You need to make a rainbow rice sensory bin… today. This is one of the best sensory activities for toddlers and preschoolers, and beloved by big kids still. It’s surprisingly easy to create and absolutely beautiful.
What is a rainbow rice sensory bin?
A rainbow rice sensory bin is no joke.
It’s just food coloring and rice, mixed together, and left to dry. In just minutes, you can create a sensory experience for your child that can be reused for years to come.
Just look at these photos: can you even wrap your adult brain around all the fun of playing in a bin this colorful, this full of potential, and this easy to work with?
It is (no hyperbole needed) one of the best easy kid activities.
It’s not one to miss.
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Making rainbow rice is not complicated
It’s not. Trust me on this (and I’ve made a lot of rainbow rice in my days).
For the longest time, I thought “this looks so complicated. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff.” Add in an eye roll a mile high with that snark.
I didn’t have time to make rainbow rice! I can barely make three meals a day over here let alone have the time to dye rice.
WHO HAS THE TIME?!
Turns out, I did, because it’s that easy (insert face palm emoji).
The thing about making rainbow rice is this:
Yes, it takes about 10 minutes to make it. And those 10 minutes are an activity in and of themselves.
RELATED: Curious about sensory bins with kids? Why is it important? What’s the big deal? I answer all those questions in this sensory bin article.
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- White rice – brown rice works too but isn’t as vibrant
- Food coloring
- White vinegar
- Resealable plastic bags or containers
How to dye rainbow rice
For each color that you want, you will follow a 1:1 ratio: 1 cup of rice to 1 Tablespoon of vinegar.
In this activity, I used about 3 cups of rice per color. So do the math with me: that was 3 cups of rice and 3 Tablespoons of vinegar and placed it in a resealable plastic bag.
Add in several squirts of food coloring and start shaking. This is a very shake and bake type process.
Pour the now-colored rice onto a cookie sheet.
Repeat for the other colors.
It usually dries to the touch in about 1 hour.
My kids LOVE helping to shake up the rainbow rice and they are so excited to wait as it dries.
The good news is: once you make a batch of this, it will last you for years as long as you keep it sealed in a bag or container.
RELATED: Looking for information on how to keep toddlers from throwing sensory bins? Check out this post on how to help toddlers play with sensory bins.
How do you make a rainbow rice sensory bin?
This is HANDS DOWN my two-year-olds favorite bin.
He loves it every.single.time.
We dump the rice into a big storage container. This bin is from Target.
Then we add in all the fun stuff: funnels, scoops, jars.
RELATED: If you need more sensory bin ideas for toddlers, try this list of easy, breezy ideas.
What is a child learning with rainbow rice?
It’s been three weeks since I first put this bin together for my son and I don’t see us putting it away anytime soon. Even though, we do not need to qualify or justify an activity for children (all play is learning) it’s still fun to think about everything kids are learning with just colorful rice.
- Math skills: understanding capacity and volume
- Science exploration: learning more about small particles and solids
- Cause and effect: discovering how actions are related
- Imaginary play: utilizing high level thinking to create dramatic ideas
- Life skills: growing skills kids will use throughout life (pouring, scooping, spooning)
How to save rainbow rice for later
Do not throw away your rainbow rice.
Rainbow rice can be saved for years. YEARS. Place it in an air tight container and this rice you make your toddler may very well still be used when they go to kindergarten.
I don’t know of many toys that are as sustainable as rainbow rice. It’s inexpensive to make, lasts years, and is compostable when finished.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sensory play can begin at birth – a bath is a sensory experience! For other activities, consider what is safest for your child and what they can safely interact with. Always start with taste safe materials (like rainbow rice) that are not choking hazards.
Sensory play might get messy. Part of letting kids explore a space is accepting they may explore it with all their self. What we can control is our preparation for this mess. Before starting a sensory activity, make sure you’ve set yourself up for success: have a towel by the child, be near a water source, form a plan for how to get the child (and the materials) clean at the end. Sensory play messes are nearly unavoidable, but it doesn’t have disaster. Read this post on keeping bins tidy for more information.
Nope! Once the food coloring is dry, the color is stuck on the rice forever. It won’t get on hands, carpet, or clothing. Just make sure it’s dry first. Want to be really sure it’s dry? Pop it into a low oven for 30 mins.
Technically, yes. It’s dry rice, vinegar, and food coloring.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
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