Colored Rice Sensory Activity for Toddlers

The other day, a little fairy came and whispered into my ear that toddlers love playing with brightly colored rice.

Okay. Not really. I found this on Pinterest.


Because I’m addicted.

Since browsing Pinterest a few months ago, I have been pinning all these great, simple ideas and then doing nothing about them. Finally, in the past few weeks, I have started actually doing a lot of them. Mostly, I’ve been doing home organization tips, which I’ll share little by little on the blog in the next few days. Today, though, I did one of the ideas for kids and it was pretty cool.

Chris has been working a lot in the past week and the kids and I have been a little stir crazy on our own. So, today I busted out one of my pins… Colored rice.

First, you take four gallon Ziplock bags and fill each one with two cups of rice. Then, add two teaspoons of rubbing alcohol to the bag.


Next, add six or seven drops of food coloring to each bag. I used what I thought was a lot of food coloring and the rice still came out a little pastel, so be generous if you’re going for brighter colors.


Then, seal the bags and start shaking up the rice and food coloring, making sure that you’re evenly spreading the color throughout the rice. This is a fun part for your wee tot to help you with.


Next, line baking pans or big plastic bins or whatever you have on hand with aluminum foil or wax paper. Then, pour each color out onto the lining and put the bin in the sun so that the food coloring can dry. It was really sunny here today and so the rice dried pretty quickly – under half an hour, I think.


When the rice dried, I combined it all into one big tub, threw in some spoons and other sifting toys (including a construction truck…), and turned Bean loose!


All total, it took about five minutes to dye the rice, then half an hour to let it dry, and VOILA! A really fun, different activity for Bean to play with.


We spent the rest of the afternoon burying things in the rice and then digging them back out again and sorting and shifting through the rice bin. Even I thought it was fun! Rice feels crazy fun when you run your hands through it!


Even Chris played in it when he came home for a little break from working…


I have another pin that uses this same rice for a different game, I-Spy Bottles. You fill an empty plastic 2-liter bottle with the rice and stick a few little toys in there. Then, your tot can shake the bottle all around and try to find the toys in the bottle. I haven’t done that one yet, but we’ll probably try it tomorrow.  Here’s a picture from Pinterest of what that looks like…


For now, though, we’re pretty content to shift and sort and pour and dig and bury with our brightly colored rice in a bin. We’re purists like that, I guess.IMG_2147


For more info about this activity and for other fun ideas, be sure to check out the original post from Pinterest.

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22 Thoughts to “Colored Rice Sensory Activity for Toddlers”

  1. Very fun! I love this! I will have to do this with the kids I nanny for 🙂

  2. Kat

    I’m forever pinning all sorts of stuff and not doing anything about it! I love this idea though – I’ll have to wait until Peanut doesn’t eat everything that she touches before I try it.

  3. Sonya

    I’ve done this with any kind of pasta before too. Kids love it!

  4. Casey L.

    My daughter has SPD and loves playing with rice (now, a year ago not so much) so colored rice would be even more fun! Have you ever played with shaving cream? That’s fun but then you can mix things in it like oatmeal and this rice would be great for that. . . I will be trying soon!

  5. […] soon about my new awesome jewelry and my attempt to make friends.). Then, today we made rainbow rice and went for a two hour walk around our neighborhood. Tomorrow we have a play date. Busy, busy, […]

  6. SarahPLiz

    We used to have rice in a kiddie pool in the church nursery. It was way easier to clean up (and get out of diapers) than sand, and just as fun to play in. I’ll have to remember this when my LO is old enough.

  7. That’s a great idea! I have done the same thing with pasta noodles and then used them to make necklaces!

  8. Jessica

    I’m a teacher for students (preschoolers) with special needs. This is a super fun activity for them. I make it slightly more ‘mouth friendly’ by using vinegar instead of rubbing alcohol. Sure it smells a little like vinegar at first but the smell quickly fades and then I don’t have to worry about them eating it as much!

