A child's hands holding a pile of rainbow rice.


Scented Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin

Mar 10, 2017

I love creating rainbow-themed crafts or sensory bins for my daycare kids any time, but it's practically expected of me around St. Patrick's Day every year.

I wanted to something different this year—we've previously done an edible rainbow sensory bin, rainbow cloud dough, and a rainbow barley bin—so the expectations were high.

This scented rainbow rice was such a hit—I wrapped it in a giant piece of felt that I already had on hand to make a dramatic reveal and it was such a surprise! The scent was not overwhelming at all, but if a child brought a scoop of the rice up to their nose they were delighted at the tutti-fruity theme we had going.

A bottle of red-coloured rose water, used to make pink rice.

I went with mostly fruit scents for this bin but the other scents I chose complemented the fruit theme nicely. You can just use what you have on hand already or alternate between two scents—whatever works best for you:

  • Red: rose water
  • Orange: orange flavor extract
  • Yellow: banana flavor extract
  • Green: mint flavor extract
  • Blue: coconut flavor extract
  • Purple: almond flavor extract

You'll Also Love: 3 Easy Sensory Bins for Open-Ended Play

A hand playing with rainbow rice.

How to Make Scented Rainbow Rice

First, gather your materials:

  • 18 cups of rice (approximately 9 lbs)
  • food dye (all rainbow colours or just primary colours)
  • 6 teaspoons of flavor extract OR water
  • 6 baking sheets
  • large rolling storage bin
  • black sparkly felt roll
  • binder clips or clamps
  • various items to play with rice—funnels, scoops, strainers, etc.

Just a quick note, I always make my recipe with 3 cups of rice per colour because 3 cups of rice fits and dries nicely on my (regular sized) baking sheets. You could definitely make this recipe with only 1 cup of rice per colour if you have a smaller sensory bin to fill.

You can make each colour of rice with a different scented extract or just use the same scent for each colour—I loved using all different scents and letting my daughter guess which scent each colour was and it resulted in one giant delicious-smelling sensory bin (but was not at all overpowering).

To make your rainbow scented rice, start by placing 3 cups of rice in a large metal or glass bowl. Add 15–20 drops of food colouring to a Tablespoon and then fill it halfway with your flavor extract. Swirl them together a bit (or us a toothpick to mix) and then pour over the rice. Stir the colour in well, adding more as needed to achieve your desired colour.

Once you achieve the colour saturation that you like, pour the rice out of the bowl and onto a baking tray. Smooth it down to a flat, even layer and let dry for at least 2 hours.

A baking sheet with pink rice, drying.

For the way I presented my bin, I lay the felt in the bin first and draped it over the edges. I then poured the rice into stripes by laying the the baking pan in the sensory bin and tilting it out. I then folded over the black felt to completely cover the rice.

The kids were so excited to discover the beautiful rainbow rice underneath the felt! I did this once with my daughter and once with my daycare kids and both reactions were the same.

A happy little girl next to the bin of rainbow rice.

Eventually we added a few kitchen tools to scoop, stir and play with the rice. You can add alphabet magnets, character figurines or whatever you think will enhance this bin for your child.

After your kids are done playing with the sensory bin, just place the lid on it and slide it under the couch or somewhere out of the way. Bring it out on rainy Spring days or when you need a few minutes for a phone call. The rice can be stored in a bin or zip-top bags for months.

I hope your kids love this scented rainbow rice bin as much as mine did!

Article Author Jennifer Tammy
Jennifer Tammy

Read more from Jennifer here.

Jennifer Tammy is a work-at-home single mom to a five-year-old girl. Half of the week she runs a Montessori preschool program, and the other half she is a freelance recipe developer and food photographer. On her site, Sugar, Spice & Glitter, you will find inspiration to create delicious food, fun crafts and special memories with your family — no matter your circumstances.

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