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How to Dye Chickpeas with Food Coloring or Watercolors

How to Dye Chickpeas with Food Coloring or Watercolors

In this post, we will look at how to dye chickpeas with food coloring or with watercolors. Chickpeas are lovely for sensory play and for developing fine motors skills. They have a lovely tactile sensation when running your hands through them and then picking them up. Children also love shaking them in containers to make rattling sounds or dropping them from their hands to bang down into the sensory bin. Their size makes them ideal for picking up between two fingers. Children also enjoy scooping and pouring them, which also supports their manipulative skills. Another fun task is to sort them and combine them based on their colors.

Dying chickpeas with either food coloring or liquid watercolors work well, but watercolors tend to provide more rich and vibrant colors, especially if you use gouache. 

What you need to Dye Chickpeas with food coloring

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How to dye chickpeas with food coloring

Pour a bag of chickpeas into a Ziploc bag or container.  Then pour about one tablespoon of vinegar into the bag (you will need enough to cover all of the chickpeas, so for a larger batch you may need to add a little more vinegar). Then add 10-15 drops of food coloring to start. Next, shake up the bag or container to coat the chickpeas. If you want the color to be stronger, you can always slowly add more drops of food coloring and continue to shake/mix it up. You may also need to add a little bit of vinegar to help the food coloring coat the chickpeas evenly. Once the chickpeas are completely covered with the color, spread them out on a baking tray covered with a sheet of baking paper or foil. It will take a couple of hours for them to dry and you may need to stir them occasionally, so they don’t stick together.

What you need for Watercolor Dyed Chickpeas

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How to dye chickpeas with liquid watercolors 

The process for dying chickpeas with liquid watercolors is similar to using food coloring. Place the chickpeas in a bag or container and then squirt some of the watercolors into the bag. 

Shake or thoroughly mix the watercolors to coat the chickpeas. If the watercolors are thick, you may want to add a tablespoon of vinegar to help thin it out so it can stick more evenly. You can continue to add more watercolors and shake or stir the chickpeas until you achieve the color strength that you desire. Then pour the chickpeas out onto a covered baking sheet or tray to dry for a couple of hours.

What they get from it

Dyed chickpeas are great for sensory and textured play for young children. They are wonderfully tactile, and they also are great for creating exciting sounds for children to experiment with, as mentioned above. As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, research has shown that sensory experiences support children’s learning by reinforcing and creating connections in the brain (Papatheodorou & Moyles, 2012, Gascoyne, 2012, and Gascoyne, 2016). If you make several colors, children may also enjoy sorting them by color. Dyed chickpeas are also great for motor skill as children can pick them up with a pincer grip, combine them in different containers, pour them, stir them, and more. 

Take it further

Dyed chickpeas are excellent for sensory bin play. Giving children small containers, spoons, cupcake tins, pots, etc., is a fun way for children to sort, stir, fill, empty, and pour the chickpeas. 

Adding in containers will also enhance pretend play and the ability to develop motor skills. You may want to see some other sensory play ideas, including How to dye rice for sensory bin play,  Shaving Foam Sensory Play Ideas, or Edible Mark Making Activities.


Papatheodorou, T. & Moyles, J. (2012) Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Early Childhood. Sage.

Gascoyne, S. (2012). Treasure Baskets and Beyond: Realizing the Potential of Sensory-Rich Play. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

Gascoyne, S. (2016). Sensory Play: Play in the EYFS. Andrews UK Limited.

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