One of the most successful toys I have made for the popular Read-Aloud Program at the Museum was an I-Spy Bottle using dyed rice and a few little nature themed toys. The littlest visitors like shaking the bottle and hearing the sound the rice makes, while the older children enjoy trying to find each of the bugs and animals hidden inside the bottle by twisting and turning it.
In my newest I-Spy bottle creation, I included alphabet beads. Now older children can spin the bottle around and look for the letters to their name or even spell out the names of the critters inside the bottle. For instance, if they find the butterfly, they need to look for the “B” bead, the “U” bead, etc.
Making the dyed rice is also a great activity for the kiddos. They get to pour the rice, squeeze the food coloring, and shake the bags to dye the rice. It’s so much fun! My favorite part is that this rice uses vinegar and food coloring and not rubbing alcohol to create the bright colors.
Gather Your Supplies:
- Clear empty plastic bottle (think water bottle, clear soda bottle, peanut container—anything long and skinny will work)
- Long grain white rice
- Food coloring
- Bags with a zipper top (one for each color you are making)
- Small toys, beads, trinkets, etc. (Make sure whatever you pick can fit through the opening of the bottle)
Using the funnel, fill the bottle with rice. Be sure to leave some room at the top to account for the toys.
Dump the rice from the bottle into the different zip-top bags to be dyed.
Put a few drops of food coloring and a ½ teaspoon of vinegar into each bag. Close the bags tightly and shake, shake, shake! Add more food coloring until the rice is the desired color. For my rice, I added 10 drops of each color.
Once you have all the rice dyed, lay it out to dry. (I find that the vinegar dries quickly so this should only take about 15 to 20 minutes).
Mix all the rice colors together until the colors are evenly mixed. I also added my alphabet beads at this point to mix up with the rice.
Begin spooning the rice into the bottle. After every couple of scoops, make sure to add a toy into the bottle.
Fill the bottle leaving some room at the top. This will allow the contents of the bottle to be moved around. Securely screw on the lid. You may want to glue or tape the lid shut for extra security, especially for younger children.
Spin the bottle and find all the treasures hidden inside! I like having a “Seek and Find” list of the objects inside for the kids to check off as they find everything.