How to make Rainbow Coloured Rice

If your kids love playing with their food, then this is the activity for them. Rice play is a great sensory play experience for kids of all ages – and with just a few basic supplies you can get the most beautiful rainbow coloured rice that will get the imagination going!

how to make rainbow coloured rice

Colouring rice might seem like one of those ideas that looks really great, but takes forever to make, just to never be played with again, right? But that couldn’t be further from the truth! My 4-year old and me managed to make 6 different colours in under half an hour – and now almost 12 months later that same batch of rice have been played with for countless hours. So worth the little effort it took to make.

If you don’t have time to colour your rice, no worries. You don’t actually need to colour the rice for your kids to have tons of fun.  In fact I think my 2-year old couldn’t be bothered, where as the colourful rice are a huge hit with my 4-year old. She loved the inital mixing of the colours – and has even sorted some of the grains to make different kinds of pretend food.

child pouring colored play rice

When the rice is ready, just set up a designated play area (I prefer on a sheet or tablecloth in our dinning room which is easy to vacuum), add some play kitchen utensils, figurines, magnetic tiles, small boxes and/or containers and let your children explore on their own! Maybe set up a few rules like the rice stay in the room or on the sheet, no throwing or eating the rice etc.

The first time they might only play for 5 minutes, but don’t count that as a failure and throw the rice away. Instead set it up another day and maybe add some different items. My 2-year old loves pouring and scooping when playing on his own, but prefers making play food and adding magnetic tiles when his 4-year old sister joins in on the fun!

how to dye rice for sensory play

How to make rainbow coloured rice

Colouring rice doesn’t take as long as you might think. A few minutes per colour to get the colours mixed with the rice and then just drying time. Now that’s easy.

You’ll need (per colour)

This is not an exact science, so don’t worry if you add a bit too much vinegar or don’t have enough rice – the drying time or the vibrance of the colours might vary a bit though.

  • 1 cup of uncooked rice – preferably parboiled rice or similar short grains as longer grains have a tendency to break
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspon white vinegar (could be substituted with rubbing alcohol)
  • a few drops of food colouring – we used Wilton Icing Colors
  • 1 small plastic or zip lock bags or a old container that you don’t mind getting stained

colourful rice for toddlers and kids

How to

1. Pour the rice in the bag and add the vinegar and food colouring. 

You could dissolve the colour in the vinegar before hand if you’re using icing colours like we did, but in my experience it’s not necessary.

2. Seal the bag and shake and squish the rice around until the colour has spread out evenly.

Make sure the bag is sealed properly – especially if your little ones are helping. If you don’t find the rice to be saturated enough, add more colour – or if you find that the colour won’t mix well, add a bit more of vinegar to help it along.

3. Leave the rice to dry.

You can leave them to dry in the open bag, but I prefer to spread them out on a baking sheet to speed up the drying time. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. I dried them overnight just to be on the safe side.

4. When dry – get playing!

Spread out a sheet or a tablecloth on the floor, add some bowls, containers, small toys, spoons, animal figurines and just let the magic happen. Maybe add a car garage, a farm house, magnetic tiles or hide things for your little ones to find in the rice. There’s ton of play possibilities!

siblings pretend playing with rice


Once everything is completely dry the rainbow rice can be stored in a small storage bin or similar container. If they haven’t dried completely you risk them getting mouldy and you don’t want that. But if you’re careful with it, your rice can last for ages – ours have lasted almost a year now!

Tidying up after play time

When it’s time to clean up I always gather all the toys that been used in a pile (after emptying them for rice of course) away from the table cloth. I then try and get all the rice in the middle of the table cloth, so I can pour them back into the storage container.

All the rice that venture of the table cloth gets vacuumed up – and I almost always have my kids help with that part. It always seems like a lot has been spilled, but so far we haven’t felt the need to make more rice, since there’s still a ton left in the storage container.

With rainbow rice playing with your food takes on a whole new meaning!

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