28 December 2011

Coloured Rice --- soooo fun!

My tiny little pile of leftover grains of rice - this little pile made me giddy!   Look how vibrant they are!  (Except for the yellow and orange!)
At our old church in Williams Lake, there was this sensory play table with white rice and peas in it, and some animals and cups and vehicles... It was ALWAYS, WITHOUT fail, Shan's FAVOURITE place to be when he was in Sunday school.  I've wanted to have a sensory box for ages, but never got around to making it happen.  (Which is a shame, we had such an AWESOME, huge playroom in our townhouse in Williams Lake, now we are so limited space-wise!)   My brother and sister-in-law had bought the boys a Step 2 play table (with roads and train track, etc, that has a cover to make it into a great craft table) for Christmas last year.  I never set it up because we knew we were moving south, and a compact box is far easier to move than an awkward table.  I knew that I wanted to set it up so that we could have a sensory play box sit under the table when not in use, and up on the craft table when it was.  So this past summer, I bought a bag of white rice, a rubbermaid storage tote, and some bulk split peas (green and yellow), pinto beans and navy beans, to create a sensory play box for the boys.  Near the end of summer, one of the crafts the boys brought home from day camp was a picture made with coloured rice (glued, kind of like glitter).  I saw that and decided that before I would create the sensory box for them, I was going to colour the rice.  5 months later, and I finally get it done. :D  (In my defense, I only JUST got the time and space to organise the office where the table and box now live - that was my boxing day... I'll post about that later, because I am SO excited about that room!)

Last night I googled "how to dye rice," and came up with a bunch of results.  They were all similar: food colouring, liquid, and either a bag or a bowl.  I tried two different methods (out of necessity, due to my different food colourings), and I thought I'd share what worked for me and what didn't.

Food colouring
Options I saw were Koolaid (would smell yummy, but you would HAVE to use the mix that does NOT have the sugar in it), normal liquid food colouring (from the supermarket), gel food colouring, water colour paint.  Try and get the gel icing colouring from Michael's or JoAnn, or some other craft store (they usually do NOT sell them in the supermarket - I've tried looking).  I used regular food colouring for yellow and orange (blended yellow and red together), and to say it nicely, the colours just don't pop.  Bluntly?  They're DRAB.  Very light.  So drab that in the mix in the tote, they both look almost like there is no colour to them.  In the gel colouring (I have Wilton brand), I used black, green, blue and red, and the colours are SO VIBRANT!  I did not try Koolaid or water colour paint.  From what I saw online, the Koolaid does not dye very bright (kind of pastel-y), and I guess the water colour or tempera paint would be ok too?

Options I found were rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, and water.  I did not try the vinegar.  The theory with using alcohol would be that it would dry very fast.  One would think.  WRONG.  The 3 that I did with straight alcohol took FOREVER to dry, and I had to spread them out on papertowels to dry.  The one that I did a mix of (not on purpose), dried ok, but the straight water dried SO FAST.  I didn't even have to dump it out.  I just mixed it every 10 minutes, and it prevented it from getting too hard.  My theory about that is that the water didn't need to evaporate, it was just absorbed by the rice.  But it was such a small amount, that it didn't affect the rice.  (1/4 cup to 6 cups rice.)  ***NOTE*** Alcohol does NOT work with gel food colouring.  I found that out the hard way.  For whatever reason, it made the gel solidify into this hard, almost wax crayon/oil pastel like substance. O_o  If you decide to go the alcohol route (which will make you cough, believe me), use NORMAL food colouring.

Method of mixing
I saw it done in a quart canning jar, ziploc bags, and bowls.  I used bowls with a wooden spoon, and it did the trick.  More space than a quart jar (I did huge batches), and less wasteful than baggies.  It was also very gratifying to mix and watch the colours change, rather than just shake the crap out of it.  PLUS, I didn't need to dump it out to dry it, I just kept stirring every 10 minutes (with the water ones).

So, without further ado, here's MY recipe. :D

7 colours of rice, yellow and green split peas, navy and pinto beans = fun fun fun!

How to dye rice

What you need:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp gel food colouring (or more if wanted)
  • large bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • 6 cups white rice
  • a few drops of essential oil (optional)

Pour your water into a small bowl, or even a half cup measure.  Put your gel food colouring in the water, and mix it in well to dilute it.  This is where you are going to decide how dark/vibrant your colour will be.  Continue to add more colour if desired.  Just remember that once you add the rice, with gel colouring you can't really add more, as it wouldn't spread well.  You COULD use normal food colouring to get more colour if you wanted it, but you're better off adding another 1/4-1/2 tsp gel food colouring at this point.  (Note: I used the back of my spoon to make it dilute faster, next time I might use a hand blender to get all the gel pieces pulverised.)  Pour your colour mix into your large bowl.  This is the point you would add the essential oil if you wanted to make it smell good.  Lavender and sweet orange would be really nice, and both are good for kids.

Measure 6 cups of rice into your bowl.  Mix with your wooden spoon.  Mix WELL.  Make sure you have no unused colour mix in the bottom of your bowl, and that your rice is fairly evenly coloured. You will hear the rice start to snap and pop (like Rice Krispies!) when it starts to dry, that is normal.  Just keep stirring it every 5-10 minutes to prevent it from forming into a rock.  That said, I DID forget, and came back - I was able to break apart the "rock" with my hands, no biggie.  It was actually kind of fun.  :D

From top left (clockwise): red - using alcohol and water combined/gel and regular food colouring,
orange - using alcohol and regular food colouring,
purple - water and gel food colouring,
black - water and alcohol and gel food colouring,
blue - water and gel food colouring,
green - water and gel food colouring,
middle: yellow - alcohol and regular food colouring.
The colours look so much more vibrant in this pic because I used the Camera+ app to take it, and the "vibrant" filter - the yellow and orange especially do NOT look that vibrant in real life - the others aren't too different.
I made seven colours: yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, green and black.  I kept aside 2 cups of each colour  to use in crafts, and together with the boys, I put the other 4 cups of each into the sensory box/bin/tote (whatever! LOL).  In our box, we also put 4 cups each of the other bulk items I bought (yellow and green split peas, pinto and navy beans).  They had so much fun measuring each colour/item out, that the process of "building" our sensory box was in and of itself a fantastic activity.  The had a BLAST burying my arms and hands (and each other's!) in the colourful mix.  And it felt SO cool. :)

Burying mummy's arms in rice and beans
Do YOU have a sensory play box for your child(ren)?  What do you put in it?  Do you change it up?

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