Rice play is a great sensory activity. While you can use white rice, kids really love colored rice, so i think it’s worth taking time to color it.
Here’s how I colored it. I took a few large ziplog bags, filled them with rice, added a couple of drops of food coloring, and 1 table spoon of vinegar. Then I zipped the bag and squished until the color was dispersed equally. You can add more coloring if rice is too pale, or more vinegar if it’s hard to spread the coloring. The general rule of thumb is to use 1 table spoon of vinegar for 1 cup of rice. At this point you can also add essential oil to make rice smell beautifully, for example, add some lavender or tangerine essential oil. Then I spread the rice on trays lined with aluminum foil and put them in the oven for 15 minutes at 200 degrees. This helps it dry faster but I still left it out to dry fully overnight.
If you’re afraid the child might put some rice in the mouth while playing, one option is to use organic food coloring. Even though eating raw rice is definitely not recommended, rice is still digestible in case a tiny bit is swallowed. Using organic food coloring is definitely better in that case since it’s made from vegetables. I do have both food colorings at home. I use the organic one for activities where stuff can get in Scarlett’s mouth – for example, I color water blue to do ocean theme water station since Scarlett likes to drink that water with a cup, and I use it for actual food, like cupcake frosting. I use the non organic one for things like colored rice (Scarlett doesn’t try to eat it), for adding color to sensory bottle, etc.
Here are some rice activities that we do: