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How to dye dried beans for art craft

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How to dye dried beans for art craft
October 19, 2019 Entertainment and Movies No comments

Level: ECE, Primary, Junior

Grade: Preschool, K-2, Grades 3-5

Age: 2-5 yrs, 5-8 yrs, 8-11 yrs

Written by: Andrea Mulder-Slater/


Make your own mosaic! Don’t throw those pumpkin seeds away! Roast a few and paint the rest for a spectacular work of art.


Mosaics are made of tiny colored pieces of stone, pottery, glass or other materials, arranged together and set in plaster or cement to make patterns and images. They can be used to decorate a floor, a wall or in some cases a ceiling.

Mosaics have a long history. They were created in Ancient times in Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. When the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum (which were buried under lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79) were rediscovered, many wonderful mosaics were found.

Ask your students to imagine, making a mosaic using over one million pieces of glass – all hand cut, and placed into wet plaster to create a large pattern for their entry hall! It is a project that would take months and in some cases even many years to complete.

For several centuries, interest in the making of mosaics declined. It wasn’t until the 19th century, when architects started to look at old ideas for new inspirations, that the interest once again returned and mosaics began popping up in public buildings and private homes.

What You Need:

  • Pumpkin Seeds (clean)
  • Paint (dark colors) (or food coloring)
  • Paint brush
  • Shallow container (or zip close baggie)
  • Thick paper (poster board)
  • Glue
  • Pencils
  • Wax paper or newspaper

What You Do:

Have students choose a few paint colors.

Put the seeds into a shallow dish, squirt some paint on the seeds and mix the paint around until all seeds are covered in paint. They should do this for as many colors as they need.

Alternatively, the seeds can be placed in a zip close baggie with a squirt of paint (or food coloring). Then, the bag can be shaken as the seeds take on the color of the paint or food coloring.

Spread the seeds out on wax paper (or newspaper) and let dry overnight.

While they are waiting for the seeds to dry, students can draw a picture onto their poster paper. Some ideas include masks, fish or wild designs.

Remind students to keep it simple, remember, they will be “coloring in” with seeds.

When the seeds are dry, they can be arranged and glued onto the poster paper in the appropriate areas.

***If you are feeling really adventurous, try using plaster instead of glue to create the mosaics. Just remind students to work quickly as plaster has a very quick set time. Also, never pour plaster down the sink. Wait for it to dry and throw it in the garbage.

***You can always use dried beans, lentils, popcorn or other types of seeds for this project instead of pumpkin seeds. In fact, if you use dried beans, you can leave them in their natural colorful state (black eyed peas, red kidney beans etc).

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Natural dyes are dyes or colorants derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources—roots.

Home > Arts and Crafts Projects for Kids > What to do with Popcorn Ideas & Crafts for Kids

POPCORN CRAFTS FOR KIDS: How to make arts and crafts projects with popcorn kernels with these activities for children, preschoolers, and teens

Popcorn, its really neat. Fun to make and fun to eat. Its also fun to make handy dandy kids popcorn crafts out of. First step, pop some corn. Second step eat a little bit of popcorn. Third step refrain from buttering and salting your popcorn. This third step is really important. Of course for the obvious reason of not getting your craft covered in greasy buttery goodness but also because it will definitely make it easier to resist constantly popping the kernels into your mouth. If you do salt and butter it, before you know it there won't be any more popcorn to make your kid's popcorn craft out of. That, my friend would be a might big shame

Another Thanksgiving Corn Craft : - - This craft is not only cute, it is yummy too. You can eat on the extra popcorn while you craft. This really is a cute and easy craft to do.

Apple Tree Popcorn Art : - - Great for a Johnny Appleseed unit, or just to celebrate nature, this apple tree project combines food with fun!

Autumn Table Centerpiece : - - Who says unpopped corn kernels and elegance do not match? Create this nice craft using corn kernel seeds and let the glow of the candle mesmerize your guests.

Bean Bags : - - Great beginner sewing project or just make some to use up those left over scraps of fabric.

Bird Feeder : - - Make a bird to feed your birds! Inspired by the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill calling out in droves to wake me in the morning, I made a parrot to feed them.

Bluebonnet Flowers : - - Create pretty flowers using colored popcorns.

Bucket of Popcorn : - - This is an easy Halloween costume which kids can make at home.

Candy-Speckled Popcorn Cakes : - - Here's a fresh new take on the classic popcorn balls. Home Basics brings you this easy recipe that can be served at sleepovers or Halloween parties. If you don't have mini bundt pans, you can use a large bundt or angel food pan or mini muffin tins. Or simply let the kids form the popcorn balls themselves.

Christmas Popcorn Wreath : - - This is made like popcorn balls only in a different shape. They're delicious and colorful.

Colorful Popcorn : - - This versatile food also serves as the base for many creative craft projects, from wooly white lamps to delicate pink apple blossoms amid the branches of a hand-painted tree. How you color the popcorn depends on whether your goal is to create a colorful snack or use it in crafts.

Corn Collage : - - Fall means harvest time, and that means fresh corn on the cob!

