Friday 16 September 2011

How to make Rainbow rice

(Goblin is 23 months)
Goblin has had a tub of beans and lentils to play with since he was about 18 months old. This can be used for pouring, spooning, hiding stuff in (for hide and seek games) - its a great piece of sensory equipment, and keeps Goblin entertained for ages. But as you may know from earlier posts I cannibalized the contents the other day to make the stuffing for our alphabet  bean bags.
So I wanted to replace it with a different tub. Lots of the blogs I read have made coloured rice. It looks so lovely and is such a nice sensory toy for toddlers. Check out this beautiful tub on Pink and Green Mama, and its great for eye spy bottles like the ones on Counting Coconuts

So how do you make it?
You will need - 
  • food colouring (I found the artificial colouring came out brighter than the natural ones)
  • a bag of rice
  • some sandwich bags
  • surgical spirit/rubbing alcohol (or alcohol handgel, which since swine flu last year you can pick up everywhere really cheap)
All the blogs I have read have suggested putting the rice in zip lock bags to dye it. Now I'm not sure whether zip lock bags are easier to come by in America but I didn't have a clue where to find them. So I bought self seal sandwich bags and they worked fine. 

I bought the cheapest rice I could find which happened to be Morrison's easy cook value rice, and split it into five sandwich bags. I popped the bags onto news paper so any leakage wouldn't dye the work surface. Then I added a splash of food colouring to each bag and a small amount of surgical spirit. The surgical spirit is just a medium to help spread the food colouring out. Its clever because it evaporates off leaving the rice dry and coloured.

I squished the rice around in the sandwich bags with the food colouring and surgical spirit until it had covered all the rice. Then I tipped it out onto baking trays to dry. I stuck my trays on the top of the oven under the extractor fan and turned the fan on. 
NOTE: The fumes of surgical spirit are pure alcohol so be really careful about breathing it in and don't do this in the same room as your toddler. If you haven't got an extractor fan open windows or doors. This is why you might want to go with the hand gel instead. 

I added all the colours together in one big tub, but if you wanted to do a theme you could just mix some colours - i am looking forward to doing orange and black rice at halloween. 
What you do with it from there is up to you. I hid some of Goblin's animals in the rice. And presented it to him on a tray with some scooping and pouring implements. 

First he went through the rice and rescued all the animals naming them as he went - he didn't remember the name for kangaroo, but penguin is an all time favourite. Once he'd rescued them he put them all back in the tub and buried them again. Then he fished them out once more. 

Then he started to fill one of the cups. First with the little sieve and then with his hands. The rice feels nice to touch and run through your fingers. I'd put down a plastic mat to make it easier to clear up the spilled rice but most of it stayed in the tray. 

And when he was done with the animals he moved on to pouring the rice from the cup to the jug and back again. This very simple activity kept him hooked for 45 minutes. 

I think most parents of toddlers, especially small boys, would appreciate that the small amount of time it takes to make coloured rice is amply compensated for when the activity it provides can keep your child entertained for three quarters of an hour at a time. 


Addendum: Do NOT be tempted to let your toddler play with the rice before it has fully fully fully dried. It will stick to their clothes and be carried through out the house. It will also stain every piece of clothing they have with the food colouring. The rice may take a couple of days to dry but you really should wait unless you want to be hoovering the stuff up for the next decade. (Happy eleventh birthday Goblin - oh hang on while I pick up this rainbow rice!)

I'm sharing this at 


  1. Like the coloured rice, nice and simple and looks fab

  2. Oh I love this- being able to stray away from the regular white rice! It looks wonderful!

  3. I think its also great idea for a theme wedding.


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