Natural Lavender Sensory Rice

Make some DIY all natural lavender sensory rice for a calming and therapeutic playtime activity for kids. Great for toddlers to school age children, this lovely scent is fabulous for ending down after school or before bedtime through the cranky hour (and helpful for exhausted parents too!)

Lavender rice calming sensory play

We are huge fans of sensory play and making our own sensory play materials. Our favourites are the all natural varieties, without too many bells and whistles, simply relying on the wonderful scents and textures of nature to enhance sensory-rich play. A few times a year I make a big batch of sensory rice and then store it in an airtight container, so that it can be played with again and thus not be quite so wasteful. We have some that we made two years ago at Christmas time and it still feels lovely to play with!
Invitation to play with lavender sensory rice

For this activity we decided to make lavender rice because we had just collected a huge basketful of lavender fresh from the garden. We have already made lavender play dough lots of times (this releases wonderful smells when kneaded!) and some calming lavender salt for writing in. This time we decided to make some sensory rice with it. We simply stirred a large squirt of ready-mix purple paint into a tray of rice and mixed it through until the colour had dispersed evenly and coated most of the grains. It became a lovely lilac colour after mixing and drying thoroughly. Then we pulled the heads and individual flowers off a large handful of the lavender and mixed it through the dried rice. Natural lavender rice

I found an old drawer in our writing table, which used to be mine as  little girl, and thought it would make a lovely, open base for sensory play materials (and can handily be stowed away again for the future, which is handy in a smaller home like ours.) Into this I poured the rice and added some more simple elements as an Invitation to Play. Some cardboard tubes, some cut in half lengthways to make open slides, spoons, pine cones, a wooden bowl and some little cups. I also added some more whole lavender stems to be used and played with as they chose, and to add even more fabulous scent.

\Calming lavender sensory rice tray

I love those sets of play set ups, as they are so inviting that there is no introduction or suggestions needed to be made. They got absorbed in play straight away, pouring, scooping, making funnels and waterfalls for the rice to flow.Lavender sensory rice play

They added some wooden peg doll characters and made them the king and queen of the flower land, making up a sweet story together and taking on a character each as they played.Pouring and scooping with lavender sensory rice

Baby wanted to get her whole body right in the tray (like she did in her own blue themed sensory tub!) but settled for standing at the table and scooping and tipping the rice, both inside and outside the drawer onto the ground.

We did this after school and before tea time, while I was cooking, and thankfully they’re was enough warmth left in the day for this to happen outside, which no doubt naturally improved their moods as well. It really aided a little calm-down time into the day and I’m hoping we have enough dry days left to continue with this over the next couple of months. I find scooping and raking my fingers through rice so very relaxing myself, I need to make a little pot just for me too!Natural scented lavender rice

What they are learning as they play:
physical: raking, scooping, pouring, transferring, pincer grasp, fine motor skills
literacy: storytelling through small world play, taking on a character and remaining in role, language and vocabulary development
sensory: learning about the world using all of the senses, describing how things feel and smell
Cakie: 5.0
Pop: 3.6
Bean: 19 mos
Browse our many sensory play activities by theme:


  1. says

    This sounds fabulous! Just want we need as all shuttered after little monster had everyone up at ten to give this morning! Thank you so much for this idea. We have tried sensory trays with coloured rice ( see our farm yard on before but never scented ones, really looking forward to trying another sense.
    Thanks again

  2. Tiffanie says

    Just wondering where I can find lavender or lavender oil. My 20 month old loves rice and this would be a great addition to his fun!

  3. Sam Foster says

    Have just made this for my daughter! Sadly did not have purple food colouring so used pink instead. She is so pleased and loving the sound and feel of it! Thanks for all your awesome ideas…will definitely be making a few more things for her!

  4. says

    Hi…am I just being a bit stoooopid…but can’t see a recipe, or instructions on how to make this gorgeous lavendar rice? Is it just purple die in with some rice and a few sprigs of lavender broken up???? Or is there more to it. I am keen to make some for my Family Day Care kids when I start in November!

  5. Agata says

    What kind of paint should I use for colouring the rice? I love the idea and I think I’m gonna make the sensory rice for myself first, I need to relax sooo much! I’ll invite my three kids to play, too, of course :) I’m only scared this wouldn’t be good for them as they are allergic to so many things… :/ Thanks for the great idea, anyway!