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How to Make Colored Rice for Art Projects and Sensory Play

Learn how to make colored rice for sensory play – it’s easy, and less messy than the coarsely ground flour that we sometimes use for taste safe sensory play.

DIY colored rice tutorial

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The rice that I used for this post was originally intended for I Spy jars for my kids. I made the jars, but they were not happy (to put it lightly) to discover that I intended to keep the small animals I had put in the jars in there permanently. So we removed the small plastic animals, built a habitat for them instead, and decided to create a different use for the rice. But, I’m getting ahead of myself! Here is how we made colored rice in the first place:

DIY colored rice

How to Make DIY Colored Rice for Art Projects and Sensory Play

We divided the rice into four plastic jars (yes, we like Nutella in this house!):

How to easily make your own colored rice for sensory play

We added a few drops of food coloring and a little Purell to each jar, and then shook it up:

colored rice for sensory play is easy and fun to make

Note: You can substitute vinegar for Purell if you prefer. It will still set the dye.

The kids admired the resulting colors as we waited for it to dry:

Make your own colored rice for art or sensory play with this simple tutorial!

Then we left them to dry overnight:

How to make your own dyed rice for sensory play and art projects.

Rice set with Purell dries very quickly. If you substitute vinegar, you may need to spread it out on a tray to dry overnight.

The colored rice was ready for an “art project” the next day. I say “project” because this consisted of Johnny making a Big Mess while Emma carefully glued one grain of rice at a time onto her piece of paper. If I were to do this particular project again, I would have the kids use liquid glue bottles instead of glue sticks – the grains of rice stuck to the glue sticks too easily.

Kids love making rice collages! A bit messy but easy to clean up with a broom or vacuum.

Fun things to do with Colored Rice

We have a LOT of rice left, so if you have other activities we can use this for, I’d love to hear! Here are some activities I have come up with so far:

  • I plan to let Emma make a colored rice layer jar, and then….
  • Use the mixed-together rice for sensory play.
  • Make temporary rice art.
  • Put together that I Spy bottle I was planning to make in the first place!

Have you tried making your own colored rice before? What did you do with it after you made it?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

29 thoughts on “How to Make Colored Rice for Art Projects and Sensory Play”

    1. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Regular rubbing alcohol works as well, as does white vinegar (although, white vinegar takes a bit longer to dry).

  1. I don’t have any ideas for the rice, but when I was a little girl, a lonnnnnng time ago, in the ’50s (1950s, not 1850s 8-), my mom and a neighbor used to color salad macaroni and then we would string them together to make necklaces and bracelets. We didn’t have Purell back then, but I think they used a mix of food coloring, vinegar and water, like we did for colored eggs before the “invention” of egg dye kits. I’m 63 now, and I still remember those sessions fondly!


  2. help them to draw a nature scene such as mountains,river,trees etc. and use the colors of rice to paste on each scene. A little water and a little flour makes a great cheap paste. Then let g and g chris see the art work when it is complete. love ya- g and g chris.now if I can get this box to send the message.

  3. help them to draw a nature scene such as mountains,river,trees etc. and use the colors of rice to paste on each scene. A little water and a little flour makes a great cheap paste. Then let g and g chris see the art work when it is complete. love ya- g and g chris.

  4. Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog

    Your colored rice turned out great! We’ll be trying this today for a play date we’re hosting… how fun!

  5. That rice is gorgeous! I just might have to make some myself… and then find an excuse for having made it :)

  6. Wow, I am amazed by Emma’s attention to detail. I did something similar to this a while back using tiny alphabet pasta instead of the rice. We also had a Big Mess every time we pulled them out (Kaia used glue as well to make designs, but she always used the pasta in much larger portions than Emma, and always made a much bigger mess). I finally got so sick of the messes that I threw them out when the kids weren’t watching. :)

  7. Too funny how Johnny and Emma took the rice project. I have no suggestions on using rice – we don’t play with food on principle. I am planning to write a post explaining why.

  8. Oh my goodness, you were not kidding about the Big Mess! Too cute. Have you tried a rice tray to draw letters in? This rice is so pretty, and looks like so much fun! M likes to use glue in a bottle and make a design then shake sand on it. I’m sure the rice would work the same way… you’re right that it might be easier than using glue sticks. Also, they could stand things up in the rice jars – feathers, pipecleaners to put beads on… that’s all I’m coming up with. :) Great post!

  9. @Lindsey – This rice is not for eating since it is uncooked and has had purell added. You could, however make colored rice for eating by adding a little food coloring to the water before cooking =)

  10. @Chandra – just food coloring and purell, no water. I was actually surprised at how little food coloring was needed too – that stuff goes a long way!

  11. Silly question and maybe I’m just really bad at reading today, but did you put water in with the food coloring? Or was it just food coloring and purell? Thanks for the great idea!

  12. I love what different personalities your kids have! Johnny looks so reckless and wild while Emma is so careful at placing each grain of rice on her paper :) Great idea!

  13. I keep meaning to make coloured rice for C to play with. I’d like to make a sensory box – I think she’d have lots of fun with it, even if I have to sweep up rice 5 times a day! lol

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