do this over a large tray. (kitty litter trays work well)  Experiment with different designs and colours.

Don’t cook it!!!!  Play with it!!  Pasta comes in more shapes and sizes than you can imagine!

Wear it.  Who hasn’t made a pasta necklace at some time in their childhood!  Spice it up and use a few different types of pasta.  Children could make a pattern (a valuable maths skill) on their necklace by alternating colours or types of pasta.   Threading is an amazing fine motor skill.  Little ones can thread using penne and older children the smaller macaroni!

Sort it.  Mix up a whole assortment of pasta and ask the kids to sort it!  A muffin tray makes a great sorter with children being able to place

Count it.  Large pasta makes great counters!  Write some numbers on disposable cups.  Ask your child to place the same number pieces of pasta in each cup!


Before you go running in the other direction.  Food colouring doesn’t have to be messy. This is a great activity for children 2years and over.  If you are really worried invest in some rubber gloves!

Paper towel art.  Water down some food colouring in a clear plastic cup.  Don’t dilute it too much you want the colour to be strong.  Using an eyedropper, drop a drop of the coloured water onto some papertowel.  The colour spreads to create a gorgeous coloured effect!  Drop a different colour close by and you will see the colours mix!

Oil and water.  Mix some food colouring into some oil.  Fill a kiity litter tray with about 5cms o water.  Using the eyedropper again drop a drop of your coloured water onto the water.  Do this with a few different colours.  Now gently place a piece of paper on top of the water for a second and lift it off.  The colour in the water transfers to the paper!  If you want to really get fancy, swirl the colour in the water with a comb!   This is one of my classes favourite art activities!

So forget the “educational” toys this week, go for a search in the pantry and uncover a recipe for fun and learning just waiting to be discovered.


  1. Such clever ideas! I’ll be filing this one away for the next rainy day or school holidays. Great photos too! Thx Larissa.

  2. Love this! Would make for some fun time when the preschooler is “bored”.

  3. Love home craft & pantry “toys”. I made a maraca for my kids when they were younger, just using rice and an empty plastic bottle. They loved it. I think I might give the rice picture a try come next holiday! Keep those little hands busy. 🙂

  4. We do the rice and pasta ones all the time! The kids love making all the different colours!

  5. Wow, I’ve never heard of dying rice, but that’s such a cool idea! And pasta necklacesare much better for you than fruit loops 😛

  6. Master J loooves playing with the rice box at his speech therapy! most of the kids do actually!
    One of his fav toys when he was little was a pump bottle with pasta in to and the pots and wooden spoons
    It was so nice to see him really get into playing using his own imagantion
    Great post hun!

  7. I love this idea.
    PS My boys coloured the sand from sandpit using a whole bottle of green food colouring and they stole my vanilla too.
    The red they just wasted another day but we caught them in time.

  8. Wow – So simple but such great ideas! Some different activities that I’ll definitely be using 🙂

  9. Love love your ideas, and so true, they love anything that is not a store bought toy.
    to add a suggestion, with food colouring. We LOVE food colouring baths… dont stress, you only need a couple of drops, and no stain on kids or bath, so much fun to create different colours, mixing Blue with Red etc.
    Makes bathtime fun…

    • What a great idea Emma! We often have coloured water play in the yard but never thought to take it into the bath! Thanks for the wonderful suggestion, keep them coming!

  10. I totally fell in love with this idea! Ive never thought of dying rice or pasta before so my 7 yr old is eager to try this out! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Love the pasta necklace idea and organising the different colours in muffin tins! It looks really fun!


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