Preschool Art | Make Colored Rice

After seeing so much lovely colored rice all over my Pinterest feed for ages, it was high time that we created our own colorful rice. And you, too, can make your own colored rice for an afternoon of sensory play or for filling clear jars with layers of rainbow rice like you see here.

Preschool Art: How to make Colored Rice

Why Colored Rice is Worth Making

  • It’s a natural play material
  • Kids love the sensory experience of sifting it through their hands
  • It’s economical
  • The supplies probably already live in your pantry
  • Kids can help make it
  • It can last a looooong time

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

Supplies for Colored Rice

  • White or Brown Rice
  • Vinegar
  • Food Coloring
  • Zip-up plastic bags or bowls and spoon for mixing the colors

TinkerLab tips

Can we use brown rice?

We used brown rice for this activity, and the colors are still vibrant.

What’s the rice : vinegar ratio? 

For each color that we made, we used 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. That’s the ratio that you’ll want to work with (or experiment — we encourage that too!).

But rice is Food!! 

If you’re concerned about wasting food, check your pantry for old rice. That’s what we did, and low-and-behold, we had a bag that expired last year. Eeep. I wish we hadn’t missed the expiration date, but at least we could put that rice to good use!

Will my kids actually enjoy this?

Yes, I bet they will! I try to get my own kids involved in all the steps of our projects, and they enjoyed everything from this ro-sham-bo face-off to decide who would make which color of rice to finally playing with their colorful creation.

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

If you’d like to make this recipe, simply click ‘Print” and you can save this in your recipe file.

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Preschool Art | Make Colored Rice
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Make your own colored rice for sensory play or art-making. This recipe makes one cup of colorful rice. Add more rice for more colors.
  • 1 cup White or Brown Rice
  • 1 teaspoon Vinegar
  • ⅛ + teaspoon Food Coloring
  • Zip-up plastic bags or bowls and spoon for mixing the colors
  1. Fill a zip-up bag with 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
  2. Scoop or pour about ⅛ teaspoon food coloring into the bag.
  3. Zip the bag shut
  4. Squeeze the bag and mix the rice all around until the food coloring is well distributed
  5. Add more food coloring to reach the desired color.
  6. Pour the colored rice onto a cookie sheet. Spread it out to expedite drying time. To absorb the moisture and help the rice dry more quickly, line the tray with a paper towel or towel.
  7. The rice take between 2 hours and a full day to dry, depending on your climate and humidity.

How to Make Colored Rice

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

  • Fill each zip-up bag with 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
  • Scoop or pour about 1/8 teaspoon food coloring into the bag.
  • Zip the bag shut

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

  • Squeeze the bag and mix the rice all around until the food coloring is well distributed
  • Pour the colored rice onto a cookie sheet. To absorb the moisture and help the rice dry more quickly, line the tray with a paper towel or towel.

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

We ran out of cookie sheets, so we divided one in half by pulling a paper towel wall up between two colors. Our rice dried in about 5 hours. The rice will dry take up to 24 hours to dry, depending on your climate and humidity.

More Colored Rice

Check back tomorrow and we’ll share a Creative Table set-up using colored rice!

This recipe was inspired by Rainbow Rice via Happy Hooligans

Make a Fall-themed rice sensory bin, via Kids Activities Blog

Side-by-side comparison of dying rice with food coloring and liquid watercolors, via Fun at Home with Kids




12 Doll House Games and Ideas

12 easy dollhouse games with kidsDid you grow up with a dollhouse?

I grew up with a beautiful hand made dollhouse, built by my cousin’s father about twenty years before I was born. It was a family treasure that got passed around from cousin to cousin. I always imagined that my own children would play with this imagination-building house, but it was time to send it back to its original owner.

So when I found this handmade house in a second hand shop that looked so much like the doll house I grew up with, and knew it could become a family heirloom. I mean really, look at those cute shingles! It needed some work (painting, wallpaper, cleaning) , but it’s also sturdy and hand-made, and I couldn’t pass it up.

