Wondering how to use rainbow rice with toddlers? This is the post for you. Learn how to make rainbow rice, ways to help toddlers be successful with it, and how to store it for later. Rainbow rice doesn’t have to be messy – it can be a quick and easy activity you’ll want to keep use.
Why you should use rainbow rice with toddlers
I love sensory bins with toddlers – there’s no secret there.
Sensory bins (while daunting to consider at first) are one of the best activities for little kids. Why? Thanks so much for asking. Sensory pack a full punch of learning.
When a child is using a sensory bin, they are using or working with:
- Mathematical thinking
- Spatial awareness
- Problem solving
- Scientific understandings
- Experimenting skills
- Imaginary play
- Impulse control
All those skills are being honed and developed when a toddler uses a sensory bin. These bins are magic.
If I could pick one activity for you to try with a toddler, a sensory bin would be it. And of course, let’s make it a rainbow rice sensory bin.
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What is rainbow rice?
Rainbow rice is dry rice that has been dyed different colors (and the color stays on the rice – nothing bleeds off).
While rainbow rice may look daunting, fancy, and complicated to make especially with a toddler, it’s actually really easy.
Trust me, the first time I saw rainbow rice on Pinterest, I said, “No one has time for that.”
The second, third, and 19th times, I also said, “Seriously!!! Who has time to dye rice?! I have toddlers!!”
By the 31st time, I said “You know what, I’m trying this just to prove this is not an accessible activity for toddler parents, make it, and then I’ll know it’s not for me.”
And that my friends is the story of how I learned my rainbow rice lesson:
It’s easy to make, accessible to toddler parents, AND it truly engages kids in the making and then playing process.
Rainbow rice is easy to make. Please don’t laugh it off like I did. Try it.
This stuff is the best.
How to make rainbow rice for toddlers
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Each color of rainbow rice has to be dyed separately. Decide ahead of time what colors you will want and adjust the amount of rice per color based on that.
Rainbow rice and be black and orange for Halloween or pinks, purples, and red for Valentine’s day. You’re going to get the hang of making this and magic is going to unlock with it,
I used 5 lbs of rice for this blog post. For each color, I followed this recipe:
- 6 cups rice
- 6 Tablespoons white vinegar
- Lots of squirts of food coloring (favorite kind)
- Shake shake shake in a resealable bag or container
Repeat for as many colors as you like, just stay within the 1:1 ratio of vinegar to rice (this helps preserve the rice, bind the color so nothing gets on hands, and keep the bugs away).
Set each color on a plate or cookie sheet to dry about 1-2 hours. The kids love making the rainbow rice with me and watching as it dries – such a good lesson in delayed gratification.
RELATED: Don’t love the smell of vinegar? Try this no-vinegar rainbow rice dyeing method from Friends Art Lab.
How to use rainbow rice with toddlers
Once the rice is dry, putting together this bin was a piece of cake.
I used my 28 qt bin from Target and dumped in our rainbow rice. I added 3 jars and a few old formula scoops (those are great – save yours or ask to friend to save for you).
I’m not kidding: that’s it. The set up is done.
Now it’s time for the toddlers to play – and play they did!
How toddlers play with rainbow rice
They can play with it however they want.
There is no “activity” here – no right or wrong. Let your child explore, create, imagine, and learn from this beautiful rice.
Sit back. Sip your coffee. Watch the magic of rainbow rice with toddlers unfold.
RELATED: Curious why sensory play is so important for toddlers and preschoolers? Read more in my full blog post on the topic.
Ways to keep rainbow rice from being messy
The first time kids play with rainbow rice, they might make a mess. Here’s what you’re going to do:
Give firm, clear, and consistent boundaries: “This is a sensory bin. We keep the rice in the bin. No dumping. No throwing. No eating. Say the rules with me.”
Tip 1: Stay close, especially the first few times they play.
Tip 2: Help them remember the rules. “No dumping, no throwing, no eating.”
Tip 3: If they continue to break the rules, pick up of the sensory bin and put it out of reach. “The rules were: no dumping, no throwing, no eating. We will try again for greater success later.”
And then let them have that chance to try again later.
Kids are so smart.
They understand rules and boundaries, as long as we are firm, clear, and consistent with them. Removing the bin sends a powerful message: “When my grown up sets a boundary, I need to play within that.”
Think of the life lesson that teaches our children. Sensory bins are great for giving us a chance to teach about rules, self-control, and boundaries.
RELATED: Need a little more information about toddlers and keeping sensory bins clean? I get it! Read my full article with a more detailed explanation.
A bonus tip for avoiding a mess
I know it’s not visible in my photos, but I often add a beach towel under the sensory bin for an extra layer of protection and to further illustrate where the boundary of this bin is.
Again, kids are smart.
They learn to keep food on the table at dinner, water in the tub at bath time, and rice inside a sensory bin.
How do you store rainbow rice?
Once your kids are done playing, you have a few options:
You can leave the bin out for a few days of play OR you can store the rice for next time. I tend to leave my rice out a month or so, then switch to a new sensory bin base (like cornmeal or water or beans).
I also live in a climate where bugs don’t breed inside homes and infestation is rare. I also don’t have a pet. Rainbow rice will last years (and I mean years).
Frequently Asked Questions
Nope! Once it is dry, the color stays on the rice for-ev-er. It’s not coming off. You do have to make sure it’s dry before you play with it.
Once a child is safe to use a sensory bin with rice, they can try this activity. If you’d like to start with non-dyed rice, try this Rice Bin post.
Store it in an airtight container, like you would any food item. And store it safely for the area you live in. Different climates will have different storage needs.