  9. We did this activity this weekend, too! I made some I-Spy bottles but when I tried to glue the lid on, the glue dribbled into the bottle and now I have ricey glue dribbles. Anyhow, Nate has two sensory boxes that he uses in autism therapy (and to calm down): one filled with all sorts of beans and the other filled with every type of pasta imaginable. They’re fun to play in, very calming, and have lots of uses. We can sort beans/pasta by like shapes/colors, count, practice transferring them from containers, etc. We have them in those lockable plastic containers and store them under our couch. They’re usually out a few times a week! I got a Toob (that’s what they’re called) of underwater creatures and they’re hidden among the items. Fun to hide and search for! 🙂

  10. Nikki

    I used the sensory bottles when I was getting my degree. I found cute little foam letters that I would mix in with bird seed and flashy stuff. The student would shake the bottle and they would recognize the letter that their fingers landed close to and make the sound of that letter. Once they got the hang of that we would start making words with the letters. The opportunities are endless with these fun, homemade games!

  11. JenniferLO

    I make my I-spy bottles from pickle jars — and don’t forget to seal the lid with hot glue…I learned the hard way! Also, I find most of my little items at the dollar store in the party section!

    When I make my sensory tubs at school, I use an under the bed storage tub. It works great for being able to still play in it, but you get a nice big lip to keep it inside. It does require some extra sensory items though!

    Also, colored rice is great for mosaic type pictures!

  12. What a great idea! You are such a fun mom. Bean and Gracie are lucky to have you! Can’t wait to try your fun ideas when I have a little one.

  13. Emily E

    I pinned this also! And have yet to do it. I wonder if my almost 4yo would enjoy it as much as Bean…

  14. This looks like so much fun… but how do you avoid having rice all over your house? I’m pretty sure my son would just chuck handfuls of rice and we’d be vaccuming it up for months. What’s the recommended age on this activity? Maybe 20 mths (my son) is too young?

  15. Pinterest to the rescue again! I think I will definitely try this one in the future when there isn’t a 100% chance that Sullivan will start shoving rice in his mouth. I think we have a while to go but I”m keeping this one in the idea book.

  16. S

    Pinterest is great. If you are looking for another fun activity, try this one. Get an empty two liter soda bottle (make sure it’s clear), fill the bottom with an inch or two of water. Add a couple of drops of food coloring, about ten or so. Yellow is not so great though. Fill the rest of the bottle, about three quarters of the way with vegetable oil. Let everything settle. (This is a good time to practice counting to ten). Add in a half tablet of alka-seltzer. It makes a sort-of lava lamp. Using a funnel is very helpful and when I make this project with my students at the preschool age, I target concepts like: empty/full, pour in, more/less, top/bottom. heavy/light. Older students we talk about density, sequencing of events, inferences…what happens if we….. This is great because I use this as a sensory based activity as well as a reward activity. My students can earn a piece of an alka-seltzer tablet (I call it a magic tablet) to put in the lava lamp on a daily basis. This is my go-to activity and I have used it with kids as young as two and as old as 22. It really is for all ages. Enjoy

  17. This makes me laugh because I always see these things and think, “oh that would be fun!” And then I am faced with the reality that my kids (mostly my 3 year old son) would probably just dump the whole thing on the floor and pretend he was swimming in it. I had similar experience with playing with dry beans, and let me tell you, I give in to these ideas no more. 🙂 I guess if you have normal children who actually “play” and not ones who just love making messes and loud noises, then this works perfectly!

  18. Your rice turned out great! Thanks for sharing my link too.

  19. I did this for Eli a few months back and posted about it here:
    For some reason, though, I never thought of putting the rice in a shallow pan and putting toys in it! I just put spoons and cups and what not into a big bucket. Today, we buried cars in rice and made tracks for cars out of the rice… so awesome! Thanks for the extra ideas!

  20. […] on the arts and crafts shelf is Bean’s tub of rainbow rice. Mostly because I couldn’t fit it anywhere else, but also because it was darn crafty of me to […]

  21. Kristen

    Can you use something other than rubbing alcohol? I live with my parents right now and I can’t find any rubbing alcohol ANYWHERE!

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