Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TUTORIAL : How to Make Rainbow Coloured Rice (Without Alcohol) for a Toddler Activity Sensory Bin

I previously mentioned that I have been longing to make Jesse coloured rice to play with after seeing so many pretty pictures of it on Pinterest. I looked up a couple of recipe's and noticed they all used rubbing alcohol (surgical spirits) as the liquid to spread the colour over the rice. I don't really like the idea of my child playing with something covered in alcohol, besides the fact that it stinks, so I made up my own recipe, with great success! I used vinegar instead, and my colours came out just as, if not more vibrant.



Here is the recipe for my (almost natural) recipe for making rainbow coloured rice. I say almost natural as I used food colourants instead of natural dyes. I wanted vibrant colours and food colouring delivered. Now, while I don't allow my child to consume this poison, I figured that since the colouring has dried on the rice, and it does not come off the rice while playing in it, it is virtually safe. I'm not sure I would make finger-paint with food colouring as then the dye has a chance to be absorbed into his skin. Well that's my logic anyway.

Now for the how-to...

Click here for a two page PDF version of this tutorial for easy printing. 

First, gather your supplies:


You will need:

  • A large quantity of cheap rice, 'sweepings' would work well as it is not going to be consumed. 
  • White Vinegar
  • Liquid food colouring in a variety of colours
  • Re-sealable Bags - you will need one for each colour you want to make. 

Place a few cups of rice into your re-sealable bags, depending on how large it is, and add a few drops of food colour. How many drops you use depends on the quality of you food colouring, I used a good quality and a cheap food colouring and achieved bright, deep colours with both, I just had to use more of the cheaper one. Add enough vinegar to wet all of the rice without soaking it. I used about a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of rice. The more you use, the easier it is to spread the colour, but the longer your rice takes to dry.


Seal your bag and shake the rice around letting the colouring completely dye the rice. If you find the colour is too weak, or there isn't enough to cover all the rice in your bag, add more.

Once you are convinced the rice is dyed empty it out onto a baking tray lined with tinfoil and place somewhere to dry.


I left it to dry overnight, although it was dry enough to move into bowls by the same evening.


I was so impressed with the colours. I kept making more and more. But, the real fun was had the next day.


We played outside, where I wasn't stressed about rice going everywhere. Jesse has great fun mixing all the colours together. He then started filling containers, pouring them out and refilling. Eventually he realised he could fit into the tub, and was literally squealing with delight at the feeling of it between his toes. He still hasn't tired of playing with it two days later and even with sprinkling it on the dog, as if it was fairy dust and looking at the colours against the grass, cement path and flowers there is enough to play with.

I definitely consider this activity a great success and plan to make coloured rice again. The possibilities are endless! I see a baby pool filled with it in our future!

Let me know how yours turns out, even better send me photos of your children playing with it and I will post them to the ABDC facebook page


Beneath the Rowan Tree

25 comments:

  1. Oh I've made this before it turns out so amazing! I used mine to make an I Spy bottle for my boys.

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    1. Thanks for the reminder about I-Spy bottles, Jesse would love one! :)

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  2. This looks like a lot of fun. I would have made it for me not my grandbabies though.

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    1. Definitely, I had so much fun making and playing with it ;)

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  3. Fantastic - I will be trying this out this week. Last time I tried to colour rice it didn't work, I don't remember using vinegar so hopefully this will be more successful! How long will you keep it for?

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    1. I hope it works out for you this time, I think the secret is using good amounts of colouring. Keeping it as long as it lasts, in the container that is, Jesse thinks its hilarious to throw it on the dog ;)

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  4. this is so much fun!!!! I'm going to do it with my 4 1/2 year old. We'll use it for crafts and who knows what else. It's just too colorful and fabulous to resist. Thank you!!

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  5. I'm still amazed at how vibrant your colors are, and love the photos of Jesse enjoying his rice. The bin looks beautiful with all the colors still separated, and like good fun once they're mixed! I want to try this soon - I may see how well I can do with "natural" colors as, knowing Annabelle, plenty of the rice will be consumed!

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    1. Let me know whether you succeed with natural colours, Im thinking of trying them next time too :)

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  6. What a fun idea! I love the idea of using vinegar — had never known it was possible. Thanks so much! I'm just wondering where we can do this sensory activity in our apartment where the rice won't end up absolutely everywhere…maybe the bathtub?

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    1. Bathtub is an excellent idea! Although I have let Jess play with it inside on a rainy day, and it was easy enough to vacuum up afterwards. Not too much effort on my part :)

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  7. Where do you find rice that you don't feel bad throwing away? It seems like most sensory activities revolve around disposing of usable food.

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  8. So true. I managed to pick up what they call 'sweepings' here, which is the dregs from the rice sheds, and is sold mainly as pet food etc. I don't feel *too* guilty using this. In this instance I think the experience outweighed the wastage, as Jesse had a ball :)

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  9. Those colors are irresistible!

    What a simple recipe and great idea. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Why do you call food coloring poison? I bake with that all the time.
    What do you consider natural dyes and where would I get some?
    Thank you,
    Shalie
    Belles1fan@hotmail.com
    If you could respond to my email my google account isn't working right now, Thank you. :0)

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  11. Rainbow rice is great fun for little ones.. As a teacher I used to make it all the time for use as sensopathic media, it is also great for Art activities and Collages :)

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    1. I can imagine it works great for art activities! :)

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  12. What fun! I think I will give this a try, I imagine my ds would love this! I have an empty baby pool that I was trying to get creative with...hmm...
    Thanks for sharing this with the NPN blog hop!

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    1. ooooh, Im still contemplating filling the baby pool, let me know how it works out! :)

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  13. Totally need to try this! Brilliant idea!

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    1. Thanks Lizanne, let me know how it goes :)

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  14. This is so awesome! Think I'll try this today with my son :) Thanks for the idea!

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  15. Hi! Thanks for this tutorial. It absolutely works! I used one tablespoon white vinegar to a cup of rice, just like what you did. Planning to make I Spy rice bottles for other people's kids since I don't have any of my own yet! :p i must agree that it IS addictive making more and more coloured rice!

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