Let’s learn numbers: number recognition sensory box!

You might remember I had a friend of mine, Tash, share her Rainbow Rice recipe here on my blog. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the use of coloured beans in sensory boxes on Pinterest. Anything bright and colourful is bound to attract the attention of my kids, in this instance, particularly Soph, who this box was aimed at. My little Bug is three, turning four in April, and while she can count really well, I’m trying to help her with number recognition which she’s still trying to grasp.

Let’s start with the beans.

Coloured Beans

3 x bags of white beans – I bought the IMBO Small White Beans from Pick ‘n Pay – using half a bag per colour, (for 6 colours of beans)

Large Ziplock bags

Food colouring (I used 6 different colours)

Baking paper


I divided the beans (half a packet of beans per colour, so half a packet per Ziplock), and prepared the trays lined with baking paper. The ‘recipe’ called for 12 drops of food colouring, and having my three-year-old-sidekick by my side I might have added a liiiittle too much into the blue packet so I’ve found the blue beans transferred a little colour onto our hands. Drop in about 12 drops of colouring, close the bag and shake about, using your hands to ‘massage’ the colour into the beans – this is a fun part to involve the kids in – until properly incorporated and then immediately tip out, in a single layer onto the baking paper-lined trays to dry for a few hours. We originally stored the beans in separate jars and played with them per colour until we decided to do a rainbow-inspired colour recognition sensory box.

I went to one of my favourite online sites for educational printables – Modern Preschool – and downloaded the free Number Match set  and had them laminated so we can reuse them in different activities or whip out when we’re looking for something to do. These rainbow number match printables encourage number recognition from 1 – 20 while using visual discrimination skills. While starting out with 1 – 20 in the box for this activity with both kids involved (even though Oli could do it with his eyes closed, he patiently tried to teach his sister), for Soph, I will definitely isolate the numbers 1 – 10 for now until she’s properly able to identify the numbers.

The purpose of this box was to be a visually, intellectually and sensory stimulated activity. We started with pouring all the jars of beans out into their own colours to resemble a rainbow, then let the kids mix them all up pouring the beans from hand to hand and feeling the beans fall through their fingers. I added in all the number matching sets and then the aim was to help Soph identify the numbers and have her finding the matching card to create a set.

This is most certainly an activity we will do over and over to help Soph grasp her numbers, and stored correctly the beans are meant to last months, and can be swopped into a variety of fun sensory activities!



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