How to dye and scent rice like peppermint candy canes – for play!

Candy Cane Scented Rice - For Play!

Yesterday we had a Christmas themed play date, and I made some candy cane rice for the kids to play with.  It was seriously a big hit – my almost three year old spent over two hours playing with it throughout the day yesterday.

How to make candy cane scented rice for play

Coloring and scenting rice sounds difficult, but the process is actually quite simple and quick.

To make it, you will need:

  • Rice (Regular rice, not quick cooking.  A cheap brand is fine.)
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring
  • Peppermint essential oil or peppermint extract
  • A large glass bowl for mixing
  • Paper towels to dry the rice on

How to make candy cane scented rice for play

I colored the rice in 3 cup batches.  For each batch I mixed 1 Tablespoon of vinegar with 15 drops of food coloring.  Then I added three cups of rice and stirred it up!

How to make candy cane scented rice for play

Once the color is all mixed, add 2-3 drops of peppermint oil.  If you’re using peppermint extract, I’m not sure how much it will take.  But I don’t really think you can mess this up!

Then spread the rice on paper towels to dry.  Once it’s dry, the food coloring will not come off on hands.

How to make candy cane scented rice for play

To fill an under-the-bed box, I made a total of 24 cups of rice – 12 cups of each color.

Candy Cane Scented Rice - for Play

We usually play with rice on the hard kitchen floor, but for our playdate I put the tub in a carpeted room with a very large beach towel underneath.  This actually worked better than the hard floor!  It was easy to shake off the towel, and the rice that did escape the towel was easy to vacuum up off the carpet.  Spilled rice scatters faster and farther on hard floor…

If you like this idea, check out our funnels and tubes pegboard – another great way to place with rice!


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  1. Erin V Dec 12, 2014

    I just made this same sensory tray for my two year old son. He's really enjoying it. I put a small muffin tin, cups, scoops, and some Christmasy stuff like small pieces of bead garland a large jingle bells. I used peppermint extract. It took a good teaspoon to make it smell enough. It is only a matter of time before he's got his construction trucks scooping and moving the rice around though!
    I also wanted to share the method of coloring rice, pasta, oats(any dried grain) that I learned when I taught preschool. I use rubbing alcohol. It takes about the same amount as you used vinegar. It takes much less time to dry in my own experience. Around five minutes after you put it on a towel and its dry and ready to play with. The scent doesn't linger either which I've had happen when I use the vinegar. I also do it in a Ziplock bag. I've found the colors are more uniform if I can manipulate it with my hands. I start with the lightest color I'm making so I just use one bag.
    I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for putting time into it. God has blessed you with a wonderful family and a very creative mind!

  2. Pamela Dec 12, 2014

    Just made this today, and my girls loved it! I used the rubbing alcohol and Ziplock baggie idea; it made it really easy! Thanks for your super fun ideas!


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