A Vibrant Rainbow Rice Activity Bin for Sensational Sensory Play

“WOW” the kids with this colourful Rainbow Rice Activity Bin!  They’ll enjoy hours of  sensory play, and you can store the rice indefinitely for future crafts and activities!  Grab the recipe for my rainbow rice, and let’s get to work putting together a coloured rice sensory bin for your kids! 

rainbow rice - how to dye rice for a colourful sensory bin

To make our rainbow rice activity bin:

After dyeing our rice, and letting it dry, I spread the rice out in rainbow fashion in a plastic bin , and added colourful bowls, plastic eggs, , scoops, glass jars, craft sticks, glass beads and cotton balls.

What kind of container makes a good sensory bin:

I often have people ask me for suggested containers for sensory bins.   Here are some sensory bin containers I’ve used with great success in the past.

  • a shallow storage container with lid
  • foil roasting pan (dollar store)
  • new kitty litter box (dollar store)
  • Pyrex glass baking dish
  • cardboard box
  • extra large, plastic salad bowl (dollar store)


Look at all the fine motor fun happening here – scooping pouring, siftingAnyway, back to the rainbow bin.  The Hooligans were REALLY excited to see this.  They’ll spend hours scooping, pouring and digging.  This is such a relaxing sensory activity.  The rice feels so cool and soothing, and it sounds wonderful as all these little hands sift through it. And it’s such a visual treat too!  

And it still looks gorgeous when it’s all mixed up, and you can use it in future for toddler art projects, educational discovery bottles for preschoolers, and to make rainsticks and shakers.

And if you love this easy process for colouring rice for play, you’ll love our easy dyed pasta too!


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    • says

      I made rainbow rice earlier in the year with my children but they used it to create shape pictures. They would use the glue first in whatever shape they chose and then decorate it with the rice.

  1. says

    I’ve just recently found your site and I can’t tell you how wonderful I think it is!! I’ve bookmarked countless activities to try with my three year old daughter. :) We just made a batch of the colored rice and, including when a container cover decided it didn’t want to fit anymore and blue rice was shaken all over the place, we had a lot of fun! I can’t wait to see how creative we get to be with it tomorrow when it dries. :) Thank you so much!!

    • happyhooligans says

      So glad you’ve found my site, Jennifer! Thanks so much for letting me know that you’re getting lots of inspiration here. I just love hearing that!
      When you’re finished with the rice, you can just pour it into a jar and keep it to play with another time. I still have the batch that we made way back in the spring. Have fun playing with yours tomorrow! :)

      • says

        It was a hit! :) I set-up the four containers of colored rice, some of my daughter’s smaller toys (animals, planes, plastic eggs, shovels), and some small plastic containers, next to a plastic bin big enough to hold everything. Then I let her at it! :) She was so meticulous at first, carefully shoveling a little bit of each color into the bin… then she really let loose and had SUCH fun. She made designs in the rice, filled the plastic eggs to make maracas “all by [her]self,” had fun for about an hour, and got me right in there with her. She even told me how much she liked “rainbow rice” (I hadn’t called it that and thought that rather cool). So, thanks again for the idea! :) I’ll be back — often!!

      • happyhooligans says

        Yay! So glad it was a hit, Jennifer! Too cute that she actually called it “rainbow rice”! What a smarty she is! :)

        Cheers! Jackie

  2. Joy says

    Oh my gosh!! I am the official “Preschool Teacher,” for my four yr. old Granddaughter and do a lot of crafts with her. Your blog is so inspiring, though. Rainbow Rice? We both LOVE Bright colors and rainbows. :) I will be making this with her Thursday, when Gran’ma babysits again!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Janet says

    I made some this morning using your recipe. It turned out great. I put some in a tub like you did with a bunch of sand tools, and my 2-year-old son delightedly dumped the entire bucket into the grass. Oh well… there’s more. Plus the yard has a colourful patch. :)

    • happyhooligans says

      Oopsy! Oh well, you’re right. You can always make more. I’m glad you found it so easy to make. One thing that might help if you have a little one who loves to dump what they’re playing with – a blanket or tablecloth (a vinyl one works really well) underneath the play area, and then if there are major spills you can just pour it all back into the container. :)

    • happyhooligans says

      There’s a link right at the top of the post, Emily. That will take you to the directions. It’s all very easy to do, and quite mess free.

  4. Katrina says

    I just found your site last week and my bookmarks are FULL of your ideas–thank you!! My mind really needed some inspiration and you were it–love love your stuff. Looking forward to exploring around more for my 2 little boys and me. :)

  5. says

    I love this idea. I’ve never given my kids buckets of rice to play with… I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when I pull this one out! Thank you.
    I hope you don’t mind that I’ve linked your post on my blog, as one of my TOP 10 January pin challenge!
    You really have a great site… I’ll be back!

  6. Angela. Ennis says

    I am a childminder in the UK and love your site, I often copy your brilliant ideas. This rice is gorgeous but I cheated and dried it in the microwave for 20 seconds as the kids were keen to get started. Thanx for the brilliant ideas, keep em coming.

  7. Brandi says

    I love you rwonderful ideas and i have used several for helping plan my homeschool day with my 4yr old and 2 yr old. We use our rainbow rice with learning the letter of the day and number search i hide animals and letter tiles (scabble tiles)in the rice and then we discuss each one and their names and for the number search she finds the numbers and put them in order and then i just give them spoons measuring cups to have fun scooping and pouring. Thank you again for having such a an inspiring blob.

  8. Tracy says

    I love rice in a sensory tub. I have 2 different Kindy groups. One group played with it so quietly and spent ages tipping, filling, wriggling their fingers in it and there was very little mess. The next day it was from one end of the room to the other. haha. Children are so different.

  9. melissa says

    I love your ideas and tried several of them. However, my daughter interest does not last for more than 10 to 20 mins. unlike all others i hear about playing for an hour. She is almost 2.5. Any ideas how to keep her interest longer? It is like this with sensory bins and art projects.


    • happyhooligans says

      She’s still very young to expect her to play for long periods of time with anything – particularly if she’s the only child playing. In a group setting, the young ones are more likely to stay engaged longer than they normally would because they’re interacting and following the older ones, whose attention spans are longer. What about water play, Melissa? A bin filled with some scoops, funnels and containers. A turkey baster, a sponge etc. Even a doll to bathe. Water seems to fascinate my youngest ones the most.

      • melissa says

        Thank you for your reply. It does make sense that they engage more around others their age or similar. She does play longer at play dates. I will try some water play. Thanks again.

  10. Siu yeung says

    Tried giving the toddlers rice to pour in to a funnel to learn pouring, how the funnel work etc but they were more interested in feeling the rice, pick them up and spill them all over the play area outside. I just want them to have fun but I’m wondering how to allow 8-10 toddlers to play with rice with out it getting out of hand. I was going to try to colour the rice next time but it was too messy.

    • happyhooligans says

      I agree, it would be challenging to have a group that large playing at the bin. What about splitting it into two bins so 3 or 4 children could gather around each bin? I generally like to do our rice bins outside, and even then, I place a large plastic table cloth under the bin so all the loose rice can be tipped back into the bin when they’re done.

  11. Denise Ansell says

    putting the bin in an old paddling pool?ball pond would stop the spread in areas you want kept rive free :-)

  12. Nicole says

    I love your blog. We live on a sailboat currently in Malaysia with 2 girls 5 & almost 3 yrs . I am
    Always looking for innovative, boat / space friendly activities. Between you and my retired- JK teacher mom, we are spoiled for choice. We made the rice last night and set it up this morning. Great success. The tea leaf infuser is a big hit and making shakers of course. We will continue to expand this activity thanks !

    • happyhooligans says

      Oh, how wonderful to be living on the water, Nicole! I’m so happy to know that our activities are reaching you where you are, and that you’re having fun with them!


  1. […] Spread each batch out on a plate or a cookie tray (I used styro meat trays – I run them through the dishwasher before using them for this kind of thing) to dry. You can place them in the sun, or by the fire to dry them quickly. It’s not sunny here, but it’s too warm to have the fire going, so I’m just going to leave my trays on the dining room table over the weekend. Doesn’t it look fantastic? To see how we played with it, visit our other post:Playing with the Rainbow Rice! […]

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