Thursday, September 30, 2010

Turn rice into entertainment: DIY I Spy Toy

A bit of a departure from the recipes today--although rice is featured!

If you don't already know the wonder that is an I Spy toy, allow me to introduce you. It is a small container--often a fabric pouch, here a bottle--filled with trinkets and poly pellets or another sort of filler. As you turn the container around the trinkets shift about and come into view for you to spy. A simple toy, but one that's oddly addicting. They're great for waiting rooms and car rides--any place a kid needs some distraction but can't run around.

There are some gorgeous handmade fabric I Spy bags out there that I've picked up as gifts in the past (my favorites are here). But I thought I'd try my hand at a cheap and easy homemade version. As it turns out, it's not hard at all to make your own I Spy toy.

You probably have everything you need already: an empty plastic bottle (it could be glass if your kids are older), rice, and a handful of tiny trinkets.

Start by gathering up whatever toy bits and other interesting small items you can find around the house. Just the floatsam and jetsam of a home with kids: the solo Barbie shoes, odd stickers, and lost buttons that sink to the bottom of the toy bin or hide beneath the couch. They only need to be small and lightweight. Heavier items--even something like a penny--tend to get stuck in the center of the bottle, which doesn't make for a very interesting spy hunt.

Next, take inventory of what you're hiding. My kids don't read yet, so I arranged the trinkets on a white sheet of paper and snapped a photo. Later I printed a wallet-size version and hung it from the neck of the bottle for them to use as a guide. For readers, you could just jot down a list of items.

Here you can see the sorts of things that went into our I Spy: a guitar pick, alphabet-shaped pasta, pony beads, paper clip, hair clips, a dry pinto bean and the missing head of a Lego guy. I used 24 items total.

Drop the trinkets into the bottle (in our case, a Vitamin Water bottle) and fill it not quite full of rice. The headspace at the top is important, to give the rice room to move about and reveal the treasures. (I think I even ended up pouring a little more of the rice out after this picture was taken.) If you're worried about kids unscrewing the lid, add a bit of glue under the cap as you seal it up.

Now you're ready to hunt! Tip, roll, and shake the bottle to make the treasures appear.

You can adjust the number of trinkets or the size of the bottle for older kids who are up for more of a challenge. The lower the trinket-to-rice ratio, the harder it is to spot one.

It was a perfect distraction on our recent long car trip. An adult would call out a treasure from the card for The Boy to find. Or sometimes he would just hunt on his own and excitedly report on things he spotted. The Girl mostly appreciated it as a musical shaker, but anything that occupied the kids was fine with us!


  1. Love it! What a great idea! My grandkids are going to get a real kick out of this, and they are old enough to help grandma put it together. Thanks again.

  2. How creative!My nephew would love this :)Thanks for sharing this :)


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