Corn Mosaic : - - It is easy to get an elegant picture with inexpensive materials when making mosaic crafts for kids. It is fun to create mosaic art with corn. You can make Gift s for just about anyone, as you can make a million designs using your imagination and ideas from magazines or photos.

Corn Stalks : - - These colorful corn mosaics will add a bright touch to your house!

Corn Wrapped Utensils : - - These adorable Corn-Wrapped Utensils are a colorful and creative way to dress up your Thanksgiving table, your guests will love them!

Counting on Corn : - - Children practice counting…as they create a delightful autumn decoration!

Cranberry-popcorn Garland : - - Want to try to make your own? If so, make it an experience – something the family can do together, that will make for fond memories. Put on Christmas music, or one of your favorite movies. Serve cocoa or hot cider and Christmas cookies.

Decorative Bird Feeder : - - There are many craft ideas with anything from shapes to materials when it comes to making birdfeeders. These craft ideas are common family activities for any time of year even though birdfeeders are most popular in colder months. A popcorn birdfeeder is easy and a fun activity to provide food for the birds.

Dirty Diaper Popped Corn : - - This is a simple, easy and fun baby shower tokens for giveaway to guests.

Ear of Corn Place Cards : - - Make festive place cards that picture an ear of corn. These simple-to-make table decorations are great for any celebration.

Edible Popcorn Flowers : - This is one poppin' bouquet!

Electric Popcorn Craft : - - Glue unpopped popcorn onto a recycled light bulb for an interesting conversation piece! Sit it in a candle holder or hang it for display

Five Kernels : - - Put five kernels of corn or candy corn in cellophane and tie closed with a fall-colored ribbon. Large field corn kernels look great, but popcorn kernels can be used also. Kids love it with candy corn!

Ghoulish Ghost Mix : - - This can be made to be given out as treats to trick or treaters.

Going-green Popcorn : - - "No need to be green with envy. There’s enough popcorn for everyone."

Halloween Candy Popcorn Balls : - This quick and easy variation on popcorn balls is fun and really attractive. Add a pyramid of them to the holiday table, or wrap individually in plastic wrap and black and orange ribbons for take home treats.

Halloween Kit : - - Great for kids classmates or special kids that you see on Halloween. This project is also great for craft shows, or even as a great Halloween party loot bag.

Halloween Witches Hand : - - These ghoulish witches hands are great for giving to trick or treaters on Halloween night.

Handprint Lamb Craft : - - Have fun making lambs out of handprints and popcorn.

Harvest Necklace : - - Celebrate the Thanksgiving harvest the old fashioned way using popcorn and seasonal dried fruit.

Homemade Popcorn Ball Ornament : - - Older children who can safely handle a low-temperature glue gun might like creating these homespun popcorn ball ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Holly Jolly Snowmen : - - Children can help make these tasty snowmen in your kitchen.

Homemade Tambourine : - - Music is a great way to entertain children, and they love to make noise. If you are looking for an easy craft your child can do, or you need a project for a music or Sunday school class, consider making a homemade tambourine.

Humpty Dumpty Beanbags : - - Like their fairy tale counterpart, these egg-faced beanbags, are destined for great falls. Once kids put together a few, they can line them up and knock them down.

Indoor Sandbox : - - Looking for a cute but inexpensive Gift ? We all need to save money on Gift giving and by getting creative we can do just that! The ideas presented here are just a starting point. Let your imagination be your guide!

Indian Corn Jewelry : - - Indian corn jewelry is pretty and has the look of polished stone pieces. You can make this jewelry as a family project with your kids. Follow these steps to create your own Indian corn jewelry.

Jello Popcorn Balls : - - I don't cook very many things, but my mom always made these for us as kids and so here goes my big cooking debut! The portions can be adjusted depending on your tastes.

Kernels of Love : - - 'Tis the season for corny sentiments, so do like the Woodard girls of Alvarado, Texas, and tell your teacher (or a friend) she's tops with a card that doubles as a snack.

Maracas : - - Musical Instruments that you bang, scrape or shape are called percussion instruments. Some examples of percussion instruments are drums, rainsticks, xylophones and maracas.

Maracas : - - A maraca is a Latin American and Tupi rattle. The original Maracas were originally made from the dried shells of gourds with beads or beans inside that rattled around and made lots of shuck-a-shuck-a-shuck-a noises.

Mexican Bird Rattle Craft - - In Mexico, paper mache rattles are popular during New Year's celebrations.  The rattles are shaken to welcome the generous spirits of the New Year and to drive away the unhappy spirits of past years.

Movie Treat Popcorn Gift - - Looking for a cute but inexpensive Gift ? We all need to save money on Gift giving and by getting creative we can do just that! The ideas presented here are just a starting point. Let your imagination be your guide!

Napkin Ring Kwanzaa Craft - - This is simple and inexpensive Kwanzaa craft for kids.

New Year's Noisemakers : Crafts to Make with Popcorn - 0 This New Year's, make a few items that create a festive mood without deafening the adults.

Noisemaker Craft : - This noisemaker craft is a children's project they can put together themselves, and use for New Year's Eve!  They are made from plastic glass tumblers, and be filled with anything to make noise.

