How to dye chickpeas for messy play.

I often use rice and chick peas for indoor play activities. They provide the sensory fun element of play but as dry ingredients the clean up process isn’t as daunting as it is with slime.

You will need:

  • Chick peas
  • Poster paint
  • Vinegar
  • A pint glass
  • Sandwich bags

My process for dying the peas is very simple, and I use the same process for rice too. I pop a sandwich bag inside a large glass and then fill it about 1/3 full with peas. Then I squeeze in some paint and add a small splash of vinegar. Then I pick up the bag and scrunch it to disperse the colour around the peas, making sure they’re all evenly covered.

I tend to leave the bags open on the kitchen. side with the peas spread out as much as possible, giving them a scrunch every time I walk past to prevent them sticking together and they do dry fairly quickly. If you’re making a big batch you can spread them out on a tray. I like to prepare a few colours at a time and keep them stored separately in air dry containers to arrange some themed play trays – green for farm land and blue for the ocean etc.

Every so often it’s fun to play with colour and so the first activity we set up with these chick peas was a simple pouring and scooping game. I often use a transparent under bed storage tub for indoor play on a large scale which is about 8 inches deep and it’s great – the peas can be poured at height making a rattling noise. You can use scoops, funnels and all sorts to inspire play and this is more than enough on its own.

We do like to re-use our dry messy play ingredients for as long as we can. My black Halloween chick peas have been with us for three years and are still going strong. Once these neon chickpeas were all mixed together Arlo said they reminded him of a chameleon and so this inspired a whole new game. Arlo went to fetch his toy chameleon and so I went to fetch his favourite book and printed off a colouring sheet from Twinkl at the same time.

I love it when we can link our play to a story and this was a real success. We sat together at the table reading the book and every time a different animal was mentioned Arlo charged through the house looking for his miniature toy creatures, and proceeded to hide them in the sensory bin. While he was doing this I hid the colouring sheet under the transparent base and so when we eventually got to the end of the book I told him the chameleon had camouflaged and so he had to scrape and scoop the chickpeas away to reveal the picture.

He was delighted to eventually reveal the chameleon and then he spent quite a while covering the picture up with chickpeas to match the book cover illustration and decorating his features – pointing out his curly tail and boogely eyes. I sat back happy to see him utilising those fine motor skills and sorting out the colours and counting to himself independently. This gave me another idea and so I fetched a ice cube tray from the kitchen cupboards. Entirely led by Arlo we discovered another way to play with our chickpeas – counting and sorting them out in to the compartments of the tray. He’s getting quite confident now and so I’ve been showing him very basic addition, counting out four and then saying “let’s add one” and asking “how many did we make?” – I don’t sit down with the intention of encouraging reading, writing and counting but when you play like this, there’s often ways you can incorporate learning without even realising.

So there we have it – from one batch of chickpeas we have created a variety of different activities and every single time we do this we uncover more ways to play taking inspiration from different colours and themes. We have been playing with neon and glow in the dark colours this last month as part of our “light and dark” theme and I’ll be uploading more activities very soon. Check out how we used neon paints outdoors here

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