If you’re looking for a sensory activity for your child that is not too messy, try using dried black beans and dried chickpeas. Visually, the combination of the two colours are simply stunning! They are also basic ingredients that are easy to get at your local supermarket. Just pick them up on your next grocery trip, pour them into a tray/bowl, and present them with whatever tools/props you desire, depending on what your child’s interests are or what you want them to learn.
My 22-month-old loves scooping and transferring things and also “making cake”, so I offered the tray with spoons and cups. My 4.5-year-old, on the other hand, decided she was a pirate searching for treasure so I added in the jewels that you can see in the mix above. Toys like animal figurines or trucks and diggers would also go well with this activity. My two kids had a ball with this and I admit even I got into it. I especially loved the sound of the dried black beans and chickpeas being poured into the plastic tray or cups- like rain on a tin roof! It inspired my 4.5-year-old to make shakers by putting two cups together.
Of course, halfway through every sensory activity, my toddler will decide to tip the entire contents of the tray out onto the carpet. The great thing about these dried black beans and dried chickpeas though is that they don’t smoosh and break into little pieces like dried pasta or raw oats. They are also not as small as uncooked rice. The most they do is break cleanly in half is there is a lot of impact. We have carpet though which absorbs some impact so most pieces stayed intact for us.
For clean up, I was looking around for a stick of some sort to sweep the dried black beans and chickpeas together when I spied the lightsabers sticking out of my older daughter’s toy chest. They really did a really effective job- not just a weapon for fighting intergalactic battles you know! In fact, it was so fun sweeping the black beans and chickpeas together that it became an activity in itself to create lines, letters and patterns on the carpet.
Sorry Star Wars, I mean you no disrepect! All in the name of play-based learning!