DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box

Activites, Child Led Play, Development, DIY / Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Coloring Rice was surprisingly easy and not very time consuming! It was something I’ve been putting off because I didn’t want to mess it up. So I did some research. I found some great examples which I will list below. I took a mix of what these experienced pasta-coloring experts recommend with what I had on hand. Here is how I made my own Rainbow Rice Sensory Box!

A lot of recipies used vinegar and food color to stain the rice. The only food coloring I had on hand was red. Even though that was a popular way of coloring, I decided against the vinegar and food coloring.

  • Little Bins for Little Hands colored the rice and added branches, rocks, and bells to make it more festive. I love the use of actual branches from the tree. It adds another texture to the play and might even add a smell! That makes for a sensory experience! She uses 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar for every cup of rice and food coloring as desired.
  • Powerful Mothering has a post about getting the vinegar smell out of the rice, which can stay in the rice for a long time. She suggests a few drops of essential oils.
  • Growing a Jeweled Rose made 4 different colors with 4 different smells. She used Kool-Aid packages and Frosting Powder packages to get the color and smell. There was one package for each pound of rice. You mix the packages with a little of water before adding it to the rice. I love the idea of having the rice smell. And from the sound of her blog, the smell lasts quite a while!
  • The Imagination Tree went a different route and used paint! She squeezed in a large dollop of paint into the rice and mixed it up. She also mentions adding a few drops of essential oils to give it a nice smell.

Even though I had vinegar and red food coloring I decided against it because I wanted a rainbow of colors. After taking inventory, I decided to try The Imagination Tree’s method of making rainbow rice becasue I have an excess amount of acrylic paint that I don’t use that often and it seems pretty self explanatory! I do want to try making colored riced with Kool-Aid or Frosting Powder Packets just to see how the smells are.



I put 1 cup of rice into each Ziploc bag. Then, I squeezed a bit of paint into the bag. I made sure the bag was zipped completely. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want bits of rice and paint flinging every where in the kitchen! It’s time to shake! I shook the bag until all of the rice seemed to be covered. Which was harder than I thought because the paint also coats the bag (duh) so it was hard to see through.

DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box | Playland Preschoolers


DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box | Playland Preschoolers

Once the rice was covered I added a few drops of my peppermint essential oil. I resealed the bag and mixed the smell in. After, I poured it onto parchment paper (maybe it was wax paper, I don’t remember, but either would work!) I let the rice dry while I finished my other colors. All in all I think this process took about an hour and a half because I got distracted watching Once Upon a Time on Netflix. Oops! Each batch of rice took about 30 minutes to dry.

While I was waiting for the rice to dry I had a little bit of oats that I decided to color as well. I colored them the same way as the rice. The rice seemed to soaked up the color a bit better than the oats, but the oats still turned out pretty well! Both batches of oats are purple. I tried one batch mixing red and blue, just to see what would happen. It resulted in a dark purple with some oats not completely mixed. The other batch I used purple paint and tried some glow in the dark paint that I had, it didn’t really work though. But now I have two batches of purple oats!

DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box | Playland Preschoolers

When cleaning up, I squished most of the clumps of rice and oats that had stuck together. I couldn’t get them all, but I got most of them! After the kiddos played with them, I doubt there were any clumps left.


Play Time!

When I set up the rice and oats into our sensory bins a few days later the peppermint smell was still there, which I enjoyed! I added a few spoons, bowls, and shells for them to explore and play with. The kiddos are used to sand, so the rice and oats added a new feeling while playing.

DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box | Playland Preschoolers

Most of the kids enjoyed the peppermint smell. One child said “I don’t like mint. I only like candy cane!” I tried to explain that peppermint is the same as a candy cane, but they weren’t having it. They still played, even though they didn’t like the smell.

One thing I enjoyed about the rice and oats was that it wasn’t as messy as sand. The sand seemed to get EVERYWHERE and I spent more time sweeping than exploring and engaging with the children. With sensory materials like these, they are bound to spill onto the floor, I just wanted to limit the mess.

DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box | Playland Preschoolers

DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box | Playland Preschoolers

DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box | Playland Preschoolers


We have only had these out once since I colored the rice, but they’ve asked to play with “the sprinkles” since we had them out. I am excited to see what else the kiddos will do with these sensory boxes in the coming weeks!

You can read my other posts about sensory play here.

2 Replies to “DIY Rainbow Rice Sensory Box”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.