How to Color Rice for Preschoolers


Rice tables are an engaging addition to a preschool classroom, and you can add even more excitement to the station with a rice coloring activity. Dying rice is a simple way to invite your preschool students to participate in the process of creating a classroom craft. Once the grains are dyed and dried, they can be kept in color-coded containers and used in art projects or poured into the rice table for hours of sensory play time.

Things You'll Need

  • Sealable plastic sandwich bags
  • Smocks
  • Dry white rice
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Food coloring paste or drops
  • Small plastic cups
  • Powdered drink mix
  • Warm water
  • Newspaper
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden stirrers or Popsicle sticks

Food Coloring Method

  • Provide children with their materials. Each child requires a dress smock, to protect clothing, a sealable plastic bag and a small plastic cup for mixing the rice dye.

  • Pour approximately 1 cup of dry white rice into each child's plastic bag.

  • Place 2 tsp. of rubbing alcohol into each child's plastic cup. Invite each child to choose the preferred color from the available food dyes. Add several drops of food dye to the rubbing alcohol. Invite the children to stir their dyes with a wooden stirrer or Popsicle stick.

  • Invite the children to pour their dye into their plastic bag. Ensure that the bags are then completely and properly sealed.

  • Demonstrate the best way to shake the bags and disperse the dye. Combine shaking motions with massaging motions to ensure all the rice is coated with the dye.

  • Spread several sheets of newspaper on a large table. Pour out the bags of rice onto the newspaper, keeping like colors together if desired. Dry the rice at least overnight to seal the color.

Drink Mix Method

  • Mix 1 tsp. of powdered drink mix with 2 to 3 tsp. of very warm water in a small plastic cup. Stir the mixture until the powder is dissolved. Repeat the process with additional powders until you have enough cups so that every student has their own.

  • Prepare students for the activity as outlined in Steps 1 and 2 in the Food Coloring Method.

  • Provide each child with a pre-mixed drink solution. Assist the children in pouring the mixture into their bags, especially if the mixture is still warm.

  • Invite children to shake their bags to distribute the dye evenly.

  • Spread the dyed rice onto a sheet of newspaper and pat the tops dry with additional newspaper or a paper towel. Let the rice dry for at least two days to seal the dye.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rubbing alcohol mixtures tend to dry more quickly, but some teachers and students dislike the smell of the alcohol. If the smell is troublesome, opt for the drink mix dye instead.
  • Turn music on while the students shake their bags to add a more playful dimension to the activity.
  • If you don't want to wait for the rice to dry overnight, the grains can be baked on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Students can stain their skin or clothes with both the food coloring and the drink mix. Ensure that all bags are sealed and free of holes before students begin to shake their bags.

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  • Photo Credit Blue Jean Images/Photodisc/Getty Images
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