Nut Turkey Craft : - - Celebrate Thanksgiving with this crafty little turkey.

Off-to-the-Circus Magnets : - - Step right up to make circus-inspired refrigerator magnets. Keep the big-top magic alive!

Paper Plate Maracas Craft - - You can make simple maracas from one or two paper plates stapled together, containing dried beans or popcorn. These are fun to make at a party for preschoolers - you can then make a lot of noise!

Pasta Angel : - - This is an ornament that the kids can help make. This is a nice addition to the tree. My version is rather unique since I use a tree branch for the body, a bead from an old car seat for the head, and popcorn for the hair.

Pine Cone Birdfeeder with Popcorns - - Birds will love these unpopped popcorn feeders.

Popcorn Art : - - Inspired by Harry Kalenberg's popcorn sculptures combined with "cloud gazing" with your imagination, my popcorn art project will give your brain a creative starchy workout!

Popcorn Ball Ornaments : - - Like decorations stolen from Willy Wonka's Christmas party, these ornaments are meant to be eaten. For a fun party activity, have children decorate their own.

Popcorn Balls for Birds : - - When the long, cold days of winter set in, remember that your feathered friends will appreciate a satisfying snack, too. Hang a popcorn ball for birds outside of your window, and watch the birds as they enjoy their nourishing treat

Popcorn Ball Turkey - - Make these fun turkeys for Thanksgiving and watch family and friends gobble them up! Kids will have a blast putting these goodie gobblers together.

Popcorn Box - - Remember when you used to go to the movies and popcorn came in a tapered cardboard box? It brings back a bit of nostalgia for some of us! Share that nostalgia anytime you want by making your own popcorn box with these easy instructions and a little creativity!

Popcorn Box : - – There’s nothing else that will look good and pair with a popcorn craft project perfectly other than a popcorn box. If you have doubts, then try making this easy project anywhere and find out.

Popcorn Box Costume : - - Become a popcorn box this Halloween with this easy to make costume idea.

Popcorn Cake : - - Kids will enjoy baking their own cake made out of their favorite foods!

Popcorn Christmas Tree Ball - - This year, when you get out the popcorn and cranberries to string Christmas garlands, be sure to pop enough to make some matching Christmas tree balls as well. These clever ornaments will not just coordinate with your garland and movie night fodder, but they are simple to make even for very young children, who will only need a little help with the gluing.

Popcorn Collage : - - Doing crafts together is a great way to spend quality time with your children. Popcorn, both popped and un-popped, is a versatile craft material for designing fun, creative collages. With a little glue and some imagination, the creative possibilities are endless

Popcorn Cones : - - A movie night just isn't complete without popcorn. Single-serving paper cones and a popcorn seasonings bar allow viewers to customize their snacks.

Popcorn Dragon : - – If you have heard of Puff the Magic Dragon, then we daresay that this craft project is a fitting tribute to that loveable mythical beast. Try it for yourself!

Popcorn Egg Decor : - - What better way to end our "kool" ideas for Easter week than with our all-time favorite snack...popcorn!

Popcorn Flowers : - –Have you ever seen a flower bud? Of course you have! Now recreate the wonder of Nature with this easy to follow craft project.

Popcorn Garland : - - This old-fashioned garland can be strung in a flash - and the results look good enough to eat.

Popcorn Garland : - - This is a very simple craft, though not all countries are familiar with this type of decoration.

Popcorn Garland - Christmas Tree - - Creating popcorn garland has become a Christmas tradition for many families. Even children can make their own, if parents help them with the needle.

Popcorn Ghosts : - - This will be a smash for any young child Halloween party in school!

Popcorn Gift Jar : - - Looking for a cute but inexpensive Gift ? We all need to save money on Gift giving and by getting creative we can do just that! The ideas presented here are just a starting point. Let your imagination be your guide!

Popcorn Kernel Frame : - – Nothing else looks cool than a frame lined up with popcorn craft!

Popcorn Kernel Vase - Looking for a cute but inexpensive Gift ? We all need to save money on Gift giving and by getting creative we can do just that! The ideas presented here are just a starting point. Let your imagination be your guide!

Popcorn Lamb : Arts and Crafts Projects with Popcorn - - Pop into the Easter season with this Popcorn Lamb that is easy for even the little crafters (if you can keep them from eating the supplies)!

Popcorn Marshmallow Balls - Easy to make and a fun family project.

Popcorn Necklace : Arts and Crafts Projects with Popcorn- Give your kids a bowl of popcorn and let them make some popcorn necklaces. It's a simple but fun craft that can keep hungry kids occupied while you're fixing dinner, or keep bored kids busy on a rainy day. It's also a great craft to do with your family while you listen to music, watch TV, or catch up on daily events.

Popcorn Party Bowl : - - It's a serving dish and it's a snack in one!

Popcorn Pumpkins : - - "Have the whole family pitch in and grow a pumpkin patch of popcorn."

