Rice is a versatile ingredient that can be used for crafts and sensory play in addition to cooking. Coloured rice is easy to make at home and provides open-ended opportunities for children to explore colours, textures and measurement. This article will provide step-by-step instructions on how to make colourful rice for play.
What is coloured rice?
Coloured rice is simply plain white rice that has been dyed or coloured using food colouring or other natural materials like spices and produce scraps. The rice retains its texture but takes on vibrant hues. Popular colors include red, blue, yellow, green, orange and purple. But you can really make rice any colour you like!
Why use coloured rice for play?
Here are some of the benefits of using coloured rice for kids’ activities:
- Promotes sensory play and exploration of different colours and textures
- Open-ended so kids can engage in imaginative play
- Supports development of fine motor skills through grasping and sorting
- Provides opportunities for learning about colours and mixing colours
- Fun alternative to sand and water play
- Clean and easy to sweep up
- Inexpensive and simple to make at home with ingredients you likely have on hand
Types of Rice
Any type of uncooked white rice can be used to make coloured rice including:
- Long grain white rice
- Basmati rice
- Jasmine rice
- Sticky or glutinous rice
- Arborio rice
Longer, thinner grains tend to absorb the colour a bit better but any rice will work. Stay away from instant or pre-cooked rice.
You can use plain or flavoured rice but flavoured rice like jasmine or basmati will impart their own scent. This can be overpowered by stronger food colourings however.
Amount of Rice
The amount of rice to make depends on your purposes. A good guideline is:
- 1 cup uncooked rice makes about 3 cups coloured rice
- 1 lb (450g) uncooked rice makes around 7 cups coloured rice
It’s ideal to make coloured rice in bulk if using for sensory bins, silicone moulds or toys. Making multiple batches of 3-4 cups at once is recommended.
If using for art, smaller 1 cup batches of individual colours works well.
There are several options for colouring plain white rice:
Liquid Food Colouring
Liquid food colouring is the most vibrant option. Primary colours like red, blue and yellow are a good starter palette. Mix colours to make shades like orange, green or purple.
Use gel food colouring rather than diluted liquid food colouring for maximum saturation.
A few drops per cup of rice provides bold colour. Add more, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, if you want very intense or dark shades.
Powdered Food Colouring
Powdered food colourings are more difficult to find but also work well. They provide a softer colour than liquid options.
Use about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per cup of rice.
For an all-natural approach, use spices, fruits and vegetables to naturally dye the rice:
- Red – Beets, cherries, raspberries, red cabbage, paprika
- Orange – Carrots, paprika, turmeric, pumpkin, apricots
- Yellow – Turmeric, saffron, banana, lemon, spinach (creates golden hue)
- Green – Spinach, matcha powder
- Blue/Purple – Blueberries, purple cabbage, blue spirulina powder
The intensity of the colours will vary based on ingredients and amounts used. Expect paler or more pastel shades from natural dyes.
Store Bought Colouring
For convenience, you can use powered drink mixes or store-bought colouring powders:
- Unsweetened drink mix packets – Koolaid, Crystal Light, Wyler’s Light
- Wilton food colouring powders
- Egg dye powder or tablets
Follow package instructions for desired intensity. These make vibrant colours but can stain more than other options.
How to Make Coloured Rice
Now that you know the main colouring options, let’s go through the full process step-by-step!
- Uncooked white rice
- Large pot with lid
- Food colouring (liquid, powder, or natural dyes)
- Vinegar (if using natural dyes)
- Measuring cups
- Parchment paper or wax paper (optional)
- Airtight containers
Step 1 – Cook the Rice
Begin by cooking the white rice according to package directions. This helps the rice absorb the colour.
Once cooked, drain the rice in a colander and spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.
Let the rice cool completely, about 1 hour, before moving to the next step.
Step 2 – Divide Rice into Bowls
Divide the cooled rice between bowls – one bowl per colour.
Use aproximately 1 cup of uncooked rice per bowl, which makes about 3 cups cooked rice.
Step 3 – Add Colour
Now add the colouring agent to each bowl:
Liquid food colouring: Start with 6-8 drops of colour and mix well. Add more 1/4 tsp at a time until you reach the desired shade.
Powdered food colouring or packets: Follow instructions on the package, using about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per cup of rice.
Natural dyes: Add about 1 cup tightly packed fresh produce or 2-3 tablespoons of powdered spice per bowl. Also add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar to help extract the colour.
Step 4 – Mix the Rice and Colour
Thoroughly mix the rice and colouring using a large spoon. Ensure all the grains are evenly coated for consistent colour.
Mix in small batches if needed to evenly distribute colour.
Step 5 – Spread to Dry
Spread the coloured rice back onto the baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.
