How to Make Rainbow Rice for Play

How to Make Rainbow Rice for Play

Laura @inspiremyplay

Founder of @inspiremyplay, Early Years teacher for 11 years and mummy to three gorgeous girls. I'm passionate about about the benefits of play in early childhood.

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Rainbow Rice is such a fun sensory base for play! It costs hardly anything to make, keeps forever in an air tight container and is just adored by kids! Here's two simple ways you can make rainbow rice for yourself.

Rainbow Rice as a Sensory Base

Rice has to be one our favourite sensory bases. Even straight out of a packet kids love to scoop, pour and fill containers with it! But make rice rainbow-coloured and it has a whole new level of appeal!

Don't these colours look amazing?! This was a fresh batch of rainbow rice that we made recently. Fortunately you won't be needing to do this very often as rainbow rice will pretty much last forever in an air tight container!

Rainbow rice for play activities

Our favourite way to play with rainbow rice is simply to add scoops and bowls. We mainly put our rainbow rice in our PlayTRAY and with it's airtight lid we can leave it there and play with it another day! The PlayTRAY is a brand new product I've designed, which is soon going into production. You can pre-order yours now below or learn more about our pre-order campaign at

Puzzle boards with the pieces removed are also great fun to include in a tray of rainbow rice. You could always bury the pieces in the rice for them to find!

Filling up a letter puzzle with rainbow rice

Sometimes I make batches of one or two colours for a particular activity. I don't mind doing this as colouring rice is so quick and easy. And as it stores so well I know that I'll be able to use it again some other time.

This was a scooping and pouring activity where we filled the 'leaves' with autumn-coloured rice.

autumn tree activity

To make this sensory bottle for my youngest I coloured some rice green and added it to the bottle with some flowers, bees and ladybirds for her to spot amongst the rice.

Rice sensory bottle

How to Make Rainbow Rice

The Food Colouring Method

This is the best method for children who are still mouthing objects or might fancy a little nibble on some attractive looking rice! Although you wouldn't want them eating a great deal of this rice, it's not going to harm them if a bit does make it's way into their mouth. This process involves adding a little vinegar to help spread the food colouring and fix it to the rice.

The Paint Method

This is a one step method for colouring rice- just add a few squirts of paint and away you go! The result is often more vibrant than the food colouring method and its handy if you want an unusual colour or metallic rice. Using paint also means you can avoid the vinegar smell, which sometimes puts children off playing with rainbow rice.

You Will Need

  • White Rice
  • a Ziploc or seal-able bag
  • Ready Mix/ tempera paint or food colouring and white vinegar
  • Tray

What you will need to make rainbow rice

Paint Method

To colour your bag of rice simply add a couple of squirts of the ready mix paint and rub the paint into the rice through the bag. You'll need to do this quite vigorously. If the coverage is not quite enough add another squirt of paint.

Place the rice in a plastic bag

Once the rice is well covered lay it out thinly on a tray lined with grease-proof paper to dry.

Lay the rice on a tray to dry

Food Colouring Method

Put around two cups of rice into the bag. Mix a tablespoon of vinegar with a bit of food colouring. I use Wilton gel food colouring as the colours are so vibrant. Add the mixture to the bag of rice and scrunch and shake the bag until the rice is covered. If the colour is not vibrant enough you can always add a little more food colouring.

Once the rice is well covered in the mixture, lay it out thinly on a baking tray to dry as in the method above. This will take about half an hour to an hour depending on how moist the rice is.

Repeat the process for all of the different colours and you will have your rainbow rice!

Both methods are very simple and the rice will last indefinitely in an air-tight container. Personally I prefer to use the paint method in most instances, but with younger children food colouring is always best to use.

A third option is to use the Tiny Land stains. These are food-grade stains designed for wooden toy projects, but also work brilliantly for staining rice. If that's of interest to you check out this blog post here.

How to Make Rainbow Rice for Play