Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table

I know this may stir up some drama, but I can’t tell a lie: I put food items in my sensory table.

Ducks and covers.

Some early childhood teachers don’t have a problem with food in the sensory table, while others think that playing with food is disrespectful, irresponsible, even harmful to children’s psyches.

I can understand both sides of the issue, and while I respect people who won’t use food in the sensory table, I’ve decided that in my program the benefits of using edible materials outweigh the drawbacks.

Peeks head out…

To me it’s a matter of safety; no matter how closely I monitor the children or how carefully I clean up and vacuum, there’s still a chance that one of the little ones will find and eat some of whatever was in the table. I’d rather have them eating flaxseed, rice, flour, or even rock salt the kind for making ice cream, not for driveways instead of aquarium gravel, sand, beads, etc. Besides, children are smart and most won’t really think that playing with raw ingredients in a sensory table means it’s OK to play with the food on their plates.


Anyway, that brings me to the real topic for today:
How to Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table.

Doesn’t it look all important and title-like in bold with uppercase letters? Oooh, impressive.

I’ve wanted to make colored rice in the sensory table for a long time, but all the directions I found used watercolor paint, rubbing alcohol, dry tempera paint, or other things I wouldn’t want my littles to ingest. Of course all of my paints are non-toxic, but that doesn’t mean I want the kiddos to eat them!

Then – EUREKA! – I found directions for making colored rice with food coloring and vinegar.

All edible materials, woo hoo! Happy dance time!

I couldn’t wait to try it so I whipped up a batch of rice for our February sensory table. It was super-easy and fun too! I did this trial batch myself, but now that I know how easy it is I’ll invite the kiddos to help from now on.


How to Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table in Pictures

Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - IngredientsTo make edible colored rice you need rice, vinegar, food coloring, a covered container, and cookie sheets.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Mix Vinegar and Food Coloring with RicePour some rice into a container with a cover. Mix food coloring and vinegar, then pour over rice.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Shake Until ColoredCover and shake until rice is evenly colored.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Darker RiceUse more food coloring for darker rice.

It really is darker in real life, cross my heart and hope to die. My camera just doesn’t like to photograph reds. Dumb camera.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Lighter RiceOr less food coloring for lighter rice.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Rice DryingSpread on cookie sheets to dry overnight.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Protect SurfaceYou may want to protect your countertops from the food coloring, since it stains. Oops!


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - PlayingWhen the rice is dry dump it in the sensory table then stand back to watch the fun.


Edible Colored Rice - Still PlayingThis time I put out plastic snack cups and scoops from formula cans, but an endless variety of tools and toys can be used to enhance and support the children’s play. The children LOVE the sensory table and can spend literally a full hour in it. Who says today’s kids have no attention span?


How to Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table
Step by Step Directions

Materials needed:

  • Plain rice
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Container with a lid
  • Cookie sheets or other protected surface for drying the rice



  1. Pour 1 cup of rice into the container.
  2. Mix several drops of food coloring into 1/2 tsp vinegar.
  3. Pour over the rice.
  4. Shake until rice is evenly covered.
  5. Pour out onto cookie sheet or protected surface. Let dry several hours or overnight.
  6. Wipe out container and start again.


My container was fairly large and I don’t have patience to dye 8-10 cups of rice one cup at a time so I did 2 cups of rice at once with 1 tsp vinegar. Next time I’m going to try a bigger container and see how much rice I can do at once before it’s too hard to shake.


What’s your favorite thing to put in the sensory table?
Amy Sue


  1. Can you actually cook and eat it afterwards? Does it taste of vinegar?

    • I have no idea! I made it to play with in the sensory table – I’ve never tried cooking and eating it. I assume the color would wash off while cooking. If you wanted colored rice for eating maybe you could try adding food coloring to the water while it was cooking? I’ve never tried it but now I’m curious. Let me know if you try it!

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