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Sensory Search in Rice and Beans

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An activity that uses the tactile and visual motor sensory systems is to search for items in a box of rice and beans. You get a small box (shoe box size or larger) and put in some dry rice and beans so that it is about half way full.

sensory search 1web

Then you need to get small toys that will be used in the rice and beans. You will need to take pictures of the toys so that the client can look at the picture and know what he is supposed to be finding.

sensory search 2web

Usually this game is done with vision occluded (can’t see what your looking for) so that they have to search through the sensory box and find each object by feel only. Depending on the needs of the client though, if you do the activity while they can see what they are searching for, it incorporates visual motor, and helps them learn to discriminate between shapes and textures.

sensory search 3web

You could add a completely different sensory component to it by putting cotton balls with different scents for the kids to try to find and match scent.  You can use flavor extracts such as Peach Extract and vanilla extract as well as different essential oils such as lemon and peppermint.  You would have to put the drops on and then wait for it to dry, leaving just the scent.  I also found some clay charms that soak up both extract and essential oils and leave the terra cotta charm with a great smell.


  • Shoe box
  • Small toys or manipulatives
  • Pictures of the toys
  • Dry rice
  • Dry beans


  • Fine motor
  • Sensory
  • Tactile desensitization
  • Tactile discrimination
  • Visual motor integration
  • Visual discrimination
  • Figure ground
  • Visual perceptual

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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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