How to make rainbow chickpeas for sensory play

Rainbow chickpeas are a great sensory option for play in the early years.  Once dyed, the chickpeas can last months – or even years – when stored correctly.

I recommend this particular activity for children aged 3 and above. This is because the chickpeas themselves could pose a choking hazard for children who tend to still explore with their mouths!

This colourful and tactile experience provides endless opportunities for learning and play. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to make rainbow chickpeas for sensory play, a fantastic activity that’s not only visually appealing but also incredibly beneficial for your child’s development.

this square image shows rainbow chickpeas. They have been dyed using food colouring and vinegar. Colours shown are purple, red, pink, turquoise, blue and yellow

How to make Rainbow Chickpeas


Before diving into the step-by-step instructions, gather the following ingredients for your rainbow chickpeas. If you’re making these with your preschooler, why not invite them to help with the process of dying the chickpeas too?

  • Dried chickpeas: You’ll need about 2 cups of dried chickpeas as the base for this sensory activity.
  • Food colouring: A variety of vibrant food colors, typically red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, to create the rainbow effect.
  • Ziplock bags or airtight containers: These will be used to mix and store the colored chickpeas.
  • Vinegar / hand sanitiser : It can help the food coloring adhere to the chickpeas more effectively and preserves them for longer.


Follow these simple steps to create your rainbow chickpeas for sensory play using dry chickpeas:

  1. Gather Dry Chickpeas: Start by collecting your dry chickpeas. You’ll need about 2 cups of them for this sensory activity.
  2. Colour the Chickpeas: Divide the dry chickpeas into separate zip lock bags or airtight containers, one for each color. Add a few drops of food coloring to each container, using a different color for each bag. You can also add a teaspoon of vinegar / squirt of hand sanitiser to each bag to help the coloring adhere better. Seal the bags or containers and shake them to distribute the color evenly among the chickpeas. Adjust the intensity of color to your liking.
  3. Dry Chickpeas: After coloring the chickpeas, spread them out on a baking sheet or tray to dry for a few hours or overnight. This ensures that the food coloring sets and won’t stain little hands during play.
  4. Combine Colors: Once the chickpeas are dry, combine them into a single container, arranging them in rainbow order or letting your child create their patterns and designs.
  5. Sensory Play: Now it’s time for the fun! Provide your child with various containers, scoops, and spoons to explore the colorful chickpeas.

Benefits of Rainbow Chickpeas for Sensory Play:

Rainbow chickpeas offer a multitude of benefits for sensory development and creative exploration:

  1. Fine Motor Skills: Picking up and manipulating the chickpeas with fingers or tools helps develop fine motor skills, essential for writing and other dexterity-related tasks.
  2. Colour Recognition: Children can learn and reinforce their understanding of colors through hands-on play. Invite them to sort the chickpeas into different coloured bowls.
  3. Creativity and Imagination: Chickpeas can be used for imaginative play and storytelling, allowing children to construct their narratives and worlds. As you can see in the photograph below, my daughter used the sensory play tray to create a bakery selling cupcakes.
  4. Calming Sensory Experience: Sensory play can have a calming effect on children, helping them focus and regulate their emotions.
  5. Educational Play: Through activities like sorting, counting, and pattern-making, children can enhance their math and problem-solving skills in a playful manner. Try adding a weighing scales so your child can explore weights and measures.



a 5 year old girl pretends to make cupcakes by scooping the rainbow chickpeas into cupcake cases

More Sensory Play Activities

If you enjoyed this blog post on how to make rainbow chickpeas, you might also enjoy some of our other sensory play ideas too:

20 Simple Toddler Play Ideas for the IKEA Flisat Table 

5 Benefits of Sensory Play + How to Get Started 

10 sensory play ideas for Autumn 

Sunflower Sensory Play

How to make Lavender sensory rice 

How to make apple playdough + 15 ideas to try 

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.