Let it dry for 2-4 hours until any moisture from the dyes or cooking has evaporated.
Fluff and stir the rice occasionally as it dries for even colour.
Step 6 – Store Coloured Rice
Finally, transfer the completely dry coloured rice to airtight containers. Glass jars, plastic containers or resealable bags all work well.
Label with the colour and date. Store out of direct sunlight until ready to use for kids activities!
The rice will keep for 3-6 months when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot.
Using Coloured Rice for Play
Now for the fun part – using the coloured rice for learning and play!
Fill plastic tubs or bins with coloured rice for an inviting sensory experience. Bury small toys and objects for your child to find and dig through the rice. Spooning, pouring, and scooping rice develops fine motor skills.
Sorting and Measuring
Encourage sorting rice by colour in cups, bowls or jars. Practise counting and volume measurement. Introduce concepts like more/less and full/empty.
Use coloured rice to make framed pictures by gluing it on paper or cardboard. Fill clear plastic Christmas ornaments with coloured rice. Make shaker bottles by putting rice in empty containers.
Incorporate coloured rice into your child’s play like a sand and water table. Set up a rice cleaning station with sieves, funnels and containers. Practice colours and words by naming the rice colours while playing.
Step-by-Step Recipes for 4 Different Types of Rice
Making different types of rice can seem intimidating, but these step-by-step recipes make cooking up a batch easy for even beginning cooks:
Plain White Rice
– 1 cup long grain white rice
– 2 cups water
– 1/2 tsp salt
1. Rinse rice in a mesh strainer until water runs clear.
2. Combine rice, salt and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
3. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
– 1 cup jasmine rice
– 1 cup coconut milk
– 1 cup water
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp coconut oil
– 2 tbsp shredded coconut
1. Rinse jasmine rice.
2. Heat coconut oil in a saucepan. Add rice and toast for 2 minutes.
3. Add coconut milk, water and salt. Bring to a boil.
4. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Stir in shredded coconut before serving.
Vegetable Fried Rice
– 2 eggs, scrambled
– 1 cup peas and carrots, chopped
– 1 cup white rice, cooked
– 1 tbsp oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tbsp soy sauce
1. Cook rice according to package instructions. Cook veggies until tender-crisp.
2. Heat oil in pan. Cook eggs and set aside.
3. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
4. Add rice and veggies. Stir fry 3-5 minutes.
5. Stir in soy sauce and eggs. Serve immediately.
– 1 cup arborio rice
– 4 cups milk
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– Raisins, optional
1. Combine rice, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a saucepan.
2. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce heat to low.
3. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and creamy, about 30-40 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in raisins if desired.
5. Spoon into bowls and serve warm or chilled.
Storing and Maintaining Coloured Rice
Properly storing your coloured rice keeps it fresh and usable for months. Here are some tips:
- Let coloured rice fully dry before storage to prevent mold or bacteria growth.
- Store coloured rice in airtight containers out of direct sunlight.
- Glass jars or plastic containers work best for storage.
- Label each container with the colour and date.
- If rice becomes stale, freshen it up by spreading on a baking sheet and baking at 300°F for 10 minutes.
- Store each colour separately to prevent colours from bleeding and mixing.
- Keep rice away from moisture and high humidity.
- Use within 3-6 months for best quality and safety.
- Discard if you see any mould growth.
Proper storage keeps coloured rice fresh for kids to enjoy using in crafts, sensory play and more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you eat coloured rice?
Yes, coloured rice made with food-grade dyes is safe to eat. Supervise young children to ensure they don’t ingest too much. Avoid coloured rice made with non-food dyes.
Does rice go bad if not refrigerated?
Dry, cooked rice can be safely stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 3-6 months. Refrigeration can extend the shelf life. Watch for any signs of mold, moisture or stale odour before using.
How long does coloured rice last?
Coloured rice lasts 3-6 months if properly stored in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. Keep rice in a cool, dry spot to maximize shelf life.
Can you use instant rice?
It’s best to use plain, uncooked rice not instant or pre-cooked rice. The grains won’t absorb the colour as well. Stick to regular white rice for making coloured rice.
Is coloured rice messy to clean up?
Coloured rice is very easy to clean! It can be simply swept up or vacuumed up afterwards. It’s less messy than sand, soil, glitter and many other common kids’ art/sensory materials.
Making colourful rice for kids’ activities is easy, inexpensive and fun! With a few simple ingredients and materials, you can create a rainbow of coloured rice for engaging sensory and small motor play. Follow the step-by-step instructions to cook, dye and dry the rice. Then get creative in how you set up containers and activities with the finished coloured rice. Your kids will have a blast exploring colours and textures with this simple material while building valuable developmental skills!