DIY Rainbow Rice for Toddler Sensory Play

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Originally published March 3, 2015.

The highlight of our recent trip to Bull City Craft for toddler arts & crafts time was the rainbow rice sensory table. My little one and her friends spent the better part of an hour playing with the rice – pouring, scooping, and just moving their hands through it.

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I wanted to recreate this fun at home so I bought a 10 pound bag of rice at my local Food Lion for $4.99. I found several different methods on the web for dyeing the rice including food coloring, Kool-Aid, and liquid watercolor paint. I decided to go with food coloring because most folks are likely to already have some hanging around so it won’t incur any additional cost. Other supplies include white vinegar and essential oil to mask the vinegar smell (optional but very nice).

I followed the easy instructions I found over at Powerful Mothering to make some lovely pastel-colored rice. Here’s how it went:

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1) I poured some rice into a gallon Ziploc bag. I would estimate it was around 4-5 cups of rice.

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2) Next I shook up some food coloring, white vinegar and essential oil in a half pint (8 oz.) mason jar. It was suggested to use 1 – 2 tablespoons of vinegar for each cup of rice, so once again I estimated. I added roughly a teaspoon of gel food coloring and a few drops of essential oil. I used Meyer Lemon essential oil and I think it really helped mask the vinegar scent that others complained about when using this method. Shaking the jar vigorously was the perfect way to mix this stuff, too!

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IMG_02723) Then I dumped the vinegar mixture into the bag with rice, sealed it carefully, and shook and mashed it around until the colored was distributed evenly. I think kids would like helping with the shaking and mixing. I used a new bag for each color but you could reuse the bags.

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IMG_02624) Finally, I covered baking sheets with Press n Seal (wax paper or parchment paper would work, too), spread the rice out evenly on the trays, and set them in the laundry room to dry. They dried in less than an hour which surprised me – I thought it would take longer!

IMG_0279I used a Rubbermaid bin we already had to hold the rice. It has nice high sides to reduce how much rice gets out of the bin. Any similar container would work, really.

I would suggest putting the four colors in the corners of the bin and letting your little one mix them. My little one loved seeing how the colors blended together. I would also suggest only putting half of the rice out at first and saving the other half in baggies for later. I think she really enjoyed mixing the colors and it would have been fun to get to do it twice.

Here is a list of all of the materials you will need to make your own Rainbow Rice:

  • 10 pound (or more) bag of rice
  • food coloring
  • white vinegar
  • essential oil (optional)
  • small container for shaking the vinegar mixture
  • Gallon Ziploc bags or large container with a tight-fitting lid
  • Baking sheets
  • Wax paper/Press n Seal/ Parchment paper for lining the baking sheets

We have been playing with the rice every day for at least an hour and RC gets so excited when she sees it. The $5 I spent on the bag of rice might be the best $5 I have ever spent on her! Good luck and I hope your little one enjoys Rainbow Rice as much as mine does!


2 Responses to DIY Rainbow Rice for Toddler Sensory Play

  1. Lovely neon colors!! It came out great 😀

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