Rice coloured for play

Rainbow Rice – Sensory Toddler Activity

Rainbow rice - sensory toddler activity

Rainbow rice is a fantastic sensory activity for children of all ages. It’s cheap and easy to prepare and can be used again and again.

I made it for my toddler recently and it went down so well! He loved the sound it made and the bright colours. He practised scooping and transferring as well as working on his pincer grip to pick the little grains up. We used it as a free play activity and I loved watching him explore different ways to play.

I’ve been doing a lot of sensory and messy play involving food lately, but this was probably our favourite. One reason for using food in sensory play was that my little one was going through a fussy  that Ollie is going through a fussy eating phase. So I’m trying to take the pressure off and make food more fun. The other reason is these activities are easy to prepare and totally thrifty because they just use things I already have in the kitchen!

As with all activities, children should be supervised at all times.

How To Make Rainbow Rice

Rainbow rice is really simple to make and only takes 5 minutes to prepare, then just leave it to dry!

You will need: 

  • White rice
  • Food colouring 
  • White vinegar
  • Plastic sealable box or freezer bag

I like to make rainbow rice with white vinegar and food colouring. Place the rice in a freezer bag or plastic box – about one cupful to start with. Add one teaspoon of white vinegar and a couple of drops of food colouring. I find gel food colouring gives the most vibrant colour.

Rice coloured red, blue, green and yellow for sensory play

Seal the bag or box and give it a good shake for a couple of minutes until the colour has spread evenly. A few drops will give you pastel shades. If you want brighter colours like mine, just add more food colouring and shake again. Repeat the process to make different colours and experiment with different amounts of colouring for different shades.

Once you’re happy with the colour, lay the rainbow rice out to dry. I used baking trays with kitchen roll spread out over them. Spread the rice out in a thin layer to help it dry. One thing I’ve learnt from experience is if you leave this on a windowsill to dry, the sun may bleach the colour out again.

Once you’re happy with the colour, lay the rainbow rice out to dry. I used baking trays with kitchen roll spread out over them. Spread the rice out in a thin layer to help it dry. One thing I’ve learnt from experience is if you leave this on a windowsill to dry, the sun may bleach the colour out again!

If you don’t have the above ingredients, you can buy the lot at Aldi or Lidl for under £2! As the rice is uncooked, I always store mine in an airtight container to use again in the future.

How To Use Rainbow Rice For Sensory Play

Of course when you’ve made your rainbow rice, you can use it however you want. We have made many batches over the years and used it in many different ways, the only limit is your imagination! These are some of our favourite ways to use rainbow rice:

  • As a filler for a rainbow rice sensory box
  • In bottles to make maracas
  • For scooping and pouring practice
  • In arts and crafts projects
  • For mark making

Invitation To Play

When I first made rainbow rice for Ollie it was a lovely sunny day so we played outside with his sand/water table. It’s the perfect height and has raised sides to contain the rice. I added a few cups, containers, plastic shapes and spoons. Ollie had a little feel around and decided he was ok with the texture of the rice. He then spent ages picking it up and dropping it to hear the noise it made on the plastic.

Child playing with rainbow rice - sensory play activity

Rainbow rice is perfect for sensory play not only because of the bright colours, but also because of the sound the rice makes when it hits different materials. Ollie used a spoon to scoop it up and fill different containers. This is a great way to practise using cutlery without messing the dining room up!

He really enjoyed filling and emptying different containers, and using cookie cutters to make shapes in the rice.

Ollie loved pouring the rice on the cogs of his water table and watching them turn. This is a great way to learn about cause and effect – just like dropping the rice or pouring it. It’s amazing how much children are actually learning while they’re playing.

The different colours gave us a great opportunity to practise naming them all. This is something Ollie has been learning recently. We started with each colour separated in the corners of the table, and went through each of their names. He managed to remember the colours and he even learnt a new word – ‘wice’!

8 thoughts on “Rainbow Rice – Sensory Toddler Activity

    • tightwadmamablog says:

      I haven’t tried it on dried pasta, might have to give that a go this week! It works on cooked pasta though, I coloured some cooked spaghetti a few weeks ago for messy play

  1. Emily Abbey says:

    This is a great idea and SO simple. I think even my 4 and 5 year old would love playing with rainbow rice, it’s messy play without the mess! Brilliant!

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