Popcorn Rain Stick - - Many countries and ethnic groups use to believe that if they shook sticks with seeds in them it would encourage the rain Gods to bring rain to their parched lands.  The children will love making their very own rain sticks, and popcorn is just the ticket for making the "rain noise".

Popcorn Snowmen : - - It's tons of fun and a perfect indoor activity that kids can munch on once they're done!

Popcorn Snowman : - - Preschooler age children love to make winter crafts. In January or February when it is still cold outside and there is little to do, this popcorn snowman is a great craft that is easy enough for a preschooler to make without making a huge mess.

Popcorn Squares : - - Popcorn and granola add a healthy crunch to these peanut-buttery treats.

Popcorn Strings : - – Trust us when we tell you that making this craft project is as easy as 1-2-3!

Popcorn Trees in Bloom : - - Many blooming trees really do look like they are covered in popcorn, so try to point that out to your child before this activity so they can relate to what they are creating.

Popcorn Witch : - - Popcorn witches are a clever food craft for the Halloween holidays and they are also a delicious way to get your entire family involved in the baking process. Holiday foods don't always have to be traditional and popcorn witches are a great treat for Halloween parties or can be given out in lieu of candy to neighborhood trick or treaters.

Popcorn Wreath : - - This wreath is simple to make, delightful to look at and will match your other popcorn decor to a "T." You can make these to give as Gift s to friends and neighbors, and it will be clear that you put a lot of thought and effort into the project.

Popcorn Wreath : - - This is a great Valentine's Day Craftproject to create with children.

Poppin' Popcorn Brittle - - One bite of this crunchy sweet-salty treat and you won't be able to stop! It combines the delicious taste of Orville Redenbacher's® Gourmet® Popping Corn, M&M’S® Brand Milk Chocolate Candies and peanuts coated with caramel.

Pumpkin Pal - - Make funny pumpkin faces inspired by autumn's natural bounty.

Rainstick - - According to South American legend, rainsticks are played to serenade the gods as a reminder that rain is welcomed. Rainsticks are traditionally made from hollow cactus wood, thorns and pebbles. Our version is made from a cardboard tube, tinfoil and popcorn kernels.

Rainstick - - Rainsticks are ceremonial musical instruments used to invoke the rain spirits. They are made by people who live in the deserts of northern Chile. In Chile, rainsticks are traditionally made from dead cactus tubes with hundreds of cactus spines hammered into the tube. Tiny lava pebbles cascade gently through the tube, sounding much like rain.

Real Candle Thanksgiving Craft - - Here is a Thanksgiving craft that older children will surely love.

Seed Topiary - - Gather seeds and beans to create a wonderful geometric design in a clay pot. Learn how to divide and measure a round object the easy way, using rubber bands.

Sunny The Sunflower - - This is a fun and simple cut and paste sunflower craft that's perfect for preschool and kindergarten children.

Trail mix - - Kids can help make these quick, little snack packets. Then take them along in the car, to school, or anywhere.

Turkey Planter - - A more charismatic flowerpot we never did see - and he doubles as a handsome Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Valentines for the birds - This one is for a popcorn heart wreath, a valentine Gift for the birds.

Varnished Popcorn - Popcorn is unique in that it is both a delicious snack and also a holiday decoration. One solution to this popcorn problem is to varnish the strands after creating them. Not only will this make the popcorn durable and inedible, it will also make the popcorn strands last for years to come.

Yogurt-cup Shakers - - Shake, rattle, and roll with a set of these music makers.

Yummy Mummy Treat Cups - For less than $5.00 you can make enough of these cute little mummy cups for entire Halloween party! Fill these cuties with candy, gummy worms, popcorn, or whatever else you may have on the menu!


Coloring Lima Beans for Learning and Crafts

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Please note that beans present a choking hazard for young children.  Raw uncooked beans, if ingested, can cause discomfort.  This activity is not intended for children who are still putting things in their mouths. Please provide constant supervision during this activity.

Dried Beans are one of our favorite sensory materials around here, so when I saw this post on Coloring Lima Beans from Praying for Parker I was super excited - I'd never thought to color them before!  One of the things we really adore around here is super bright vibrant colors - and I wanted to see if I could find a way that would color the beans more fully than the method used by Praying for Parker.

Though the ultimate answer was pretty simple, it took a LOT of tries to get it just right.

But once I'd finally figured out the method, we had such gorgeous and brightly colored beans that it was all worth it.  :)

I couldn't resist a few shots of the full rainbow before the kids dug in.

Post children.  Still beautiful, though!  I think they look a bit like jellybeans, hahaha!

The kids had fun just playing and running their fingers and toes through the beans.  Then they decided they'd like some cooking supplies and set to work cooking each other a variety of things.

