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How to Make Colored Rice for Toddler Sensory Play

An easy recipe for how to make colored rice for a great toddler sensory play activity!

how to make colored rice for toddler sensory play image

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.

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).

How to Make Colored Rice

bag of white rice

  1. To recreate this fun at home I bought a 10-pound bag of rice at my local Food Lion for $4.99.

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


food coloring and jar of water

jar of water and food coloring

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!

bag of rice with green food coloring and water mixture poured on top

bag of green colored rice3) 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 to help with the shaking and mixing. I used a new bag for each color but you could reuse the bags.

green rice on baking sheet

orange, purple and pink rice on separate baking pans4) Finally, I covered baking sheets with Press n Seal (wax paper or parchment paper would work, too), spread the colored 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!

colored rice all mixed together in a bin with a few toysI used a Rubbermaid bin we already had to hold the colored 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 with this recipe on how to make colored rice and I hope your little one enjoys Rainbow Rice as much as mine does!

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Nicolette Roux (Powerful Mothering)

Friday 6th of March 2015

Lovely neon colors!! It came out great :D


Friday 6th of March 2015

Thanks so much! Your directions were awesome.

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