How to Make Rainbow Rice

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Rainbow rice is my all-time favorite sensory bin filler. It’s so bright and colorful and a wonderful invitation to play. As soon as I set up a rainbow sensory bin my toddlers were enthralled and, even though the beautiful rainbow effect only lasts a short time, it can be used time and time again. If you want to learn how to make rainbow rice then read on!

How to Make Rainbow Rice

Rainbow rice is super easy to make and only requires a couple of baking cupboard ingredients.

How to Make Rainbow Rice

Ingredients for rainbow rice

To make rainbow rice you will need:

  • long grain white rice.
  • gel food coloring – we use Wilton icing colors for most of our sensory activities as it gives such vibrant colors. 
  • vinegar (optional)
  • something to mix the rice in: large bowls or ziplock bags both work great
  • something to store the rice in between play sessions: we use sealed food containers or mason jars

How to make rainbow rice tip: I’ve made colored rice without the vinegar a few times and it has worked great. Vinegar can help the color spread when making and apparently helps to preserve the rice, stop color transfer to hands and prevent it getting mold. I don’t really notice a huge difference between batches made with and without vinegar so it’s worth trying both methods and seeing what suits you.

How to Make Rainbow Rice
Rainbow rice

How to make rainbow rice

Step 1: pour half a cup of rice into each large bowl/ziplock bag

How to make rainbow rice tip: half a cup is plenty if you are making rainbow rice as you will have 5 or 6 or even 7 colors in the sensory bin. You can alway make extra if you want to store some of each color as colored rice can be stored in a sealed container and played with time and time again.

Step 2: For every half cup of rice, add 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar and a few drops of gel food coloring and mix together.

How to make rainbow rice tip: I mix my rice in a large bowl and wear some latex gloves to avoid staining my hands with the food coloring. You won’t need gloves if you mix in a ziplock as you can just seal the rice, vinegar and food coloring in the ziplock and knead the outside of the bag to mix.

Step 3: Add extra food coloring if you need to improve the coverage or increase the color vibrancy. I like my colors to be super deep and vibrant so I always add some extra drops of food coloring!

Step 4: Leave the colored rice to dry: cover a baking tray with a grease proof sheet and spread the colored rice across the tray. I like to mix it up a few times to ensure the rice dries completely. If you have nice weather, you can speed up the drying process by leaving the tray in the sun.

How to make rainbow rice tip: remember, the rainbow effect won’t last long after you let your kids loose on a rainbow rice sensory bin! The good news is that it still looks awesome all mixed up and you will get tons of future play from the batch!

How to Make Rainbow Rice
Reusing our rainbow rice for some birthday fun!

Playing with Rainbow Rice

Rainbow rice is one of the best sensory bin fillers and my kids love to see rainbow rice inviting them to play. Scoops, funnels and bowls are the best accessories to accompany rainbow rice and will lead to hours of fun!

How to make rainbow rice tip: to set up a rainbow rice sensory bin I measure the length of the bin and allocate an equal length to each color of the rainbow. I have to use a ruler as a divider when I’m pouring the rice into the sensory bin – it’s the only way I’m able to get the clean and straight lines between the colors!

Some of our favorite rainbow rice setups include:

  • Weather sensory bins: these weather sensory bins are the perfect introduction to weather activities for toddlers.
Sensory Bin Fillers
One of our weather sensory bins
  • Rainbow sensory play: our rainbow rice and pom poms were a huge hit!
How to Make Rainbow Rice
Rainbow sensory play
How to Make Rainbow Rice
Pom poms are awesome for rainbow sensory play
  • Birthday sensory bins: birthday sensory bins make a lovely addition to toddler birthday celebrations! I used some rainbow rice that had been played with many times and was all muddled up into a beautiful mix of colors.
How to Make Rainbow Rice
Making cupcakes with our rainbow rice
How to Make Rainbow Rice
Rainbow rice still looks great even when it’s all mixed up!
  • Number recogntion: I mixed some numbers through the rice and used it as a base for identifing the numbers 1 to 5 with my toddler. She also loved tranferring the rainbow rice to her number board.
How to Make Rainbow Rice
Using our birthday celebrations to practice our number recognition
  • Color identification: rainbow rice is excellent for helping toddlers with color identification. I used our Grimms wooden rainbow bowls to encourage my toddler to match the rainbow rice with the bowl color.
How to Make Rainbow Rice

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Two Crafty Makers is home to colorful arts, crafts, and sensory play
ideas by a Mom of two lovely little ones!