S enjoyed sorting out the beans by color to make separate meals of blueberries (blue beans), spinach (green beans), and eggs (yellow beans).  As always, they needed to be IN the bin.  :)

I'd remembered Fun A Day's post on coloring corn kernels and that she had the same problem initially - she couldn't get the kernels fully saturated with color.  I used the method she outlined, and though it did brightly color the beans, the skins sloughed off.  Well, shoot.  I tested both liquid watercolors and food coloring and with and without vinegar and with a variety of soaking times and only one method yielded beautiful beans every time.  So here's how to do it.  Buy a lot of beans - any lightly colored bean will do.  Lima beans, white navy beans (what we used here), even pinto beans (you can usually score big bags of pintos at the Dollar Tree!).  Measure a cup of beans into a container.  We used a tupperware (Gladware) container, but a bag would probably also work.  Add one cup of beans and 15 drops of whatever food coloring (food dye) color you wish.  To get the rainbow of colors you see here I used a combination of regular food coloring and neon food coloring.  Unfortunately, for once, liquid watercolors did not work as well as food coloring!  Once you add the 15 drops, close the lid or seal the bag (add some air if you're using a bag) and shake them like crazy for about 10-20 seconds - until you see that they are completely coated.  Immediately dump them out onto a paper towel or paper towel lined tray and spread them out evenly so they are not clumped together (see below).  Allow them to air dry for several hours.

The beans will last for several months, if not longer, so long as they are kept dry.   We've had ours for about 3 months now and they are just as bright and vibrant as ever.  We keep them in a plastic shoe storage box when we're not playing with them.

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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: Making Colored Bean and Rice crafts

How to Dye Pasta For Crafts. Art is a way to help kids learn to make art out of materials. If you want to plan crafts for children, art is a place to start. Instead of.

Rainbow Rice

Ever since I dipped my toes into the world of Early Childhood Education, the hotly debated issue of whether or not food should be used in preschool sensory activities has come up multiple times. My background in the arts, where all supplies were fair game for art-making, didn’t prepare me for the variety of opinions that circle this topic.

There are many good reasons to stay away from using food in art or sensory activities, and most of them apply to preschool classrooms and daycare centers where children of multiple backgrounds and food sensitivities will be affected.

Maybe you’re like me and haven’t thought about this much until now. I encourage you to read through the thoughtful comments in this post and come to your own conclusion.

TinkerLab reader, Pam, presented this question on Facebook after I shared a post for making colored rice:

And Pam’s question reminded me of a question from our friend, Lori, just two weeks earlier:

Since this question comes up a lot, I wanted to take a moment to unpack it here and share some of the pros and cons for using food in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Please keep in mind that the word “preschool” can relate to a preschool classroom setting or to the age of a preschool child who is at home. My own answer to this question (shared below) differs according to the context.

I’d love to invite you to share your thoughts on the topic, as it’s quite possible that something will be left out. My goal isn’t to convince you to take a stand in one camp or the other, but to provide you with the tools you might need to make a decision that’s right for your situation.

I pulled together some reader quotes from the aforementioned conversations and invited some blogging friends to chime in on the topic as well.

Let’s go…

Con: Using food for Play is Insensitive and/or Wasteful

With millions of children in the world living in poverty I think it is ignorant to use food for play. Sticks, crunchy leaves, seed pod, tree slices, bark, dirt, organic sawdust, shells, small stones, sand, ice….. The list of non food, non toxic FREE play alternatives are endless. Mother Nature has provided us with all we need for sensory play. – Lee-Anne

When you fill your sensory table with rice or millet you are being playful with an amount of food that could feed a family for weeks. It teaches children that materials are abundant, and not of any great value, things that aren’t true in most of the world. In my center we use edible materials for babies but we try hard to find ways to value and honor the food that we use.  – Kendra

It is not about confusing play with food you would eat, it is more like using food in play as though it were nothing, when in reality in many countries out there, it is very expensive, heck, 1 play bin could feed a family of four for 2 meals in our own country. We do not realize how much other people struggle and it is seen as wasteful. It was mentioned on my blog how many USA bloggers treat rice and beans and lentils and the like as nothing, but in many other areas those things are expensive. Not just underprivledged struggle either, many Americans that are there for the Armed Services find those things pricey in many areas as well…it is about being informed. – Michelle

Just know your audience. If you’re working with families facing food insecurity, seeing bins or beans or rice “wasted” can seem disrespectful. I use a lot of dried beans and dyed rice in my sensory bins, but I make sure it is ok as far as the population I’m serving first. – Sarah

Best practice means being respectful period, not just the make up of your class for one particular year.  – Mary

In New Zealand we don’t use food ie dried pasta etc for play as its not Tikanga. Cultural principles around the subject. There are many many other natural resources we use to provide tactile play.  -Sarah

Play with food at the table, in the context of eating, is ok, but playing with food for enjoyment sake itself is, in my view, a real first world ignorance. It could feed a family, perhaps even one in your centre, for a day and you disregard that issue with this type of play. Also, stuffing bean bags with dried beans, rice or other such food, is not a good idea either, for the same reasons. Many cultures keep food sacred, separate from all other activities, and with good reason. I highly suggest avoiding food-play in this way. The greatest food play is getting even the youngest of children to help you prepare food- my 2 yr old loves to bake, peel carrots and whisk eggs. Making games of the meal is all part of learning to enjoy food. Hope this helps. Non-toxic toy alternatives are wool, cotton, wood, and flax, not food.  – Tota

