The Easiest Way to Dye Rice for Sensory Play

Want to make Rainbow Rice for your kids, but wondering How to Dye Rice for Sensory Play? Let me share with you the easiest, and quickest, method for dying rice.

I’ve also included instructions for the other common methods used to dye rice as I like to keep them in mind as a back-up in case I don’t have what I need in the house for my preferred method.

I’m pretty sure that with one of these methods (if not all of them) you’ll already have everything you need in your home or classroom! If you’re anything like me, you’ll be keen to get started right away, and not have to wait to play until you’ve been shopping!

Pin text in the middle reads, how to dye rice the easy way. top image is of rainbow rice and bottom is of hand holding blue rice and letting it fall through fingers.

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Below I’ll share with you my favorite method for dying rice, and a few other common methods. Sometimes it depends what I have in the house at the time as to which method I use! Once you have made your sensory play rice, there are so many things you can do with it. Take a look at some of the options below.

Ocean Sensory Bin with Dyed Rice

Farm Sensory Bin with Dyed Rice

Pin text in middle reads, how to dye rice with food coloring and image above and below is rainbow rice sensory bin.

How to Dye Rice with Food Dye

In my opinion, this is the easiest way to do it! This way is also handy if your little one is prone to putting things in their mouth. While I would never recommend eating raw rice, for numerous reasons, if they pop a few pieces of this in their mouth it’s not going to be the end of the world for most kids.

To make this rainbow rice, I poured some rice into a measuring jug (you can also use a bowl or ziplock bag) and I added a few drops of food coloring. If it wasn’t covering all the rice, then I added a drop or two of water to it.

Image of bag of rice, food coloring, and some dyed rice in a measuring jug with a spoon.

Once it is all mixed together well, and all the strands of rice are covered with your chosen color, spread it out on some baking paper on a baking tray to dry. It usually takes an hour or two to dry, depending on how wet the mixture is when you spread it out.

You can use a hairdryer to speed up the process if you’re impatient! I usually just make it the night before so it can dry out overnight, when there are no little hands reaching to touch it!

Dyed green rice spread out on baking parchment on a baking tray to dry.

If you’re interested in alternative ways to dye your rice, I’ve included instructions for the other most popular methods below.

Pin text reads, easy tips to dye rice without rubbing alcohol. Image is of rainbow rice spread out in toddler sensory bin.

The Use of Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol

Some recipes for dyed rice suggest mixing in a few drops of vinegar, or rubbing alcohol to your food dye and rice mixture. They state that this is to set the dye so the color doesn’t transfer onto your fingers.

However, I find that the smell of vinegar is rather off-putting! And while the wet rice and food dye mixture does transfer dye to your hands (hence my use of a spoon to mix it), once it is dry it’s fine.

My kids have been playing with the dyed rice I made them for weeks now and they haven’t had any food dye transferred onto their hands or clothes. So I personally don’t think that it is necessary to add in the vinegar or rubbing alcohol (hand gel).

Pin text in middle of pin reads, how to dye rice black with paint. Image above writing is black dyed rice with stars in it and image below is black rice with astronaut.

How to Dye Rice with Paint

An alternative to food dye is paint. Personally, I prefer using food dye when I can, as it is safer for my kids if they have a sneaky lick of the rice! However, if your kids are past the stage of taste-testing, then paint can be a good alternative to food dye.

Paint is often cheaper than food dye and I usually have a larger variety of colors of paint than I do food dye in my house. When I decided to make a space sensory bin for my kids, I realised I didn’t have any black food dye at home. Instead of having to put off the activity, I grabbed the black paint and used that instead.

To dye rice with paint, I used the same method that I used with food dye. I mixed my rice and paint until it was fully coated and then I laid it out to dry on some baking parchment on top of a baking tray.

I found it took slightly longer to dry than when I used food dye, but that possibly depends on the type of kids paint you use. It was completely dry by the morning though, which is fine for me.

Fun Ideas for using Dyed Rice in Sensory Play

There are so many fun sensory bins you can create with dyed rice. I share some of them below. I’m working on adding more ideas for rice sensory play this month, so pin this post and keep checking back to keep up-to-date!

Ocean Sensory Bin with Rice

Farm Sensory Bin with Rice