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March 19, 2014

How to Dye Rice

Rainbow Rice - Recipe for Play

How to dye rice - I love how simple this method is!

Have you ever met a toddler who doesn't love playing with colored rice?  We dye many batches of rice each year, because there is something extremely satisfying about digging into a bin of separated colors and combining them.  The best part about dyed rice is that it lasts pretty much forever.  I have a couple Ziploc bags full of rice from the past couple years.  The only time we throw away rice is when it gets dumped or spilled or accidentally left out after play.  With good habits this is a recipe for play that can last forever.  Since we enjoy mixing it up and creating new batches we often use up old batches in art and imaginative play.  As you may have noticed we've been on a rainbow kick lately with rainbow slime, rainbow flour paint, rainbow eruptions, and erupting sidewalk chalk paint, so I decided it was time to make a big ole batch of rainbow rice.

How to make rainbow rice for art and sensory play

How to Make Rainbow Rice

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We made our rainbow rice exactly the same way we made our rainbow epsom salts.  I poured plain white rice into Ziploc bags and added liquid watercolor paint.  Whenever we dye rice the little guys like to help.  I carefully seal the bags then each of the boys dances around shaking them.  If I noticed any white spots on the rice I add a bit more color.  Food coloring may be substituted.  I stuck with food coloring when my boys were younger and more likely to taste our play recipes.  Once each color had sufficiently spread into the rice I poured it onto a paper plate to dry.  Wax paper or cookie sheets may also be used.

Making rainbow rice - it's so easy to dye rice for sensory play, and it lasts forever!

As soon as the rice is dry, it is ready to be added to a sensory bin!  I left it overnight this particular time, but often it is dry enough in an hour or two.  If you are in a hurry you can always leave the rice in a warm oven or directly in the sun.

How to make gorgeous rainbow rice in vibrant colors - super simple recipe for play!

For this rice sensory bin I set out the bin of rainbow rice and a few take and toss cups and spoons.

My younger three boys count hardly stand back long enough for me to snap a quick photo before they eagerly dug in.

We usually do some sort of sensory play on our morning school break.  J-Bug (4) literally stood by the kitchen counter where the rice was asking, "Can I mix it now, Mom?"  "How 'bout now?"  Patience is hard for a four year old!  (Who am I kidding? Patience is hard for me!)  The moment gave them the go ahead, J-Bug scooped up a cupful of rice and dumped it over another color and repeated until the  rainbow colors blended together beautifully.

It was almost a like a race for him to see who could mix it up the quickest.  He was so stinking excited.

Once all the rice had mixed well he slowed down and began enjoying his play.  He said all the rice kernels were his fish.

How to make rainbow rice - dyeing rice for art and sensory play

When JZ (6) joined us, J-Bug corrected him every time he called it rice and insisted we all said fish.

Tank and Peanut (32 months) scooped and poured and repeated again and again, building fine motor skills through play.

I love his focus.

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More ways to dye rice:

  Easter egg sensory bin - perfect for boosting fine motor skills  How to make rice that smells just like a candy cane for Christmas sensory play.


  1. Dumb question....is the rice cooked or not?

  2. What brand of watercolor paints do you recommend? This is awesome!!

    1. Thank you! We use Colorations. http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?product=16821&utm_source=Affiliate&utm_medium=weblink&utm_campaign=CJ&es=10423400000

  3. Going to try this with my twins today! Thanks!

  4. I have a 2 year old who still puts everything in his mouth. So I want to do this with food coloring. Do you add the food coloring to water or just use straight food coloring to dye the rice. How much food coloring do you recommend. BTW I'm loving your website and pins.

    1. Thank you! You can add some water to make the color stretch more. You can use straight food coloring, but it might take quite a bit to cover the rice, depending on how big of a batch you're making.

    2. Thank you and hope you have a blessed day

    3. You can use a bit of rubbing alcohol to mix the colors in the baggies, then it evaporates.

  5. Hi there!

    Do you remember about how much rice you used for each color in this sensory bin? Thank you!!

  6. ive done this and my 2 year old loves it. i used 10kg of rice and put it in a shell pool, best idea yet.

  7. Hi. Looking to make some rainbow coloured rice but worried about the dye getting onto clothes, etc. Does the dye come out at all or is it locked in?

    1. I'm not the original poster, but I've used food dye and had no issues with stain. Just be sure it's completely dried before using.


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