Oh my….Food needs to be respected- not played with! Let us try as an early childhood community to raise children on the concept of respecting food, where it comes from and how it is vital for nutrition. – Cathie

It is a child care regulation in my state that food cannot be used in sensory tables nor art projects for the cultural and wasteful reasons others have mentioned.  – Genuine

Pro: Using Food for Play is not Insensitive or Wasteful

It’s funny how being respectful of food with children comes up frequently, yet the biggest challenge facing most of the global population is clean drinking water. We frequently use it for “play” and for washing off surfaces. Children in some areas are deprived of a good part of a school day because they walk hours to get fresh water for their families. In schools here we have “water tables” and “splash pools” full of drinkable water before it gets used.  I have no problem with staples being used for food play with children. Food banks and global donations always contain a surplus of those items. Fruits and vegetables, dairy, and proteins are items to be avoided for food play with children. Anyone who is struggling financially has no problem putting macaroni or rice on the table. It is the other 3 food groups that are challenging. A lot of staple foods are thrown out because they have gone stale or not eaten. Using them for educational purposes is better than discarding them.  – Alan

I prefer to use the food scraps. We have a post on vegetable scrap stamping.If the food is going into the disposal, the trash or the compost, and it presents an opportunity to learn (either by dissecting it, planting it, or doing some art with it), then it is great to use. It also affords an opportunity to have the kids in the kitchen with me while I cook, where we can do an activity together even though I’m getting chores done. – Patricia, Critters and Crayons

As a history educator, I keep in mind that food items often were and are still used in play and art all over. Consider, too, that the bag of rice you buy in your developed world grocery store won’t otherwise be going to someone living in hunger l. Global hunger is less due to a food shortage than to war, lack of infrastructure, and a political failure of will. Rather than take stand on a particular type of material, I focus on being mindful of the effects of our choices and the ways in which we can further social justice.  – Candace, Naturally Educational 

I used a bunch of old macaroni that was stale for a sensory bin for my toddlers. Seeing as it isn’t cooked, it’s hard to recognize as “food” and I would rather use it in some way than throw it away because it never got eaten. Plus, my 2 year old tends to put everything in his mouth and I would much rather him end up with a stale piece of macaroni than sand or beads. – Christina

I don’t agree that using food in a different way is “wasting”. It’s being used, meaningfully and with great purpose. Are kids wasting finger paint? No they are using it. They are learning with it. It is valuable. I appreciate the need to be sensitive to families both socio economically and culturally but I reject the idea that use is waste.  – Kawai

We enjoy using food for our crafts and sensory play. I do understand that it may be seen as a luxury to be so wasteful with food – but then surely having a huge variety of paper, handfuls of crayons and pens and many many more craft materials could be considered a luxury too? This may be a little black and white for some, but if I can afford to buy a pack of marker pens for $5, then I can also afford $1 for a bag of rice. – George, Craftulate

We use rice in our sensory table because we have yet to find something that feels as wonderful. We’ve been using the same container of rice (we rotate) for two years now. We are not being wasteful with it and have found the benefits to be wonderful. – Melanie

In regards to the food “waste” issue, I would argue that food is not being wasted, just used in an alternative way. Is the food being digested and giving the body nutrients? No. But is playing with food stimulating my child’s nervous system in ways that non-food sensory play can’t? Yes. And in the long run, we’ll be “wasting” much less food because my child will now eat the food we played with, rather than refusing it every time it’s presented on a plate.  – –Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures

Con: Preschool Kids May be Allergic to Sensory Activities

Also a consideration is food allergies or intolerances that may crop up in the classroom. It’s hard to have to make changes to the curriculum year to year to safely accommodate everyone so if you can come up with non food alternatives that may be best.  – Lissa

My daughter had a dairy allergy when she was a preschooler. It was brutal worrying about every potential craft or activity being something that could harm her. I’m grateful she outgrew it, but I remember those anxiety filled days well.   – Melinda

As a parent of children with food intolerances, I dread any food-based activities at school. Especially at preschool with my toddler, who is more likely to jam things into her mouth. In fact, when my oldest was a toddler, she viewed the sensory table as her own personal all-you-can-eat buffet. (This was before I knew how those ingredients affected her.) As a parent, I either have to hope the teacher can exclude my child from any activities involving foods she’s intolerant to if there’s a risk of ingestion, or else I as the parent have to provide enough of a safe alternative for the class to use instead. Which can quickly become an expensive burden! I do see the value of food-play, and it’s a safe way for littler ones to have sensory play without fear of choking. It’s also a great way to raise adventurous eaters, by having them interact with ingredients in multiple ways (taste, touch, smell, etc,) and by using familiar foods in different ways (a lot of kids get stuck in a rut where a food must be served the same way every time!) So as long as the teacher/school is willing to accommodate food allergies and intolerances, then I’m all for food play at school! But if a child is constantly put at risk or must be excluded from an activity, then that class may have to miss out on food activities. –Kendra, Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Pro: It’s fine if Children have no Allergies

As long as there are no food allergy issues, I’d say go for it. Kids will play with food no matter what.  – Teri

