Rainbow Rice Play Ideas – Over 15 Fun Sensory Activities – AD

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If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m partial to some messy play! Messy play is a great sensory experience for babies, toddlers and children, so not only is it fun, but it’s developmentally beneficial for them, too! One of my favourite bases to use for messy play is rainbow rice! Rainbow rice is simply dried, uncooked rice that has been dyed different colours. It’s so versatile, non toxic, and if looked after it can be enjoyed and played with for years. Not sure what to do with your rainbow rice? Here’s some of my favourite rainbow rice play ideas!


The easiest rainbow rice play idea: scooping and pouring

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this one – after all, rainbow rice is meant to be a sensory activity! Chuck the rainbow rice into a bowl, tub or tuff tray and provide various spoons, scoops and cups to play with. Let your child have fun scooping and pouring – whenever I set this up for Arthur, currently 17 months, he’ll sit and play for at least 20 minutes – just the perfect amount of time for me to drink a hot cuppa! Another way to extend this play is by adding materials and equipment that you wouldn’t normally – I love to use glass ramekins and glass jars as pictured for my son to scoop and pour from – closely monitored, of course! This allows him to be exposed to objects he wouldn’t normally be exposed to, and lets him explore these new textures and materials in a safe way.


Sensory bottles

Collect empty bottles and containers from around the house, or buy some empty plastic art bottles, and ask your child to fill these to different volumes. Put the lids back on the containers and explore the different sounds they make when shaken! You could add different materials into the bottles to see how this affects the sound – why not try adding pom poms?


Colour mixing

Present the rainbow rice in bowls of individual colours, and ask your child to mix them all up as much as possible!


A rainbow rice play idea - a wooden board puzzle filled with rainbow rice A rainbow rice play idea - wooden puzzle pieces hidden in a bowl of rainbow rice


Puzzle hunt

Hide the pieces to your child’s favourite puzzle inside the rainbow rice so that in order for them to finish their puzzle, they first have to find all the pieces! Why not decorate your own puzzle first, and hide that in the rice?


Puzzle fill

Remove the pieces from a wooden board puzzle and place in a basket. Use rainbow rice to fill the holes of the puzzle board. In order for the child to be able to complete the puzzle, they will first have to sweep and move away the rainbow rice – this one is great for problem solving! Alternatively, present the puzzle board empty and blank and ask your child to fill the holes with rainbow rice themselves using a small teaspoon – this one is great for fine motor skills.


Picture sweep and find

Sellotape some pictures, flashcards or magnets to the bottom of a glass or transparent tray. Cover the tray with a thin scattering of rainbow rice. Give your child a jumbo paintbrush, and ask your child to sweep away the rainbow rice and see what they can find underneath! For older children, you could provide them with a list to tick off, a bit like a treasure hunt.


Letter hunt

If your child is learning letters, hide letter magnets, foam letters, wooden letters, or pieces of paper in the rainbow rice. Ask them to find the letters for a certain word, such as their name!



Present the rainbow rice with a cupcake tray and silicone cupcake moulds. Ask your child to put a cupcake mould in an empty cupcake tray, then pour in some rainbow rice to make ‘cupcakes’. Don’t be tempted to eat them though – rainbow rice is for playing with, not eating! Extend the play with other cupcake themed activities.


A rainbow rice play idea - writing practice in a tray of thinly scattered rainbow rice A close up shot of the colourful rice


The best rainbow rice play idea for an older child: writing practice!

If your child is learning shapes, numbers or letters, you could ask your child to write or draw using their finger in a thin scattering of rainbow rice. This is a great way to make writing practice more fun! For younger children, why not draw a wavy line or zig zag line on a piece of paper, and ask them to copy?


Flower arranging

Present the rainbow rice with an empty vase and fake flowers. Ask your child to fill the vase up and arrange the flowers neatly into a centrepiece. Voila!


Themed Rainbow Rice Play Ideas

One of my favourite messy and sensory play set ups to do with Arthur from about one years old are themed set ups! It is an easy way to spark new interest in old toys, just by setting them up in an inviting way. Themed sensory play can easily be extended to by the use of figurines, flashcards, or print out colouring sheets! Here are some of our favourite themed rainbow rice play ideas…

Farm – use green rainbow rice for grass, brown rainbow rice for mud and blue rainbow rice for water. Add in some farm animal figurines. To extend the play, you could also add flashcards of the animals and ask your child to match the figurines to the flashcards.

Under the sea/ocean – use blue rainbow rice and scatter in some sea creature figurines. Why not go to the beach and find some special shells to use?

Jungle – use green and brown rainbow rice and use jungle figurines! If you have one of those wooden snakes lying around that children seem to love, this would make a great addition!

Bug hunt – use green and brown rainbow rice and hide bug figurines inside. Use a magnifying glass and ask your child to find, identify and match the figurines to flashcards.

Weather – using blue rainbow rice as a base of the sky, add flashcards or print outs to discuss the weather. You could use cotton wool as clouds, and ask your child to make a sun using yellow rainbow rice!

Space – use black rainbow rice to represent the depths of space. Cut out templates of rocket ships that your child can colour in. Use clean and dry rocks as space debris and comets, and ping pong balls or polystyrene balls as planets.

Tea party – Grab your tea cups and add rainbow rice to the equation! Get all of your child’s favourite teddies or dolls and invite them to your tea party, too.


Packaged sensory rainbow rice in individual colours packaged sensory rainbow rice


Don’t forget, if you’d like some rainbow rice – I make and sell it! I make the rice to order in 250g, and you can choose between individual colours or a rainbow mix! Visit my Etsy listing to purchase or contact me directly for a reduced price!