We've all seen those cool clear plastic tubes containing small objects surrounded by filler material. They're sort of like a 3D I Spy. You twist and turn them to find specific objects. I wanted one for my classroom, but these things retail for over $20 and that's a lot out of my paycheck for just one toy. So, of course, I made my own.
All I did was get a tall, thin, clear container. I used a tennis ball package, but you could just as easily use a pasta storage container or a tall water bottle. Don't make it too wide, or stuff will disappear in the middle part. I filled mine with rice and small toys - a ball, some alphabet letters, stuff from vending machines, and so on. I alternated the rice and the objects so they wouldn't all be together. I left an inch of airspace to make it easier to shift things around inside. Then I just put the lid on and glued it with Gorilla Glue, after which I wrapped it in duct tape so the hooligans wouldn't have a chance of opening it.
You can write little rhymes like those in the I Spy books, or just have them find things that start with whatever letter. Or just let them shake it and look. Either way, it'll provide some entertainment.