I have children that put everything in their mouths. Using food made more sense than anything else because it wasn’t going to be toxic if they ate it. It also wouldn’t leave trace on their hands and was easily replenished. We reuse the food as much as possible. I have a cupboard with jars of various food used in arts and crafts and play that gets brought out again and again. –Cerys, Rainy DayMum

Pro: It’s Helpful to Children with Sensory Needs

As a mom of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, yes, food should definitely be used in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Presenting a child with food to play with, instead of eat, is a way to introduce new textures and smells without pressure. The child is allowed to explore at their own pace, and in their own way. My son never was willing to taste pasta until after we explored cooked spaghetti in a sensory play activity. –Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures

My son had sensory integration issues and was only 14 lbs at 1 year. He was on a feeding tube and went to OT. At OT, do you know what they did? Play with food!. It actually teaches them to get used to different textures and not have an aversion to new foods. I was born during the Vietnam War and there was mass starvation when the war ended due to collectivization of the farms and bombings. I personally had to get over food hoarding and being a member of the clean plate club. Like everything, moderation is the key. Be respectful and don’t throw the rice around, keep it in the container and try to reuse it afterwards (make bean bags, make maracas, stress balls in balloons, heating pads, I Spy bags, rainsticks, etc.).  – Lucy

Con: Natural Objects should be left in their Environment

Would like to just throw out there that it seems many who have big concerns about food play are suggesting the alternative is to simply gather items from nature instead, and that idea is grand but should be approached with consideration to the natural world versus ”free for the taking”. If everyone heads outdoors to gather up sticks, twigs, pinecones, seeds, flowers, bark, etc. then you’ve now taken food and shelter from animals who depend on us leaving these things be. Absolutely, there are responsible ways to acquire some natural items within reason; e.g, from your own property, but typically most educational sites and resources do not promote this, they simply put in their lesson plans ”gather up some pinecones and make this glittery craft” or ”swoop up flowers from a nearby field to dissect or learn fractions”, etc. Squirrels and Bees would suggest perhaps growing your own flowers and pick one pinecone vs. a plethora, especially if it so happens to be a weak year of natural food. I know where we live is scarce this year due to rain last year and the bears and wildlife are hungry searching for what they can. As well, some natural found items are federally protected resources that can land you in big trouble for taking. So it really seems that providing any materials to children to play has a plus and a negative aspect to it. Perhaps looking at it altogether differently is an alternative. For example, children digging and growing a small garden themselves gives sensory experience whilst building an appreciation for food, as well as not taking food from wildlife to play with. Picking and Washing the veggies also are hands on sensory experiences. Eating and preserving most whilst using a few in crafts and games much like ancient cultures did. For example, making apple heads or bobbing for apples, creating corn dollies or even corn husk dolls. Or maybe gather natural items at a time of year they are not so crucial to wildlife and then returning them when needed (fall/winter). Another alternate idea from food; either human or animal, is building up a recycling/repurposing inventory. Milk jug tops, empty cartons, squeeze bottles, jars, cans, etc. These can be turned in to fantastic toys and play items.  – Missy Louise

Pro: Food is Natural and Healthy

I used to have a problem with it, but now I think it´s better than buying other toys/playdough etc. We reuse the dried food/homemade playdough over and over. From an environmental view I actually think it´s better than a lot of plastic, battery operated and general toys as they are often made with nasty chemicals, break and may end up in landfill. So I would much prefer to be letting them play with dried foods that will decompose! Kids naturally play with food at the table when they eat and I actually think it´s important to do this so that they can experience the food you are expecting them to put in their mouths. In saying all of this rice, flour and beans are about all we use (easy to store and re-use). At Christmas/easter time the odd potato for stamping. – Felicity

I have to say I lie in the pro-food camp. For me the benefits of using food in preschool activities outweigh the cons. I personally like using food because it is a less expensive alternative to many costly art supplies, because it encourages children to see unique ways to use everyday items, and because it makes for safe, non-toxic play materials. – Ana, Babble Dabble Do

I understand the concern but do you want your children to play or accidentally ingest toxins??? I would much rather use rice or flour than something that would harm their growth, remember this is used as a learning tool and something to keep in mind using toxins what message is that sending? I am all for organic but we must understand there is a down side to this usage also.  – Robin

My girls are 3 and they know not to play with food at meal time. They constantly do food play at school and home…..I would rather them eat a Cheerios than a plastic bead. If they are taught to understand (which they can do at preschool age) it shouldn’t be an issue. – Jessica

You could have food on plates that could be played with then eaten. You could use beans for play then plant them. I’d much prefer kids playing with biodegradable products than something that’s going to end up in the bin like the loom bands everyone has gone mad for. I think in the scheme, of things a bag of rice is fine for play, perhaps playing with food might bring children closer to understanding and appreciating it. I’ve made veggie critters with kids and it’s a wonderful activity.  – Kristy

