Ned loves his sandpit. He really loves his sandpit.
But on wet days, when he can’t get outside to play, he often tries to find creative substitutes from my pantry. Flour works. Check. Breadcrumbs work. Check.
But to be honest, I can’t clean up another flour adventure ever again!
I have been thinking about something else that he can use with his indoor trucks that are a little more fragile than his robust metal ones outside. Something that keeps mummy smiling too!
I contemplated cracker-dust gravel from the landscape suppliers, but that gets caught in his wooden truck wheels and stops the trucks from driving. I thought about fine stone gravel, used in the bottom of fish tanks. Same problem.
The solution: long grain rice.
It poses a question for me- that of using food in play?
I’m not a big fan.
Food, and the art of preparing, then eating at mealtimes, is something I hold a real reverence toward: ensuring opportunities to cook quality produce with my children, eating mostly chemical free and organic where possible, food as sustenance, food as spiritual offerings, and mostly, taking the time to build relationships (and manners!) at the dinner table.
I think offering food as a plaything might just compromise the potential nature of what food can offer us for our daily human life. Nourishment, both physical and spiritual.
But, here’s the thing.
And this experiment has been a remarkable, and raging, success.
We bought a 10kg bag of long grain rice on special for $10 and filled Ned’s train table with it.
(Tip: be sure to line the underneath of the tray with a sheet or cloth BEFORE you fill it with rice. Lesson learned!!)
Then Ned added a selection of his cars and trucks, excavators and tiny dump trucks.
Actually, we first set it up on Saturday late afternoon inside, without a sheet underneath, in time for the arrival of our visitors.
Can you imagine??
It was a rice-storm! But they had an absolute ball. WHAT FUN!
Ned and his friends delighted in this new sensory experiment, running their fingers through the grains and building up piles of ‘snow’ and ‘dirt’,
but their favourite thing was to to drive their bobcats and diggers to the sides of the tray
and tip their loads over, watching the rice fall and scatter!!!
(The children were given dustpans and brushes to help with the clean up before bed!)
I’ll still finding tiny grains in hard-to-reach spots two days after the mammoth clean-up vacuum.
In the morning, we set it up again outside, properly, with a BIG sheet underneath to collect any strays.
This works a treat, as we can quickly collect, then pour the runaways back into the trough every now and then.
I’m not sure how much rice will be left after the week. The magpies like it.
So do the kookaburras and the minor birds.
But it will go into the compost.
If you happen to be a mum who savours order, cleanliness and a spotless house, this one might not be for you! Those rice grains are pretty artful, no matter what your preventative strategy.
You might try popping the table on the grass outside.
Or find a willing grandparent or neighbour.
Yep, three very happy children.
And my best school friend Ness too.
I’d do it again tomorrow.
And guess what, we will.
Moondew children will have this lovely fun this week too!