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February 3, 2013

Valentine's Sensory Play with Colored Rice

Simple Sensory Play for Toddlers

Simple sensory play for Valentine's Day

Colored rice is such a wonderful tool for sensory play.  It is inexpensive, it can be stored for many months, it holds colors and scents, and it is naturally lends itself to fine motor play.  We don't pass out Valentine's, and I'm not big on buying my kids a bunch of chocolate.  Instead we like to engage in simple sensory play with a Valentine's theme.

How to Dye Rice for Sensory Play

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  • rice
  • ziploc bag
  • distilled white vinegar (Since writing this post I found out that vinegar is not needed!)
  • food coloring or liquid watercolor paint
Directions:  I added 10 drops of red food coloring to a ziploc baggie full of white rice along with a couple drops of distilled white wine vinegar.  I added 5 drops of red food coloring and a couple drops of vinegar to another bagful of rice.  I sealed both bags then shook until the coloring was somewhat even.  I was going for shades of red, white, and pink, so I didn't spend too much time worrying if the coloring spread throughout the rice.  I left the sealed bags on my kitchen counter over night to dry.  Sometimes I leave rice out to dry faster, but I prefer to plan ahead.  This way there is no chance of rice getting knocked over or little hands exploring the dyed rice before it has time to dry.  As I mentioned above, we no longer use vinegar but instead follow this simple method to dye rice.

Tank and Peanut (18 months) loved the sensory bin I made for them.  I like to keep things simple when I create a bin specifically for my toddler twins, so all I added was a set of heart measuring cups that I found at Target in the dollar bins.  They scooped, dumped, poured, transferred, and ran their hands in the dyed rice for over an hour.  As you can see, this was a messy bin.  We played outside, and the spilled rice was easily cleaned with our shop vac.  I saved what was left of the rice in our bin and have brought it out several times in the past few days.  

Rice can also be dyed using alcohol in place of the vinegar, but since Tank still eats every type of sensory material I put in front of him I prefer to stick with vinegar.  It requires a longer dry time, but the peace of mind makes the dry time worth it.  *I have since found out that neither distilled vinegar nor rubbing alcohol are needed for dyeing rice.  Now I just mix white rice and liquid watercolor paint in a bag and let it dry!  Of course, I stuck with food coloring when my little guys still tried to taste everything.

My older boys, ages 5 and 3, played right alongside them and even set up a rice grocery store, transferring rice to our toy shopping cart and "selling" it to anyone who would buy, specifically me.  

For more Valentine's ideas and simple sensory play for toddlers follow me on Pinterest.

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Click the links below for more Valentine's Sensory Play:


  1. What fun! It looks like this activity was truly enjoyed.

  2. This is such a festive way to work on fine motor skills.

  3. love those measuring cups and the colors! rice is so much fun for kids.

  4. Thank you so much for all your great toddler sensory bins, my son is the same age as your twins. I was wondering when the right age for rice would be, now I'm going to give it a try! I made the cloud dough on Sunday and it was a big hit!
    Question: do you sit your bin on the floor or on a table? LO makes a big mess on the floor and I've tried putting the bin on a chair (too high) or a stool(not big enough and tipped over)

    1. I'm so glad you are enjoying the bins! I put the bin on the floor, and yes they make a huge mess. When we are indoors I lay down a blanket, tarp or shower curtain. If you have a Dollar Tree near you stock up on a few shower curtains. They can be machine washed and hung to dry. I am working on teaching my toddlers to stay on the curtain during sensory play time. That way when we are done I can scoop up the shower curtain without spilling too much all over our floor.

      As much as possible, weather permitting, we play outside.

  5. The rice mixture is so colorful and festive. That looks like a really fun activity.


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