3 Ways to Dye Rice and St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Box Activity

A new homemade activity the and I have been exploring lately is the sensory box concept.   We’ve tried a few different themes and variations on sensory boxes.  One that I wanted to try was different colors to use as filler in the box.  I first looked at Kim’s instructions for dyeing rice, but I wasn’t able to find rubbing alcohol, or anyone who knew what it might be called in India.

How to Dye Rice: 3 Ways. I first tried dyeing the rice with just food coloring.  Then I gave it a try using vinegar instead of rubbing alcohol.  Finally, I found rubbing alcohol at the pharmacy (it’s called surgical spirits in Europe and Asia) and tried that method.  For each method I used 1 cup rice and mixed it in a resealable bag.  The color is neon green.  I haven’t found food colors yet in India, and beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ve got neon colors.  Here are my dyed rice results:

Left: 25 drops of food coloring
Center: 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 10 drops of food coloring
Right: 1 teaspoon surgical spirits, 10 drops of food coloring

As you can see, the alcohol method really does work best.  The rice didn’t dye thoroughly without added liquid.  The vinegar coated well, but the rice stuck in clumps.  Unfortunately, the rubbing alcohol seems less safe to use with kids and the surgical spirits has an awful scent before it dissipates.

Here is the St. Patrick’s Day themed sensory box I used the colored rice for.

Our St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Box Ingredients:

  • neon green colored rice
  • dried peas
  • dried green moong dal (the tiny dark green lentils)
  • green mini ice cube tray
  • green silicon muffin cup
  • green container
  • green plastic egg
  • green toy ice cream dish
  • shamrock cookie cutter
  • green spoon
  • clubs suite from a deck of cards
  • shiny green wrapping paper
  • two colors of green crepe paper
  • gold 5 rupee coin

I think the hidden gold coin is my favorite part.  I didn’t tell Maggie about it and she hasn’t found it yet.  I can’t wait until she does!


  1. Korrale says

    Is Vodka available to you? I have heard that it works just as well as the rubbing alcohol. Just not are fumey.

  2. Stephanie says

    If you can get ahold of liquid watercolor, all you have to do is put the rice in a baggie, squirt on the liquid watercolor, toss it around to coat, and then lay it out to dry. I get mine through Discount School Supply and it is so easy!

  3. Steph says

    I live in nepal, and my husband just came back emptyhanded looking for rubbing alcohol for our project. so glad i found this post! I’d love to have more mom advice that works on this side of the world!

  4. Kari says

    Koolaid (powdered mix) works as well mixed with water. I does come out more like pastels but it smells fun! Other powders might work as well (cinnamon, curry, ect).


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