Making colorful and scented rice for preschool

When I get started on something – I just keep going until I have exhausted all the ideas I can come up with or until all my dishes are dirty or until I run out of supplies – which ever comes first.

This week, I worked on making colored rice to use for a variety of projects and sensory activities. I don’t yet have a plan as to when I will use the rice, but I know I want to use it at some point.

I started off making the rice using this recipe from Praying for Parker. I added about a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and about about 30 drops of food color to a quart size baggie then mixed added about 2 cups of rice and mixed it all together…

I wanted brilliant colors – so I added lots of food color. I liked using the alcohol and food color combination because it helped the rice to dry almost instantly. The key to making this is to not overdo the amount of liquid you mix the rice with and to let it dry completely before putting it away in an airtight container…

The one thing I didn’t like about using the rubbing alcohol was that it left the rice with a slight alcohol odor. So I got to thinking that maybe I could try dying the rice with a little bit of Koolaid instead. I mixed one packet of Koolaid with a tiny bit of very hot water so the Koolaid would dissolve completely.

Then I poured the dissolved Koolaid powder over the 2 cups of rice I had in the bag….

Then I sealed the baggie closed and mixed the Koolaid liquid through the rice…

Then I set it out on a piece of wax paper to dry overnight.  Since I used a water based liquid, I wanted to give the rice extra drying time before putting it away…

I tried out several colors of Koolaid packets I had in the house and discovered the red, orange, blue, and purple colors had the brightest finish and the strongest smell ….

Make sure the Koolaid is dissolved completely before trying to mix it with the rice. I used the end of a spoon to stir the Koolaid in the water just to be certain…

I even tried making some chocolate rice by using cocoa – it turned out okay but was a little harder to get it to mix correctly because the cocoa and water stayed thick…

But in the end – the cocoa rice worked out too. Not my favorite but it is a keeper!

Overall, the Koolaid rice turned out maybe a tad lighter than the food color/alcohol rice but not so much that it mattered. In one bag, I added a little food color to the koolaid because I thought it was too light. The smell of the Koolaid rice adds a new sensory experience that can be really fun!

Now that I have my collection all ready to go, I need to decide what I want to do with it. The gang on Teach Preschool on Facebook gave me lots of ideas! Oh, and I stored all my rice in plastic jars I bought from the Dollar Store!

If anyone wants to read more comments about using or making colored rice – click here… to view the comments left on Facebook!

I am linking this post to A Mommy’s Adventures stArt!

By |2011-01-16T13:54:38+00:00January 16th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. ayn colsh January 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    I must try the Kool-Aid! I use a lot of colored rice and usually use the alcohol, but I love the idea of the scented rice!

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Hi Ayn,
      I thought it would be a new twist on an old idea that I had never tried before. So we will see if the smell stays good when I take it to school:)

  2. Pam January 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    wow! great idea! (I’m so glad YOU’RE experimenting with these possibilities- my husband would just laugh if I was adding kool-aid to rice…but now I can tell him it IS possible and will work out just fine!)

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      My husband is tired of seeing rice all over our kitchen!!

  3. Centers and Circle Time January 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    It’s so bright and pretty! I can’t wait to hear what wonderful things the kids will say and do with it.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      I think I will just sit and stare at all the pretty bottles for a while – then come up with something for the kids to use the rice for:)

  4. Amy A January 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Deborah- a little vinegar with the Kool-Aid will work too. And, for the colors that are not as scenty or vibrant use 2 packages instead of one and/or add a little bit of Wilton Food Coloring. I always use the paste for more vibrant colors! My husband thinks we should buy stock in Kool-Aid considering how much of it we use, and my eight year old son asked me the other day if maybe we could try and drink the Kool-Aid sometime. He doesn’t ever remember drinking it!

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 16, 2011 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      Hahahaha! We never drink the Koolaid here either. I really only keep it for art projects I am working on. Thanks for all the tips Amy – when I get another surge of energy to work on this, I will look back here and try out your ideas!

  5. Deb Chitwood @ Living Montessori Now January 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    I love your addition of scent to colored rice – what a great idea for sensory tubs and other sensory activities! Thanks for sharing your experiences with perfecting the recipe! I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      You featured me on your FB page? That was so kind of you Deb 🙂

  6. Sarah January 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    The alcohol and food color also works to dye pasta, FYI. I used it to make orange and black macaroni for the Halloween sensory table. I can only seem to find black food coloring around Halloween…I was trying to dye that wagon wheel shaped pasta white to use for snowflakes using watered down white paint but I never could get it to work…

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      Hi Sarah,
      I want to try pasta too very soon:) I will have to go out and get more supplies!! I wonder if white shoe polish would work on the pasta to make it white..

  7. Stacey January 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    It’s been a while since I dyed rice. I normally do it the old fashioned way with the alcohol and lots of food coloring. I will be using kool-aid this time though. Thanks for the idea! Where did you get your containers? I love them too.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 17, 2011 at 12:45 am - Reply

      Hi Stacey,
      I got the containers from the Dollar store:) Or here it is called “Deals!”

  8. Selmada January 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    What a great idea. And perfect timing.
    I’ve been playing with the idea of dying some rice, putting it and some small toys (choking hazzard size) into a container and gluing the top on. Then letting the boys play with the containers, rolling, shaking and turning to see what they can find in the rice.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      I have been thinking of using the rice to make some “I-Spy” bottles too:)

  9. Kerri January 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Love that you added the scent to the rice. I will definitely try it! Kerri

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      Great Kerri:)

  10. Holly Berens January 21, 2011 at 11:22 am - Reply

    My mom made a large container of dyed rice with food coloring. The only draw back is my son’s hands are really dirty afterwards because the coloring rubs off. Has anyone noticed if the Kool-aid rubs off on the kids hands?

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Holly,
      I haven’t tried the Koolaid version with the kids yet so I am not sure if that will rub off. I haven’t had the rice with alcohol dye come off on hands though. I wonder if it has to do with how much color you add? I am not really sure!

  11. Elizabeth January 29, 2011 at 9:38 am - Reply

    This is so cool! I cannot wait until I make it and my preschoolers get their hands on this!

  12. Heather March 16, 2011 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I absolutely LOVE this!!

    In fact so much I have just run into my kitchen and made a load of different colour batches..hoping it will be dry for the morning!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 16, 2011 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      They dry super fast Heather – you should have no problem at all!

  13. Rachel March 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Try using oil instead of alcohol for the cocoa 😉

    I always died my rice with just a small bit of oil and food coloring….works great 😉

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rachel – I will try that:)

  14. Kara February 18, 2017 at 11:31 am - Reply

    you could try mixing a drop of black food coloring and a drop of red with the “chocolate” rice for a richer color

  15. Jeanna October 1, 2017 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    This worked great! My 15 year loved the smell of the house and wanted to play with it as soon as she saw what I was doing. Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait for my 15 year old and Young 5 students to get their hands in it.

    • Deborah Stewart October 2, 2017 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      I love to make stuff like this Jeanna!

  16. […] can require a lot of materials. Some adults also fill sensory bins with specialty fillers (like DIY colored rice or homemade cloud dough), so it can appear that sensory bins require a lot of preparation time. And […]

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