Tiny – Cool Colored Rice: An all-ages project!! (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , June 28, 2009 9:53 pm


Our Weekly Unplugged Project post for this week’s theme of tiny is coloring rice (a grain of rice is tiny, right?).

Not very original, but I was going to take this a step farther with a colored rice project.  However this simple first step was such a HUGE hit with my kids of all ages and genders, that it deserves its own post.

I like color.  There is not one white wall in my house.  Therefore I have always wanted to try coloring rice. Is that a logical progression to you?  It is to me.

Instructions for how to make colored rice are all over the internet, such as here and here. Google “coloring rice” or “colored rice” and you will see!

We needed a large bag of white rice. Don’t use brown rice or parboiled (which is sort of beige), since the colors will show up better if the rice is as white as possible.

I checked all the prices per ounce at our one local grocery store and found a 10 pound bag for about $8.00 (I am sure you could shop around and find a much better deal than that).

You’ll also need rubbing alcohol (maybe), food coloring, and plastic ziploc baggies.

I read somewhere that you can use vinegar instead of alcohol, or it can be done simply with food coloring alone, but the rice might not be as brightly colored.

We did a few batches without alcohol and they were fine, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference and the smell when damp was a lot better without it (the alcohol smell does disappear once the rice is fully dry).  I would skip the alcohol next time.

Some people say that paste food coloring produces a brighter result, but I thought ours turned out great with liquid coloring.

I passed out a baggie to each child and then scooped a few cups of rice into each baggie.

Next I added a bit of alcohol to each baggie (not much, a teaspoon maybe?).

Each child chose a color to make and dropped in the appropriate color, or mixture of colors.

NOTE: This is a really fun project for learning how colors mix (if you are a kindergarten teacher or homeschooling parent, be sure to remember this one, because it would make a great kindergarten color project)!

The really fun part is shaking and smooshing the baggie to spread the color.

Just be sure the baggie is closed properly. We had a bit of an accident as you can see here:

(I found these instructions that call for a plastic margarine container for the mixing instead of plastic bags. This method might be safer, as long as you make sure the lid is on tightly.)

We discovered that the more you smoosh and shake, the more uniformly distributed and solid the color is.  If you only do a bit of mixing, enough to just barely color everything, you get a very pretty variation of colors which I preferred:

Once you feel the rice is colored to your satisfaction, then spread it on a foil covered baking sheet and put it in a 200 degree oven until dry.


Stir about half way through the process to uncover the wetter rice from underneath. It took about 15 minutes for us, but if you put in a lot of liquid color and alcohol, it might take a bit longer.  You can also let it air dry, but I am far too impatient for that.

The cooled, dry rice was irresistible to little hands. Even I had to touch it and sift it through my fingers. What a great, Montessori sensory material!

After the rice is dry and cool, use it right away or store it in a baggie or jar.

My kids and I all LOVED this project! We made lots and lots of colors. The children experimented with different color combinations and amounts of mixing.

One of my favorites was this one, where my 7 year-old son put many different colors in. I anticipated a big muddy brown mess, but he didn’t mix it up much and ended up with quite a variety of lovely earth tones in his batch, as you can see here:

Remarkable fact:  The kids are 8 (girl), 7 (boy) and 3 (girl)…plus a guest: age 8 (boy), and me (girl)… age more than 8 and less than 100, and we ALL loved this project. It is hard to find a project that appeals to all ages, but this one was it for us.

As my oldest daughter said, “Our kitchen is a colored rice factory!!”

By the way, anticipate a good lesson in vacuum cleaner use after this project.

Also note the hopeful dog parked strategically under the kitchen table, just waiting for falling goodies:


Did you do a tiny Unplugged Project this week?  If so, then please put your link (to your post, not just your blog) in the Linky below.  If you didn’t do a tiny project this week but would like to learn how to join in future Unplugged Projects, then please do not link, but read more about how to join in here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Enjoy and be creative!

23 Responses to “Tiny – Cool Colored Rice: An all-ages project!! (Weekly Unplugged Project)”

  1. PS~Erin says:

    What great ideas! I love your whole concept over here. I’m planning a post on summer activities and I’m going to definitely have to link to you over here. I’ll let you know. Thanks for the ideas and inspiration!
    .-= PS~Erin´s last blog ..Monday Meal Planning: My NEW Planner! =-.

  2. […] then selected beans of different colors to complete the mosaic. If we’d thought of making colored rice the mosaic would have turned out even better! Still Gamma’s quite pleased with the outcome. I […]

  3. Beta says:

    We love the rice idea! We’ll be making this ourselves sometime this week, just to have on hand for other craft projects that come up. The mixed bag is beautiful — I’d keep it in a glass jar on my windowsill!

    Thanks for hosting — great fun and a great purpose!

  4. Fun! I’d never heard of the baking process – We just mixed food coloring and rice together and it turned out okay.
    .-= Mozi Esme’s Mommy´s last blog ..Mission Sunday =-.

