Home OT on a Shoestring – Part 3

We’re going to rekindle our love of low budget ideas for OT equipment in the home. Part 3 looks at a simple idea that can be used temporarily, or if you get a few, longer term.

Part 3: A Bag of Rice

For many OTs, Rice can be a very simple tool for sensory exploration and play. A simple 2, 3, 4 or even 5kg bag of rice can be a versatile tool to support children at home or in kindy/school settings.

How it can Help:

Rice, depending on the form with which it is used, can help children’s explore their sensory world in a great variety of ways. It effect is more or less determined by the activity chosen, as such we will look at activities and then explain further what they are doing to help support a child better understand their sensory world.

Activities to try: 

– If you are the creative type, especially with a sewing machine, rice in bags makes an excellent ‘Bean Bag’ (or rice bag).

– Rice is also excellent for making fiddle tools, like balloon rice balls (aka rice juggling balls), which can be used as a hand strength and deep pressure activity/small tool. Importantly this can provide deep pressure directly to the hands, which is calming on the nervous system.

– A large 2-3 kg bag of rice can be used as a lap pad for sitting at the table. Some children have difficulty sitting on their chair during dinner, so rather than getting a weighted lap pad, a try a bag of rice. If it is proves effective, then a weighted lap pad could be purchased at a later date. Similar to the rice ball, the lap pad can provide deep pressure to a child, while seated. This continuous deep pressure can be calming and regulating for a child, and support their ability to remain seated during dinner, when engaging in homework or just sitting and reading (it is often a recommendation to ensure the weight of the rice bag is no more than 10% of a child’s body weight, and only used for 20 mins at a time).

– Rice for sensory regulation and as a calming tool for exploring touch. Some children seek sensations, especially touch, and rice can be a very effective way to support this. Particularly the dry rice, which can be placed in a bucket or container for children to ‘dive’ their hands into. Children can also pick up a cup full of rice and ‘pour it’ over hands and feet, creating a more ‘calming’ tactile sensation. Further to this, a change in sensations can be to cook the rice and encourage the child to explore the stickier and more ‘alerting’ feeling, due to the change in nature of the rice (just make sure the rice is cold first!). Alternatively, for those more ‘defensive’ and tactile sensitive, exposing them to small amounts of rice can increase tolerance of new textures, through such food play.

– Rice can be placed in a big plastic container (5-10 litres), then you can hid bigger items of varying shapes (e.g. bouncy ball, toy car, textas) for your child to find. This will support your child’s ability to work on their tactile perception and stereognosis skills (being able to recognise an object only through the use of receptors of touch i.e. through texture, size, shape) to find items buried underneath the rice.

– For those who find a bean bag too easy (i.e. very creative people!) you can even make your own “I spy” bag. A bag of rice, a few small, coloured items (with an inventory), some material and plastic sheeting – and you can make a bag or items for searching and working on visual attention, figure ground and form constancy.

– For sounds and auditory stimulation, a rain stick can be an easy tool to make. Just find a length of PVC, some rice, drilling a few holes into the pipe and running sticks through, then covering both ends, will be enough to make your own rain maker. The auditory stimulation can be useful for those that seek sounds, as well as a nice early device to work on pronation and supination of the forearms – important for functional fine motor development (e.g .feeding independently).

Of course, there are plenty of ways to use rice and I am sure many of you out there have more to share, so please feel free to comment on the post and share your other ideas. So next time you decide to get rice, think about getting a bigger bag and using it for a bit…then cooking the rest!


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