If we are not “pro-food” in sensory play, then what are we? Unless you’re only then reaching for natural materials, the alternative is synthetic, manufactured items that cause their own environmental footprint and sense of “disposable” waste. If properly cared for, food sensory items can be reused again and again — the same bag of quick oats, the same batch of homemade playdough.
Food provides unparalleled, multi-sensory engagement and is something that most people reading will have ready access to.
Also, if the concern is having children “play with their food,” I would suggest that allowing this might encourage children to be more adventurous with their food choices. Even painting with spices might encourage a plain-eater to try something a bit spiced up! – Jennifer, Study at Home Mama

Take the Middle Ground

Gather materials from nature for your sensory bins. Rocks, pebbles, sticks, fresh cut herbs, dried plants, mud, etc! It’s free, teaches about our local environment, and can be returned outdoors or composted. Personally, I use limited amounts of food materials. Winter wheat berries that we then give to a farmer is great in the fall. Talk about wheats life cycle, read “little red hen”, sprout wheat, talk about wheat to flour, bake some bread. All in balance friends. No sense judging one another’s practices!   – April

Really, it’s about the balance and respect for other cultures. I do use food, even as a sensory but in the context of teaching my preschoolers about cooking and nutrition. Giving them the independence to learn how to make something and then do it at home is the best lesson I can teach them. They still get to “play” / “create” with food but in a more appropriate context that they will remember and use.  – Cathryn

I personally aim to think carefully about any materials we use in play. I want my children to have access to a wide range of materials for sensory experiences and creative prompts, and prefer open-ended, natural materials. We try not to use anything which is disposable after only one brief use, we use as many recycled materials as possible, and we try to recycle or compost what we’ve used after we have played. Using this criteria sometimes food is a better choice for us – for example some uncooked pasta which we might use as maths manipulatives, put in a sensory tub, and then paint and use for art, or threading necklaces. We use it many times before composting it to benefit our garden classroom.  – Cathy,NurtureStore

I probably think way too much about this topic. I do agree that for some young children using food is a safe alternative – if they tend to put things in their mouths (my son says I’m the most over-protective mother). Several years ago when teaching art at a preschool in a poor neighborhood it struck me as very sad that many o the children only ate when they got their free breakfasts and lunches at school. I imagined how one of those children would feel seeing pudding used to paint or an apple used to print. I stopped using food in my projects. I’ve since started again, but not in the same ways. I’ll use items I would normally toss (like strawberry tops) or I do a swap- I’ll have my son choose an items to donate to the food pantry box at our grocery store if we are going to use food in an activity. I know that the five blueberries I’m going to use or a printing project won’t cause a world hunger crisis, but it makes me feel better and teaches a good lesson on helping others to do so. I explain it a little better in this post on berry art. – Rikki, Mini Monets and Mommies

Where does TinkerLab stand?

As I mentioned earlier, my background in the arts prepared me to think abstractly and broadly about what can be used as an art material. When I set up my first art studio, Chris Ofili’s paintings with elephant dung and Damien Hirst’s real shark floating in formaldehyde took the art world by storm, demonstrating just how far artists can push past the use of traditional art supplies. I happily made things with non-art materials like Valentine conversation hearts, resin (which comes from trees), and flowers collected from my garden. Wasn’t this better, and maybe more interesting, I thought, than spending tons of money on store-bought supplies?

Now here’s an interesting fact about store-bought art supplies: Food and natural materials are often in the ingredients. This is something to think about if you have a child with food allergies. For example: Play-doh (flour, salt), Crayola Colored Pencils (soy), Air-dry Clay (corn starch), and Crayola Washable Markers (corn syrup). If we’re to avoid food products in art then we need to consider these less obvious culprits. These ingredients aren’t included in package labels and are essentially hidden from consumers. Since food products are found in store-bought art supplies, I see very little difference in adding food to my own supplies.

Introducing my kids to natural materials is also far more interesting to me that exposing them to toxic materials. As such, we will occasionally use food for play or projects, and I’m more inclined to do so if it’s scraps, expired, or if the play/art supply will last for a long time. We do our best to recycle and return things to the earth. Some of the things we have used and made: flour and oil in cloud dough, rice flour in gluten-free cloud dough, rice in colored rice, flour in the best play dough recipe, wheat berries in our wheat berry sensory table, and sweetened condensed milk in milk paint.

Food for Play in schools: I don’t run a school, but in that context there’s a good chance that I would avoid using food for play due to allergies and a desire to respect the religious and personal perspectives of a diverse audience. When it comes to the school environment, I often look to my colleague, Deborah, at Teach Preschool. See the first article, below.

More thoughts on Food in Play

A Discussion on Food Use in the Early Education Classroom, Teach Preschool

Parents and Teachers Working Together: Should Food Be Used as Learning Materials, Early Childhood News (the discussion in the this article is so rich and will give you a lot of food for thought — no pun intended!)

Play with your food? Or not? My thoughts on Food in Play, Picklebums

Being Thankful for Food, Planet Smarty Pants

Using Food in Preschool, Interaction Imagination

Filed Under: ActivitiesTagged With: preschool, sensory, toddlers

how to dye dried beans for art craft


Students will have fun with texture and color by designing their own Indian Students use colorful dried beans to create a classic fall decoration of Indian corn .

how to dye dried beans for art craft
Written by Kelkis
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