Rice is a favorite material for sensory play at our house. Not only is it easy to set up and clean up, but a batch of colored rice also lasts for years. The bright colors are so inviting, and making your own colored rice in any colors you choose is such an easy process that even a toddler can help.
Here's how to easily color rice for a beautiful rice sensory bin.
What you'll need for this activity: a large zip-top bag or a large Tupperware container, white rice, liquid watercolors or food coloring and water, wax paper or plastic wrap, a large bin, various items for scooping and pouring, a splat mat
- Pour the desired amount of white rice into either a large zip-top bag or a large Tupperware container. Choose a container size large enough that there will be plenty of open space after adding your rice.
- Add several teaspoons of liquid watercolors (a good rule of thumb is approximately 1 teaspoon of liquid watercolors per 1 cup of rice, but there's no need to measure) or food coloring added to water (a good rule of thumb is approximately 10 drops of food coloring added to every teaspoon of water per 1 cup of rice, but again, no need to measure).
- If you have a toddler eager to help you, hand them the sealed container to shake vigorously. Jumping works really well to mix the color into the rice. You will probably need to give it a few good strong shakes yourself to make sure that there are no clumps and that the color is evenly distributed among the rice. If the color isn't rich enough, or there are some uncolored grains of rice, add a bit more color. Again, exact measurements aren't needed -- you can feel free to estimate the amount of color you'll need based on the shade/coverage of the rice in your container.
- Once you have the desired color saturation, pour your rice onto a sheet of wax paper, plastic wrap, or other water-resistant surface and spread it out as much as possible. Allow it to dry for several hours (at least 6), but preferably overnight (12 or more hours).
- When the rice is completely dry, you can add it to a bin for your children to play in.
Tips: Rice is a fantastic material for practicing scooping and pouring and the hand-eye coordination that comes with that skill. I always like to include several different-sized cups and spoons when I set out a rice sensory bin for my kids. To control the mess, we like to use a splat mat under our sensory bin. You can store your colored rice for years in a sealed container; just be absolutely sure that it is dry before you store it, as moist rice will mold.
Images via Asia Citro