Rainbow Beans {How To}

I want to start off by saying that I LOVE using kool-aid in my preschool classroom - but not for eating or drinking - only for arts and crafts. In the past, we've made kool-aid dough & paint and dyed silk scarves & noodles for play activities. I find the combination of their vivid colors and fruity smells to be a wonderful sensory addition to our activities. Now on to yesterday's shenanigans:

During yesterday's snowday, my son and I made a batch of Kool-Aid dyed beans for our sensory bin. I hadn't tried dying beans previously and it didn't actually occur to me that it would be all that different, so I didn't bother to research the idea at all... Overall it was a success, but after the fact, I realize that there may have been better methods.

We used the following items:
  • 6 one pound bags of navy beans (I bet that any kind of white bean would work)
  • 6-8 packs of Kook-Aid (one packet+ for each bag of beans)
  • Food coloring 
  • Rubbing Alcohol 
  • Ziplock bags (use the freezer kind so they don't break!) 

  1. We poured one packed of Kool-Aid into each bag (two for purple because I couldn't find grape Kool-Aid), a 'squirt' or two of food coloring (more for brighter beans, less for pastels), about 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol & 2 tablespoons of VERY hot water into each bag (my thought is that the hot water helps the Kool-Aid dissolve & the beans soak up the color more quickly). 
  2. Seal bags and shake until Kool-Aid is dissolved, then pour 1 pound of beans in each bag. 
  3. Reseal & shake again until beans are coated. 
  4. We left the beans sit for about 15 minutes, shaking/rotating the bag periodically. 
We did one color at a time - I suggest starting with yellow because it seemed to take the longest to soak in.

The beans almost immediately started soaking up the solution & the skins started to wrinkle a bit - that's when we poured them out onto a cookie sheet covered with paper towels & tinfoil (to minimize cleanup). My thoughts were to stop soaking he beans before the skins totally came off.

I let them sit out in the kitchen for an hour or two so that most of the alcohol could evaporate, then I preheated my oven to 175 degrees and turned it off. Then I put the trays of beans in the oven overnight. CAUTION: do not put the beans directly in the oven because the rubbing alcohol is VERY flammable!

In the morning, they were still a bit damp, so I carefully took the paper towels out from under them, reheated the oven to 175 and let them 'bake' in a warm oven for a couple of hours to fully dry them.

The colors came out somewhere between pastes & brights -- and the coloring was a bit uneven. The wrinkly skins dried back out smooth and they have a nice light fruity scent. Next time, I 'll add more Kool-Aid packs per pound of beans -- maybe 2-3 packs to make the scents & colors more vivid.

Overall, I'm pleased with them and my three-year-old is begging to play with them!  I think we'll play with them at home for a while, then I'll take them to preschool next week for St. Patrick's Day rainbow activities or Jack and the Beanstalk story extension activities this spring!


  1. Thanks for linking to Tuesday Tots. I've featured this fun activity this week :)

    1. Thanks! We love the Tuesday Tots linky - always so many fun ideas!

  2. These are beautiful!! Thank you for linking up at Toddler and Preschool Moms Pinning Party!!

    1. Thanks! My little one is still enjoying them, even weeks after the fact!