Saturday, March 23, 2013

How to Dye Rice (for Crafts or Sensory Bins)

You may remember this recent post about how to make your own Seek 'n' Find Bottles. Well, here are some basic directions for dying rice to include in these activity bottles or to use in sensory bins. (I know, I know, I kind of put the cart before the horse, but what can I say? I was totally geeked to post the activity bottles! Anyway, now I am finally getting around to including the instructions to actually dye the rice.) I had never actually dyed rice until I heard about it at a MOPS meeting a few weeks ago, and now I am wondering why I had not done this sooner. I found these directions that we used from Totally Tots. Rice is super inexpensive, it absorbs food coloring and dries quickly, and oh my goodness -- do the kids ever love it! (Okay, honestly, you don't even need to color it. Kids will enjoy playing with plain old rice, but these directions are handy just in case you want to jazz it up a bit!)

{Rice Dyed with Neon Food Coloring}

  • rice
  • food coloring
  • rubbing alcohol
  • bowls (one per color)
  • spoons for mixing (one per color)
  • measuring spoon (I used a teaspoon.)

  1. Pour your rice into bowls, one per color of rice you wish to dye. The first time I did this, I used 4 bowls because I planned to make 4 different neon colors of rice. So I just took my 5 pound bag of rice and poured out what I thought were about equal amounts of rice into each bowl.
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl. I used about 10 drops per bowl. You can always start with less and increase the amount as desired.
  3. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the bowl, and stir to mix it all up. I used 1-2 teaspoons to get the desired effect I was after. Kids can help with the stirring. Why rubbing alcohol? Rubbing alcohol is the "magic" ingredient that makes the food coloring dry super fast. Really! I started the process while my Little Man watched an episode of Diego, and it was completely dry and ready for play by the time the show ended. Plus, once it evaporates, the smell dissipates and you are left with pretty rice that should be safe enough for little ones. Just make sure they are not eating huge quantities of it, and you should be fine. Note: This amounts of rubbing alcohol and food coloring will vary according to the amount of rice you are dying. The second time I did this, I only made 3 colors from a 5 pound bag of rice so it ended up being about 20 drops of food coloring per bowl and 3 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol.
  4. Once the rice dries, you can use it for crafts like the Seek 'n' Find Bottle or use it for a sensory bin. Plastic bins with lids are commonly used. However, I have been using a cake pan with my kiddos. I give them spoons, bowls, cups, empty cardboard tubes, empty plastic containers, and funnels for pouring and sifting. Little Man also likes to drive his cars, trucks, and construction vehicles through the rice and bulldoze trails. When not in use, I put the lid over the cake pan, keeping the toys and rice inside for the next time. If I need to use my cake pan for something else, I just wash it out and store the rice in a plastic baggie. I have done this both with and without a vinyl tablecloth underneath, but I don't think it makes too much difference. This is a kind of messy activity, so you have to be able to let go of that and roll with it. We pick up as much of the mess as I feel is worth it after each play session and the rest gets vacuumed up eventually.
{Little Man loves playing with the colored rice!}

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