How to Make Lavender Sensory Rice

Lavender sensory rice is one of our favourite go-to activities for calmer play. Not only does it smell gorgeous, but it looks pretty too!

Now that lavender season is over (late June to mid August, in case you’re wondering), it’s the perfect time to think about using some lavender in your play activities. In our version, we used dried lavender to scent the rice because it was growing in our garden. However, essential oils could be used as an alternative – you just need to be cautious using oils with children under 3 and I recommend you read the safety advice at the end of this post.

Sensory play is not only a fun, engaging activity for little ones, but it also plays a crucial role in their cognitive and physical development. While there are many commercial products designed for sensory play, nothing beats a DIY project – mainly because you know exactly what the ingredients are!

Lavender is known for its calming properties, and its gentle scent, combined with the tactile experience of rice creates a sensory play material that’s perfect for relaxation and learning. Read on to learn how you can make lavender sensory rice using items from your kitchen.

lavender plants in summertime

Materials needed for lavender sensory rice

  1. White rice
  2. Dried lavender or lavender essential oil
  3. Food colouring (optional, for coloured rice)
  4. Ziplock bags
  5. Measuring cups
  6. Parchment paper or aluminum foil

lavender sensory rice scoop and pour activity

Step-by-Step Instructions to make lavender sensory rice

Prepare Your Rice

  1. Measure the Rice: Measure out the amount of rice you’ll need. Usually, 4 to 5 cups should suffice for a decent-sized sensory bin.
  2. Transfer to Ziplock Bag: Place the measured rice into a Ziplock bag.

Add Scent and Color

  1. Add Lavender oil (if using): Drop about 5 drops of lavender essential oil into the bag with rice. The number of drops can vary depending on how strong you want the scent to be.*
  2. Optional Colouring: If you’re adding food colouring for coloured rice, now’s the time to put in a few drops. We used purple dye, to match the colour of lavender.
  3. Seal and Shake: Close the Ziplock bag and shake it well to distribute the lavender oil and optional food colouring evenly over the rice.

*read to the end of this post for information about safety when using lavender sensory rice

Let It Dry

  1. Spread It Out: Lay out a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil on a baking sheet and spread the rice out to dry.
  2. Air or Oven Dry: Let the rice air-dry for several hours, or if you’re in a hurry, place it in the oven set at a very low temperature (around 200°F or 95°C) for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Once dry, add the sprigs of dried lavender and mix in with a wooden spoon.

How to Use Your Lavender Sensory Rice

  • Sensory Bin: Pour the lavender sensory rice into a shallow container and let your child explore with their hands, cups, and spoons.
  • Seek and Find: Hide small objects in the rice for a game of seek and find.
  • Art and Craft: Use it as a material for art projects like collages.

a young girl plays with lavender sensory rice and a wooden alphabet puzzle

Important Safety Precautions when using essential oils in lavender sensory rice

Before making lavender sensory rice, let’s address some safety concerns. Essential oils are powerful, and while lavender is often considered one of the safest oils, there’s  a few things you should consider:

  1. Dilution: When using essential oils, a little goes a long way. In this activity, we’re only using a few drops diluted in a large amount of rice, which should be safe for most children. However, if your child is sensitive to scents or has allergies, consult a healthcare provider if need be.
  2. Supervised Play: Always supervise children during sensory play activities, especially when introducing new materials.
  3. Skin Test: Before fully diving into sensory play, it’s a good idea to let your child touch a small amount of the lavender-scented rice to ensure there’s no skin irritation.
  4. Ingestion Concerns: While it’s unlikely that a child would ingest a significant amount of this scented rice, it’s worth mentioning that essential oils should not be ingested without consulting a healthcare provider.
  5. Quantity Matters: Reports about the unsafe nature of lavender are typically associated with undiluted or large quantities of the oil. When used responsibly, as in this activity, the risk is generally considered low.

In addition to these safety concerns, there’s some evidence that lavender oil may interact with hormones in boys. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that repeated use of products containing lavender oil or tea tree oil may spur breast growth in prepubertal boys. This is a rare side effect, but it is important to be aware of it if you are considering using lavender oil with your child.

It is important to note that the study was small and did not prove that lavender oil causes breast growth in boys. More research is needed to confirm this link.

Also note that the study focused on oils and not dried lavender. Dried lavender is considered safe for children. It is not as concentrated as essential oil and is less likely to cause any side effects.

This information is not intended to scare you, but to simply help you to make an informed decision about the play you do with your child. Note that the study talks about repeated use of lavender oil rather than occasional use in sensory play.

For reference, we only use lavender sensory rice around once per month – this is not an everyday activity!

Overall, lavender oil is considered safe for use with children over the age of 3. However, it is important to use it with caution and to follow the safety guidelines listed above. If you have any concerns, talk to your child’s doctor.


Creating lavender-scented rice for sensory play is a quick and rewarding project. The calming scent of lavender adds an extra layer of sensory experience that can help in calming an active toddler or simply making playtime a little more special.

We’d love to hear how your lavender sensory rice turned out and how your child enjoyed it! Feel free to share your experiences and photos with us.


More Sensory Play Activities

20 Simple Toddler Play Ideas for the IKEA Flisat Table 

5 Benefits of Sensory Play + How to Get Started 


Do you need more help with sensory play?

Sensory play is more than just the activity itself. If you are worried about starting sensory play (or you hate it), I have just the course for you!

Head on over to my membership, ‘How I drink my Coffee Hot’, to access the mini course ‘Starting Sensory Play’.

Topics covered include:

  • The importance of Sensory Play
  • How to plan and prepare for sensory play
  • Do you need to use food in sensory play?
  • Essential sensory play resources
  • Simple Sensory play activities + 80 page guide
Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.