Christmas Sensory Bin – Busy Toddler

A child in a Christmas sweater puts his hand in a white funnel that is sitting in a green and red dyed rice sensory bin.

Christmas sensory bins make for fantastic holiday play. Created with a holiday version of the famous “rainbow rice,” this is the perfect indoor activity. Save these sensory bins supplies for years to come and you’ll always have a quick and easy Christmas activity for kids.

A child in a Christmas sweater puts his hand in a white funnel that is sitting in a green and red dyed rice sensory bin.

How to start building a Christmas sensory bin

First off: Look at that bin. The rice. The colors. Visually: this is a knock out. It looks like one of those Pinterest-perfect Christmas sensory bins.

But guess what?

It’s made with mostly Dollar Store items.

That’s right. This fantastic sensory bin was created on a major budget using Dollar Store supplies.

RELATED: Are you hosting a holiday party with kids? Check out this list of Christmas games for kids to play.

Green and red dyed rice is poured into a mason jar.

Supplies

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  • 6 cups white rice
  • 6 tablespoons white vinegar
  • Lots of squirts of food coloring (I use this brand of dye).

**Food coloring is sometimes available at the Dollar Store but you may have to look for this item at the grocery store. Everything else needed to make rainbow rice is also at the Dollar Store.

A child pours red and green rice into a sensory bin.

Years ago, when I started Busy Toddler, I would see beautiful rainbow rice bins on Pinterest and laugh. “Who has time to dye rice?!”

Then I made rainbow rice and found out:

  1. It takes like 3 minutes.
  2. Kids love HELPING make it (so that’s an activity in and of itself)
  3. It really does make rice more fun

Seriously, it takes less than 5 minutes to make beautifully dyed rainbow rice.

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White vinegar, rice, food coloring, and a plastic container sit on a counter.

How-to dye rice

It’s super easy to make this stuff. I made three colors for our Christmas sensory bin: red, dark green, and lime green (I added yellow to green to make the lime color).

Here’s what I used for each color:

  1. I used 2 cups of rice + 2 Tablespoons of vinegar for each color.
  2. Combine this all in a resealable zipper bag or a container, add a few good squirts of food coloring, and shake shake shake.
  3. Pour the rice onto a cookie sheet (all the colors) and allow it to sit for an hour until it is dry to the touch.
  4. Use the 1:1 ratio for however much rice you decide to make.

It’s such an easy process and so fun for kids to watch. It’s a little magical.

Once it’s dry, dump it into a container (I use this 28 quart storage bin from Target).

RELATED: Need more Christmas activities for kids to play? Here’s a list of easy ideas!

A red and green Christmas sensory bin using dyed rice. It's full of dollar store Christmas supplies.

Christmas sensory bin

I had a ball at the Dollar Store and bought a bunch of little nick knacks and supplies to make this bin. It was a solid $5 investment that I knew I could save for next year.

I made the cutest set up for my son and I was so proud of it.

Update: This post was originally written in 2020. My kids continue to play with this same Christmas sensory bin year after year. We have the same rice and trinkets, and keep pulling it out each year.

A child drops a christmas tree toy into a white funnel that sits on a mason jar. The mason jar is full of red and green rice.

Note – thoughts from my 4-year-old

Two minutes into his first time playing with this sensory bin, my preschooler took everything out.

He took every Dollar Store toy out of it.

I died laughing. He informed me that all he wanted was a Mason jar, a funnel and a scoop. Everything else was cluttering up his play.

Fine by me.

This isn’t my sensory bin. It’s his sensory bin. It’s not my learning and play. It’s his learning and play.

In the future, he has played with all parts of this bin. I just set it all off to the side and let him decide what to put in the bin each time he uses it.

A child scoops red and green dyed rice in a sensory bin.

Ages for a Christmas sensory bin

I may have made this bin for my four-year-old, but his 5 and 7-year-old siblings showed up to play too.

No surprise there.

Sensory bins are ageless. In fact, these kids are now 6, 7, and 9 – and this is still the Christmas sensory bin they play with all December long.

Red dyed rice is scooped into a white funnel on top of a mason jar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the food coloring on the rice transfer to kid hands?

Nope. The dye adheres to the rice and (once dry) doesn’t budge. You can play with this rice for years (the vinegar helps preserve it).

What can I put in my sensory bin for Christmas?

Truly: anything. I went to the Dollar Store for my supplies. You can wander Target and look for things like bells, small winter-themed animals, and other trinkets. We also love to have some sort of scoop and container for kids to make “soups,” “mountains,” and “parks.”

How do I store the sensory bin for later?

When the holidays are over, pack your rice into an air tight container (like a resealable bag) and put the trinkets into another bag. Pack this away with your Christmas decorations – it’ll be the holidays again soon enough.

Susie Allison, M. Ed

Owner, Creator

Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 1.9 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.



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