I found some fancy Plan Toys wooden dollhouse furniture on Ebay, picked up little wooden peg people, made a few dolls myself, and my mom shipped me a big box of my old dollhouse furniture that reeked of 1981.

When my kids visit their grandparents, they play with some fantastic wooden Melissa and Doug dollhouses that are every bit as wonderful as this house, and I especially love that they fold away when my kids are done playing: Melissa & Doug Fold and Go Princess CastleMelissa & Doug Fold and Go Wooden Castle (the Princess Castle, in grey), Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Woodland Treehouse.

doll house games

How to Play with your Doll House

doll house games

Okay, so you have a dollhouse (or you’re about to after you check out the links below). Now what? Kids are natural inventors with rich imaginations. If you do a good job setting the stage for them, they’ll most likely know what to do. In the event that you need a little extra help, here are a few pointers and dollhouse game ideas:

  • Get some furniture and dolls. Keep your eyes open for miniature things in unexpected places: Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon, Museum Shops, Tourist Stops. I found our canoe at a sailing shop by San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • Play games based on real things that happen in your home: cleaning day, birthday party, getting ready for school, packing for a trip, eating breakfast. Children love to recreate their experiences, as it solidifies their learning and understanding of the world around them. To do this, each of you can take a character (or two) and role play with the dolls.
  • Make up something fantastic and highly imaginative. For example: Fairy’s first visit to Unicorn Palace, the house becomes a zoo for animals or parking garage for cars.
  • Move it around. Our dollhouse has a spot on the floor, and it’s rarely used. I moved it to a low table and my kids acted like it was a new toy. This advice could go for any unloved toy. Move it to a new room or spot and see if it gets new attention.
  • Add something new. I added tape lines to the table to suggest roads and parking spaces, which gave my kids something extra to consider and puzzle over. Other ideas: Roll butcher paper underneath/around it and draw streets, gardens, etc. Find a new character (our doll house gets more use with Strawberry Shortcake Dolls), add a new piece of furniture, make a tunnel or slide out of a paper towel tube, add holiday lights, cut old t-shirts to make sheets or rugs.
  • Decorate. Give your kids paper and markers and invite them to make miniature art for the walls. Decorate the house for the holidays. Paint wooden furniture or wooden dolls.
  • Give it time. My older child was never into small-world play and didn’t take to the doll house until her younger sister took an interest. It may not be for your child, or they may not be ready for it yet. I put ours in the garage until a few months ago, and now it’s getting tons of use.

doll house games

More Doll House Play Ideas

Do you want to make your own dolls like the little man in the boat up there? I’ll teach you how to do it with simple materials here: Felt Dollhouse Dolls.

Do you have a shelf? Let the Children Play offers this clever alternative to the traditional dollhouse 

Do you like to spend time outdoors? Make a fairy garden.

Maybe you just have cardboard? How to Make a Cardboard Doll’s House from Red Ted Art. She also has tutorials for making a baby doll and a dollhouse bed.

Cardboard Shoe Box Doll House with Egg Carton Furniture, from Pink and Green Mama.

Check out the life-sized dollhouse by installation artist Heather Benning. It blows me away.

Note: Some of the links in this post connect to affiliates that I think you’ll find valuable. If you purchase anything from these vendors, you’re helping me keep the Tinkerlab engine go. Thanks for your support!

Gluten-free Cloud Dough

 How to Make Gluten-Free Cloud Dough

Gluten-free Cloud Dough

After I posted our Cloud Dough recipe last week, Amy from Kids in the Studio wanted to know if it could be adapted into a gluten-free cloud dough recipe. What a good question!

This isn’t the first question I’ve received about gluten-free recipes since starting this blog, and I realized that I should be more thoughtful about sharing information that can help parents and caregivers provide rich learning experiences for their children. The original recipe is simply a combination of 8:1 flour  to oil, so in the spirit of experimentation, I thought we’d replace flour with rice flour and see what would happen.

Gluten-free Cloud Dough Recipe

  • 8 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • A few drops of Lavender oil (optional)
Mix the rice flour and oil together in a big bowl until the oil integrates into the flour. Add a few drops of lavender oil (or other favorite scent) to give your dough a yummy scent. Place the dough in a big high-walled tray or bin. Children can play with the dough with just their hands, or add scoopers, mixers, and small pots.

If you haven’t bought rice flour before, it’s not inexpensive, and I can see why Amy asked the question! I mixed 2 cups of organic rice flour with 1/4 cup vegetable oil until the oil integrated into the flour, and then shook a few drops of lavender oil into the dough to give it a soothing smell. So far, the main difference I could see is that the rice flour made for a slightly grittier dough, but otherwise it was lovely. The real test would be my kids. I put it in front of my 14 month old, and you can see that she was in sensory heaven. My 3 year old wanted to join in, enjoyed it, and never commented on a weird texture of the dough. As far as I could tell, she didn’t know the difference.

If you make this gluten-free cloud dough, I’d love to hear from you. And if you have a favorite gluten-free recipe to share, please add a link or recipe in the comments.

Experiment with Gluten-Free Cloud Dough

  • If you don’t have access to rice flour or if you feel like experimenting, try the same ratio of flour to oil with garbanzo flour, gluten-free baking flour, corn flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot starch.
  • Change the ratio of flour to oil and see what happens, as the suggested flours and starches (above) will combine differently with the oil.

More Play Doughs

If gluten-free dough doesn’t concern you, here are more dough recipes to try:

This recipe for the BEST play dough.

Non-gluten-free cloud dough.

Glow-in-the-dark play dough

Water Scooping for Babies

Sensory Play: Water Scooping for Babies

While my older daughter tore up the grass with the Slip ‘n Slide, I set my 10 month old up with a bucket of water and some measuring cups. And she got right to work, filling and emptying the cups. It was interesting to watch her attempt to fill the cups when they were upside down, and then exciting when she figured the “problem” out and corrected for it.

And then, presumably, she was proud of one of her many accomplishments.

The provocation is simple — Set your project up outside (since most babies thrive when there are airplanes to track and birds to listen for) and provide your baby with a low bucket of water. Tools are optional. And then see what discoveries come about.

Any other ideas for playing in water with babies?


Jell-o Excavation | Jello Sensory Play for Kids

Try jello sensory play for a fun and engaging sensory experience for toddlers and preschoolers.

Jello Sensory Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers

The basic ingredients are shared below, and yes, this experience can be set up with gelatin-free products! Details below.

Supplies: Jello Sensory Play

affiliate links>>

Knox Gelatine (there are four bags in one box).

If you’d rather use vegan (gelatins-free Jello), try this product from Jeannie Prebiotics

Large Plastic Tub. This under-the-bed container is great.

Tools to excavate with: spoon, butter knife

Pipettes for squeezing colored water

Liquid Watercolors. This set from Sargent is fantastic for this project.

How I made the Jell-o Mold

Check your Jell-o package for best directions.

I poured a cup of cold water directly into the mold, sprinkled all four bags over the water and let it rest for one minute. Next, I added three cups of hot water and stirred it up. Then the animals were added. I placed it in the fridge to set, which takes three hours. To free it from the mold, I ran hot water over the back of the bundt pan for half a minute and the whole thing slid out. You could also spray the mold with cooking spray.

Set up your Jello Sensory Play Area

Begin my setting up little plastic toys in a bundt pan full of liquid Jello, and then refrigerated it overnight or until set. Be sure to follow the instructions on the box.

Release the jello mold into a large container. Provide excavating tools, liquid watercolors, and pipettes.

Make it an Invitation to Explore

Set the supplies up as an invitation and ask:

“What could we do with these materials?”

“How does it feel when you touch it?”

“How can we get the toys out?”


Once the allure of the jello has gone its course, introduce bottles of liquid watercolors and a bowl of water.


At this point, you could scoop and mix the slimy concoction. Follow the child’s lead and see what interests them.

Despite my art school background, I had no idea that lime green and magenta watercolors would mix together to make blood red (!!), and I’ll spare you from some of the more gory-looking snaps. After I guffawed at the mess, my daughter asked me what “gross” means. This was clearly a rich vocabulary lesson as well.