5 tips for Rainbow Rice

I’m sure you guys have seen the dyed rice trend sweeping Pinterest called “rainbow rice”. It is rice that has been dyed or painted, then dumped in a large plastic bin for sensory activities. This is a great “busy” activity to have around. I keep 3 sensory bins under the bottom shelf of our pantry for the kids to pull out and play with while I cook and/or scroll Yelp on my phone for places that deliver.

Before starting this project I did some Pinterest research and we tried a few different methods. I didn’t end up using tempera paint, even though the colors were super pretty, because I like my sensory bins to cost me less than $15. So here we are….

Tip #1: Use a bowl.

I even took pictures with the little baggies I was filling with rice, but alas, the baggie method was meh. I loved the idea of throwing away the bags and a no-dishes-project, but handing over a baggie full of dye and tiny projectiles to my two giant children gave me heart palpitations. We also had a hard time getting the colors evenly distributed, so we switched half-way through. We used glass bowls and never looked back.

Tip #2: Use foil to dry.

This was a rainy winter craft for us. I read about using ovens to speed the drying process, but we were very successful combining the bowl method with the spread-on-a-sheet-of-foil method. I think because of the open-air stirring the rice was already starting the drying process, so when we moved it to the foil sheets it dried in less than 30 min. By the time we finished the last color, all of the rice was dry except for the batch we’d just finished.

Tip #3: Use cheap rice.

I feel like we all know this but, don’t use brown rice. Don’t use organic 6 grain rice that was harvested at sunrise by singing birds. Just use Dollar Tree rice. Or a 10lb Walmart bag of rice like we did.

Tip #4: Use more vinegar.

I love a good rule sheet, but every blog I read had different rules for the amount of vinegar you’d need to dilute the food coloring. We started at a strict one TBSP per one cup rice rule and by the end I was just eyeballing it. If the rice isn’t being coated—add more. Vinegar evaporates! And your house will at least smell like your kids eat salad. That’s probably healthy, right?

Tip #5: Pick a good tub.

At some point you want your kiddos to be able to play with this sensory bin with moderate supervision while you cook and watch Bravo, so put it in a bin they can maneuver. When you’re at Dollar Tree hoarding rice, don’t be tempted to buy one of the plastic bins there. Those bins are made of plastic that is only a single molecule thick. When your darling child picks up their sensory bin it will buckle, spilling out onto your kitchen floor in a rainbow avalanche. That’s our next project.

Just joking. I was too mad to take a picture.

How We Made Rainbow Rice

Supplies: (1) 10lb rice, (3) glass bowls, (3) metal spoons, measuring things cups and spoons and whatnot, (I) 16 oz bottle white vinegar, foil, plastic bin, (1) box of prehistoric food coloring.

  1. Measured out 3 cups of rice and put it into bowl.
  2. Add a smattering of food coloring according to the directions on the box not written in dinosaur.
  3. Add between 1-3 TBSP (or whatever) amount of vinegar and stir.
  4. Lay foil on the counter and spoon the mixture onto the foil to dry. (It took ours less than 30 minutes total.)
  5. Roll the edges of the foil to make boats to transfer your rice to the plastic bin.
  6. TAKE A ZILLION INSTAGRAM PICTURES to prove what an amazing parent you are. 🙂

My daughter has used this rice as “glitter” to glue on pictures, as a unicorn habitat, and for cooking/pouring/scooping activities.

Does it get everywhere? Yes. Is 5 minutes of vacuuming worth 40 uninterrupted? That’s a big YES from this momma.


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