A tutorial for making colored beans great for a number of sensory activities for children. See how these beautiful beans are used as a sensory bin base.
Dyed materials for sensory play are certainly among my kids’ favorites. Rice, pasta, beans, and more can all be dyed in a number or different ways, and make a great sensory base for play, sensory bottles, or even for crafting.
These colored beans are so much fun to make, which is a gross motor activity in and of itself. We used garbanzo beans here, but have used this same process to make rainbow rice, colored pasta and more.
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Sensory Activities with Colored Materials
There are so many ways to use colored materials, making this a good ‘bang for your buck’ if you plan on doing sensory play with your kids. Sensory play is incredibly important to child development, as engaging all of the senses really helps create connections in the brain.
Sensory play allows for creative expression, pretend play, fine motor practice, and a multi-sensory experience with material they are learning. Rice, beans, and pasta are our favorite materials to color. We like to find as many ways as possible to play with a dyed material since we are using food materials, and prefer not to waste them.
Our view on playing with dyed sensory materials of a food base is that it is really a great tool for children in their education and overall development, which is valuable and important. Still, to respect the use of food, we save the materials and use them over and over again, finding new ways to play.
Some ideas for sensory activities with these materials include:
- make a sensory bin with the colored beans or rice as a base, adding scoops and bowls
- put the items in a sensory bottle with small objects to make an I-Spy bottle
- glue the materials to a coloring sheet to make a 3D mosaic
- set up a marble run and drop the materials through to the bottom
- place the items in a ziplock bag with the sides duct taped closed to make a sensory bag
- put the items in old toilet paper tubes and secure the ends to make DIY maracas
How to Make Colored Beans for Sensory Activities
Here we used dried garbanzo beans to dye for a sensory base. These beans are a fun choice because of their ball like shape, they are great for rolling and feel nice between the hands. You can opt for any light colored dried bean though such as navy or cannellini beans.
What you need to make colored beans:
Neon food coloring
To Make the Colored Beans for Sensory Activities
Separate the dried beans into a few different ziplock bags. You will need to separate the beans into one bag per color you are using, here we did three different colors, so three bags. It would be really fun to make these into rainbow chickpeas for a fun Spring activity.
Drop a couple of drops of food coloring into the bag of beans, and add a squirt or two of hand sanitizer. This helps the coloring spread all around and reduce any clumping of the food coloring. Shake the bags vigorously until all of the food coloring is mixed (a great gross motor activity for kids).
Lay the dyed beans onto a wax paper covered baking sheet. Dry for a few hours or overnight to keep little hands dye-free when playing.
Once dry, transfer the colored beans into a plastic bin or round metal container. A lidded plastic shoe box is a great choice as you can just cover to put away, and easily take out for play at another time.
How many sensory activities can you think of for playing with your colored beans?
Make a Colored Bean Sensory Bin
After you have dyed your beans, place them in a bin for sensory play! To the bin you can add fine motor tools such as funnels, scoops, bowls, etc.
Kids of all ages will love to play with these. Toddlers will scoop and pour all day, and this act of transferring materials is a critical component of their development.
Older preschoolers might like to observe the differences in color, or separate the colors into different piles.