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Playing with Rice and Noodles

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Colored rice = oodles of fun!

I stumbled upon a post on Childhood101 about using food coloring to dye rice.  The focus there was using it to mix into homemade playdough (a great idea!), but I decided it would be fun to dye it for “J” to scoop, dump, and pour without mixing into playdough.

It’s ridiculously easy and turns out so pretty that I’m considering dyeing some and putting it in the bottom of vases with dried flower arrangements or perhaps doing sand-painting-type things with it.

Materials:

Uncooked rice (cheapest version you can get)

Food coloring

Mixing bowl and spoon

Cook sheet or waxed paper

Instructions:

  1. Put several scoops of uncooked rice into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add some drops of food coloring and stir until the rice is coated and the color is the density you desire.

    If you want to create colors other than red, yellow, green, or blue, it’s best to mix the food coloring before adding it to the rice (i.e. mix yellow and red first to make orange and then add to the rice).  However, it can also be fun to add the drops directly into the rice for a slight tint and some texture.  That’s how to made the purple and green rice in the picture above — although it’s hard to see in the picture, some grains of the purple rice were blue and others red, and some grains of the green rice were green while others were yellow.

  3. Dump colored rice onto a cookie sheet or waxed paper and let sit for about 1-2 hours so that the color dries and sets.
  4. Repeat this process as many times as you wish to make batches of different colors!

Activities:

There are a million different ways to play with colorful rice, and your little one will probably need very little guidance.

My recommendations are to make sure you have a specific area cordoned off so that the rice doesn’t end up all over the house and to be prepared to do a lot of sweeping after the play is finished.  Oh, and also make sure your pets are not allowed into the space.  Our dog managed to eat his fair share of uncooked colored rice pieces before I got him safely in the backyard!

Take out a few containers, scooping devices, and anything else you think would be fun.  If you have a water table or water table toys (i.e. the spinning mills), those would be fun to try with the rice.  Funnels are also great, particularly for older kids.  J (who is 19 months) didn’t seem to quite understand the purpose of the funnel.

Then, let the kids go at it!  You will probably be inclined to join in because it’s just that much fun!  Oh, and the good news is that because the rice is not white or translucent, you can better identify where it is better when you are cleaning up!

Here are some pictures of the ways we used the rice:

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Using an old cream cheese container and a plastic scooper that originally came with a jar of protein powder (we also got out the toy boats just for fun)

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A taller plastic container and a large wide-necked glass container. J liked the containers that had lids so that he could put the rice inside and then shake it around. He also liked the ones that were clear so that he could see inside. I don’t highly recommend using a glass container like we did, but if it’s sturdy enough, it’s unlikely to be broken.

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Using an old carry-out containers that had different compartments, J had a ton of fun sorting and mixing. We also added some uncooked pasta and kernels of uncooked popcorn to the mix, which he enjoyed. I recommend against the popcorn kernels because they are a terrible choking hazard. I had read a blog post earlier in which a mom let her toddler play with them and just watched him closely, so I thought I’d give it a try. I warned J ahead of time that he couldn’t put them in his mouth, so he repeatedly looked up at me during our play and said, “Mouth,” I guess to be sure I understood that he understood (or just to check with me to see if the rules had changed?). He did a great job of not putting any of it into his mouth, but when we were playing with it a few days later, he started putting it in his mouth, and I was really worried he was going to choke on it. I’m not going to give him popcorn kernels again — but I highly recommend the pasta and rice!

One of the greatest things about this activity is that you are likely to have some rice and/or pasta in your cupboards already, and after you dye it, you can keep it and reuse it again and again, as long as it hasn’t gotten wet and hasn’t gotten too mixed in with dirt from the floor (no matter how much I clean, our floor is always covered in some dog hair).

I’d like to try cooking the dyed rice in the future, just to see what it looks like when it puffs up and whether it maintains the pretty color of the uncooked rice.  Might be a fun experiment for Halloween or a birthday party!