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Rice and Bean Box

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When working on tactile defensiveness, playing with and touching rice and beans is often mentioned. First off, make sure that the rice and beans are dry and uncooked. We’re not having lunch here, we’re desensitizing. We use these because kids who are tactily defensive can’t stand the feel of sand or grass, so we won’t have much luck in a sandbox. We start with beans such as kidney or pinto beans. When they are dry and uncooked, they are fairly innocuous. Some kids may not like them, but they are usually the easiest tolerated because they are big and feel like plastic.

rice and bean box 1web

The next step could be lentils as they are smaller and then rice. I usually skip the lentils and mix rice with the beans. Then over time I increase the amount of rice until the rice is tolerated.

rice and bean box 2web

Some kids would never touch it if given a choice, so I put it in a big 24 gallon plastic storage box. That way the child is contained and can’t run away. I usually put a sheet under the box because when the child gets comfortable and starts having fun, rice and beans start flying out of the box.

rice and bean box 3web

If the child is really adverse to it, I scoot all of the beans to one end of the box and the child can sit at the other end. Then we just play, and some beans may accidentally get closer and closer to the child.

rice and bean box 4web

A favorite toy in the box can be distracting, and it is important to go slowly and make it fun so that it can be a good experience.

*A word of caution. If you go too fast and make it too unpleasant, you will make their tactile defensiveness worse. Slow and steady is very important.


  • Extra large storage bin
  • Beans
  • Rice


  • Sensory
  • Tactile desensitization

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Tonya is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, and loves creating things to work on skills and solve problems.

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