How to make brilliant rainbow rice for sensory play

Coloured rice takes minutes to make and inspires hours of toddler fun. Here's how to dye rice for sensory play

how to make rainbow rice

Coloured ‘rainbow’ rice makes a fantastic imaginative-play prop for toddlers and preschoolers: it can be play food for dolls, indoor ‘sand’ for hiding and finding toy treasures in, the basis of all sorts of colour-sorting games – and loads more. And you can make it at home in just over an hour – most of which is drying time.

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Abi, one of our amazing MFM crafter mums, has shared the how-to instructions for making rainbow rice with us here – along with some lovely pics of her 2-year-old daughter Maisie having fun with it:

Maisie loves using rainbow rice with her toys and in her play kitchen. I even let her go wild, throwing it in the air pretending it’s rainbow rain! When it’s all over, I just scoop up the majority by hand and then vacuum up the stray bits
Abi Walker, mum to Maisie, 2
How to make rainbow coloured rice
Pic: Abi Walker

Here’s how to make rainbow rice:

What you’ll need:

  • Food colouring (gel or liquid) or paint – in rainbow colours
  • Uncooked rice – as much as you wish
  • Sandwich bags – you’ll need 1 for every colour shade you’ve picked out
  • Baking tray(s)
  • Aluminium foil or baking paper
  • Bowl or play tray

Here’s what to do:

  • Set out your food colouring or paint colours.
  • Divide your rice equally between the sandwich bags.
  • Squirt a few drops of food colouring or a dollop of paint into each bag – a different colour for each bag – and then seal the bags.
  • Shake the bags of rice until all the grains are fully covered in the colour.
  • Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. If you have coloured a lot of rice, you may need more than 1 lined baking tray. Once all the grains are coated, spread the rice out onto the lined baking tray(s), keeping the different colours apart.
  • Leave to dry for around 1 hour – in the sun, if possible, or overnight.
  • Once it’s all dry, mix the rice into a bowl or play tray and hand it over to your child for toddler fun!
How to make rainbow coloured rice
Pic: Abi Walker

Top tips

  • If you don’t have any rice handy, you can also use lentils – but the colours will be less vibrant.
  • If you’re worried about the potential mess, try putting the rice in an unfilled paddling pool on a sunny day.
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