  5. PS~Erin says:

    I linked above abt our fun with a giant cardboard box. So old-fashioned but oh-so-entertaining!
    .-= PS~Erin´s last blog ..Monday Meal Planning: My NEW Planner! =-.

  6. PS~Erin says:

    Okay, so I realize now how this works… Feel free to remove my link above. Sorry.
    .-= PS~Erin´s last blog ..Monday Meal Planning: My NEW Planner! =-.

  7. Mom Unplugged says:

    No problem Erin! It looks like you are having lots of simple summer fun! I refiled your link under the theme “Box” that we did quite some time ago. It fits beautifully there!


  8. It’s beautiful! We’ve made colored macaroni for art projects before and the kids liked that, but never rice. I am a bit afraid of rice fun at my house since a friend gave us a big box of rice with goodies buried in it for my daughter’s first birthday and we were still finding rice 5 years later. It simply could not be eradicated! :)

    We finally jumped back into Unplugged projects this week with our worry dolls and I’m hoping to get back in the habit again. I missed it!
    .-= A Magical Childhood´s last blog ..Tiny: Worry Dolls! =-.

  9. SkylarKD says:

    Your coloured rice turned out fantastic!!! I’m going to do this as a fun summer activity (it’s been raining and gloomy for 2 weeks, so we need fun indoor activities!).
    .-= SkylarKD´s last blog ..Coffee filter butterflies =-.

  10. Jenny says:

    This is going to be perfect for a playdate CJ has next week. I love that they get sweeping/vacuuming practice too!

  11. Patti says:

    We use colored rice at school in the sensory tables. The kids love it. I think this year I might try coloring it WITH the kids. I usually just use the really large tub of stuff that someone else has already colored. Thanks for posting with such great photos!
    .-= Patti´s last blog ..Baking Soda and Vinegar with Twos =-.

  12. Dawn says:

    I love it! I can’t wait to try it. I am thinking red white and blue rice for the fourth! Very cool indeed.
    .-= Dawn´s last blog ..Thirsty Thursday ~ Gathering Books =-.

  13. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Patti, I am sure the kids would love this activity. Let me know how it goes!

  14. […] post is sort of a follow-up to last Sunday’s Tiny – Cool Colored Rice post.  The rice coloring was such a fun project in and of itself, that I decided just to focus on that.  I chose this […]

  15. Zue says:

    Beautiful! I love your project. I am working on one with my students and this is an inspiration. Thanks!

  16. Mom Unplugged says:

    Let me know how yours turns out! Thanks so much for the nice comment!

  17. Tamara says:

    Is this rice intended for craft purposes only? We generally don’t let our kids eat artificial colors, but I wonder what happens to the colors when you cook it? Do they mute, get brighter, disappear? Maybe we could experiment with natural coloring? (Sometimes we color our cooked rice with saffron or turmeric, but I wonder what other dry natural colorants we could use?)

  18. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Tamara,
    Great question! This particular rice is for crafts only (especially if you decide to use the rubbing alcohol, obviously). By the way, we have made a few more batches of rice since this post without alcohol and they turn out fine.

    I think it would be fun and entirely possible to color rice for eating. I would Google for natural, food-based dyes. For example, red onion skins make things purple. It might impart a bit of an onion flavor to the rice though (OK if you like onions).

    As for cooking, my thought would be that you would perhaps boil down the dye material (onion skins for example) and then cook the rice in the liquid so the cooking process itself would color the rice.

    Hmm…I might have to try this! Please let me know if you experiment and discover something wonderful, I’ll post your findings!

    Thanks for the comment!

  19. […] and “B”?  The children decorated their jars with dried beans and barley (and some of our colored rice, not “B,” but pretty!).  The Unplugged Project is as flexible as you need it to […]

  20. I love this idea! I am going to use this & make a texture / sensory box for my toddler as well as using it for him to pour.
    Thank you! :)

  21. nicole says:

    I read this post when it was published but never made the colored rice as I thought “why?! I don’t want my kids spilling colored rice all over my house” *lol* Well, easter is near and I got out all the colored easter eggs my son and I have made over the last 4-5 years and some are on sticks so you can put them in potted plants. Well, I have managed to kill all my potted plants so I decided a glass with colored rice would be ideal to stick those eggs into. My daughter and I made four colors (red blue green yellow) and it’s drying in the oven right now. I just used plain liquid food coloring because that’s what I had. No vinegar or alcohol or anything and it turned out really nice!
    Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  22. Mom Unplugged says:

    You are welcome! I am glad it turned out well for you and thank you SO much for your comment!

    PS. I understand totally about killing potted plants. There is not one in my house! LOL!

  23. we finally did this! its winter holidays in Australia. Perfect. warm rice! lol. we didnt use vinegar or rubbing alocohol either, turned out fine.

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