Rainbow Rice Construction Site – Busy Toddler

Two children sit on the floor behind a rainbow rice sensory bin. The children are playing with small construction trucks.


Looking for a fun way to use rainbow rice with kids? Try making this rainbow rice construction site – it’s a fantastic sensory bin for toddlers and preschoolers. This quick and easy activity is as beautiful as it is engaging.

Two children sit on the floor behind a rainbow rice sensory bin. The children are playing with small construction trucks.

What is a rainbow rice construction site?

Rainbow rice is my favorite sensory base.

I apologize to oatmeal, plain rice, beans, and shredded paper for the hurt that this post may cause them. I have no choice but to be honest: I Stan rainbow rice.

Why? I’m so glad you asked. I’d love to wax poetic for a few stanzas.

Rainbow rice is exciting and gorgeous.

It’s as visually appealing as it is tactile-y appealing (tactile-y is definitely not a word, but we move on).

And the best part: it’s really easy to make rainbow rice and it stores for years of play. I don’t know many other “toys” that cost under $10 but last 5+ years of play.

RELATED: New to sensory bins and wondering why to even bother? Check out this post (it’ll help with why sensory bins are important and how to keep them tidy).

Two children sit on the floor behind a rainbow rice sensory bin. The children are playing with small construction trucks.

How to make rainbow rice?

For as beautiful and Pinterest worthy as it is, rainbow rice is actually very easy to make (and kids love to help with this part so it’s a win-win).

Basic recipe/ratio for each color of rice (I do 5 colors):

  • 2 cups white rice
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • Generous squirts of food dye

This ratio (1:1 rice to vinegar) is the one you want to hold on tight to. Stick with that and adjust based on amount of rice and colors.

Why vinegar? The vinegar helps spread the dye and set it to the rice. Yes, there will be a slight vinegar smell the first day or so of play but this disappears quickly. I promise.

Put the rice, vinegar, and lots of squirts of food dye into a baggie or plastic container and shake, shake, shake. Pour each color onto a cookie sheet to dry and repeat again.

RELATED: If you’d like a longer and fuller how to dye rice tutorial (with photos), check out my blog post.

A rainbow rice sensory bin with 5 small construction trucks laying inside of it.


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For the rainbow rice:

  • 5 lbs bag of white rice: brown works but isn’t as vibrant
  • Food coloring: I used this pack of neon colors
  • White vinegar: this is going to preserve the rice

You’ll also need a few non-consumable supplies:

  • Resealable zipper bags or a container with a lid
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper: technically optional but makes clean up a breeze

For the construction part:

I know that this looks like a daunting list but remember, this is a double activity: rainbow rice and a construction site sensory bin.

RELATED: Don’t love the smell of vinegar? Try this alternative way to dye rainbow rice.

Two children sit on the floor behind a rainbow rice sensory bin. The children are playing with small construction trucks.

How to make a rainbow rice construction site

For this sensory bin, I used my trusty 28 quart sensory bin from Target. It’s my ride or die and perfect for sensory play.

I set the five construction vehicles in the bin along with two jars so my little sensory workers (ages 6 and 4) could have space to play and options.

One of the biggest misconceptions about sensory bins (other than that they have to be messy and kids can’t keep them tidy) is that fancy is better.

Fancy is not better.

Simple. Simple. Simple. Kids don’t want a crowded bin. There’s no room to play.

A child sits at the back corner of a rainbow rice sensory bin adding rice to jars. Construction trucks are present.

Remember to store rice at the end

Do not forget: Rainbow rice is NOT a one-and-done product.

This rainbow rice you just made can last years. Like 5 years. Maybe more.

Store it in a plastic resealable bag or in an air tight container. The goal is to keep air out. Use whatever method is best for your climate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does rainbow rice stain?

Nope! Once it is dry, the color stays on the rice for-ev-er. It’s not coming off. But you have to make sure it’s dry before you play with it.

What age is this activity for?

All age groups. Once a child is safe to use a sensory bin with rice, they can try this activity. It’s more a matter of do they enjoy construction toys? If not, try another rainbow rice sensory bin.

How do you keep bugs out?

Store it in an airtight container, like you would any food item. And store it safely for the area you live in. Different climates will have different storage needs.

Susie Allison, M. Ed

Owner, Creator

Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 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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