How to Make Colored Rice

How to make colored rice

If you are looking for ways to entertain the kiddos this summer, here is one really simple craft project.

Our family went to a community festival last weekend and there was a booth for a daycare center. The center had a simple sandbox set up with colored rice and I could not believe how long our children wanted to sit and play with the rice!

I decided to head right on home and make the exact same thing pronto since they enjoyed playing in it so much.

So this is super simple and very inexpensive to do.

I made colored rice and just set it out to dry in the sun.  The girls actually helped me with each color and then once it was dry a few hours later, they sat with buckets and played for ages.

To make the rice could not be easier:

  • 4 cups of dry white rice
  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar (or use rubbing alcohol)
  • 3-6 drops of food coloring (we had Neon McCormick leftover from Easter and regular food coloring colors).  If you use the gel coloring available in the baking aisle at craft stores or Walmart (or buy them online here) you will get much prettier and bolder colors.

colored rice 042

Step 1: Measure 4 cups of rice into Ziploc bags.  You can also put them in a bowl. My girls took turns measuring into the bags.

Step 2: Add food coloring and 3 tbl of white vinegar.  I used a mason jar and the girls took turns shaking the jar to mix and adding it to the Ziplocs.  You can also just dump the vinegar and food coloring straight into the Ziploc.

Add more food coloring if needed to achieve the color you like.

Step 3: Shake that bag like crazy!  You want the colors to be nice and even all over the rice.  Just keep adding more color until you see what you like.

Step 4: And last but not least, let the rice dry out a bit.  We left it in the sun for about 2 hours and that seemed fine.  You can leave it inside too if the weather isn’t nice- you should be able to bake it on a cookie sheet on the lowest temperature of your oven too.  I’d say 15 minutes or so?

How to make colored rice

Step 5: And now you are set!  I used a storage tub to put all the rice in and gave each girl a bunch of random items from the Dollar Spot at Target and from the kitchen plus a few Hot Wheels cars.  They got spatulas, an egg strainer, plastic cups, measuring spoons… just little things that seemed like it might be fun.

Pretty right?  The neon colors looked fantastic– I do wish I had purchased some gel food color.  We tried to mix red and yellow to make orange and the orange turned a tiny bit brown ;).  I think it is fun for the kids though to mix colors and see what they come up with.

homemade colored rice


So this was super easy to do and the girls had a great time playing with the rice!  I dumped it all back into Ziploc bags to put away for another day once they were finished.

DIY colored rice- perfect alternative to sand!

So the price of this entire activity was about $8.00.  I got a huge bag of rice from Costco for $8 (this project didn’t even make a dent in that monster bag), we had the food color leftover from Easter and the vinegar as well.

One note if you decide to try this.  Rice can supposedly be very harmful to birds-  some people say it can kill them and others say it won’t hurt them at all.  If you want to be extra safe just lay blankets or old sheets outside to catch the spillover.

We had a picnic blanket out on our grass or if we are playing inside I just have a few minutes with my Dyson and all traces of rice are gone.

This would be a great item to put on your Summer Fun List for the little ones!


  1. Sandy says

    Cool idea! People used to throw rice at weddings (including mine), but it’s not allowed anymore because it’s not good for birds.

  2. says

    FYI that’s an old wives tale about birds and rice. In rice-growing regions, rice is often a staple given to cage birds and poultry, and it doesn’t hurt them a bit.

  3. jaime says

    you can also do this with noodles…all the free pasta we get lol I am a preschool teacher and we make macaroni necklace and lots of fun collages…great to make picture frames for fathers day!!

  4. Christi says

    Just wondering if this method rubs off on their hands once dry. I have also seen it made by using rubbing alcohol and watercolors. Trying to decide which will come out better but this way is def cheaper. Thanks.

  5. Charlene says


    I did not have any issues with color rubbing off. My girls have played with this a bunch of times and no problems at all.

  6. Destiny says

    Dry rice does kill birds, cooked rice doesn’t. Nice of you to think about the birds, even though you don’t like them. :) I own an aviary and am very cautious with Rice, and food for my animals, I have seen rice kill birds. Sad, really. I love the rice idea- going to do this for my 2 year old and 3 year old. :)

  7. Laryssa says

    Great idea! I am always looking for simple but fun things to do with the kids. This one will be a hit.

  8. Diane says

    I just found a Little Tikes sandbox at a yardsale and I HATE sand, but decided I’d fill it with colored rice instead. I’ve got some work ahead of me-not sure how much rice it will take to make enough to fill it at least halfway.

  9. Alix and Billie says


    Just letting you know that it worked so well!! :) My daughter and I had a great time making it. I would recommend this to my friends. Thxs heaps and Byeee :) :)

  10. Charlene says

    T. Pike,

    As you can see on the post I mentioned that there seems to be conflicting information on that issue. So I would suggest doing what you feel comfortable with.

  11. Maria Weatherbee says

    I love this idea, I was looking for something that my 5 yr old son could do during this winter and saw this. I am also going to school or ECE and this is something I will keep in mind, I loved how bright the colors were so perfect to brighten up these long winter months :)

  12. Pam says

    Sounds like an easy and fun play idea for my daughter! Thanks for sharing! Does it matter if I use instant rice or regular rice?

  13. Charlene says

    No Pam I am not aware of any difference. White Rice is better just because it will color so nicely but any kind of rice should work!

  14. Pam says

    Thanks for the quick response! I’ll just go with what’s cheapest at the store, lol!

  15. stephanie says

    The colored rice can be stored in the freezer and then use while cold, especially fun during the summer months. Or place the rice into the microwave and stirring after each minute until warm to the touch. We do this during the cold winter months.

  16. bjh says

    This is a super great idea! I’d feel a little weird about wasting food to make toys for children, but I do think it’s a better alternative to sand and if little hands put it in little mouths – it seems as though it would be harmless since it’s only rice, vinegar, and food coloring. I do think that dry rice is the issue when it comes to birds. And if anyone has ever made rice the reason should be immediately clear – the rice expands quite a bit when soaked with liquid. So if a bird with a tiny stomach ingests the dried kernels and they later expand in the tummy through fluid intake, digestive juices, and other liquids – the poor creature’s stomach can bloat, stretch painfully, and even explode. So I appreciate you looking out for the little birds, too. I wonder if one can do this with cooked rice that ha been dried then died according to this tutorial. Anyway – what a cool idea.

  17. Charlene says

    Mary absolutely do not cook the rice. You would have a huge soggy mess. :)


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