It was time to replace the colored rice I use in my sensory bin. It had seen plenty of fingers, for starters, but the final death knell sounded when a curious preschooler added a cup of water to the bin.
Colored rice is certainly not a new hot fad, and it certainly isn’t difficult, but for those of you who may just be starting your foray into sensory media, I thought I’d show how to add some color to this sensory staple.
Start out with a large Ziplock bag. (Make sure it’s a good one. I like to reuse bags, particularly for non-food items like this, but that’s how I ended up with green fingers for part of a day.) Add a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol spreads out the color, but dries much faster than water, keeping your rice from getting soggy. (Soggy. Like my old rice.) Next, add your coloring. Food coloring works great. The more you add, the more intense your color will be. Add your rice to that, seal, and work the liquid through to coat the grains.
Pour the rice out onto a cookie sheet, wax paper, newspaper, or other protected surface. With a utensil or gloved hand, spread the rice out to dry.
You can use the same technique to create colored pasta (great for a sensory medium or for pasta sculptures like we did here). I like to color rice and pasta, not just to add that extra appeal, but also to help define boundaries for sensory play. With those bright colors, it becomes easier to explain which rice is for playing with and which rice is for eating.
If you’re just starting out with sensory play, you might be interested in: