Setting up a sensory activity for your kids provides your children the opportunity to play with textures and use their senses in a creative way. These activities are all the rage and for good reason. They are fun, engaging and if done right, will occupy your child for a long time. It's a win-win for everyone! In this article, I will outline the materials you need for sensory rainbow pasta, some tricks to make prep through clean up easier, and ways to get the most out of this activity!
This sensory activity is a ton of fun and best of all it is both interactive and safe for a variety of ages. The beauty of this little activity is that you can, in fact, take a nibble while playing!
First off, you will want to make sure you have everything you need for play. Below are the basics to get started. Throughout this article, I will be sharing additional items you may want to incorporate.
- Quart sized ziploc bags (as many bags as colors you are going to do)
- Paper towels
- At least one package of spaghetti
- Food coloring
- Cooking pot
- Something or somewhere to put your rainbow noodles for playtime
(More specifics on that to come)
Now that you’ve got everything you need, here are the simple instructions to get you started with preparing your pasta.
- Cook pasta according to directions
- After the pasta has drained and cooled put a handful into a quart-sized Ziploc
- Add a few drops of food coloring
- Pull pasta out and rinse using cold water
- Rinse out Ziploc & dry with paper towel
- Put the colored noodles back in the bag along with a paper towel to absorb wetness & excess color
- Repeat steps 2-7 with various colors
Sensory Rainbow Pasta Tricks
Plan ahead for this activity and do all of the prep once the kids have gone to bed for the night. Alone, it will be straightforward and pretty quick. With kids, it turns into a mess. Another reason to prep the night before is so your pasta has plenty of time to soak up color, and it has plenty of time to release the extra dye into the paper towel you placed in the Ziploc. It will definitely make a difference and hopefully little to no color transfer while playing.
When dropping in your dye, I found adding a little splash of water to be helpful. This aids in moving the dye around to all of the noodles. I also found out the hard way that less is more when it comes to dye. Originally, I was having a bit of trouble getting the dye on all of my noodles so I added quite a bit of color. Doing so makes it much harder to get all of the excess dye off the noodles before play. A few drops of color and a splash of water is all you need.
When cooking the pasta, make sure not to overcook it. Al dente is your friend and even whatever is a little before al dente. If you overcook the noodles, they will break apart really easily during play and can get smashed and paste-like really quickly. This leads me to my next tip, DO NOT use angel hair pasta.
The hardier the pasta, the less it will stick and breakdown. Playing with different types of pasta textures for this sensory activity is a great idea, just air on the side of thicker pasta, like linguini or spaghetti. Depending on the age of your child, you could incorporate additional pasta shapes and sizes. My advice is to pick a variety of pasta textures for your littles according to age but avoid angel hair!
Set Up & Clean Up Tips
Once you are prepped and ready, you may want to give some thought as to where you set up your sensory rainbow pasta play. This sensory activity is fun but messy which usually means it’s going to be a home run with the kids. It might not, however, be a home run to clean up. To minimize mess, I recommend a splat mat for the kids to play on. It also set up a visual boundary for play.
If you don’t have a splat mat, you could lay down an old blanket, use big plastic tubs, a kitty pool, or even take the fun outside and let them get messy where it doesn’t matter. Any which way you decide, make sure to have a plan for this messy play. Nothing kills the joy faster than a stressed-out mama.
Lastly, when playtime is all done, and you find yourself with some or (a lot) of noodles on your floor, wait to clean them up until they dry. You will find it much easier to sweep up when the noodles lose their tackiness.
Sensory Rainbow Pasta Play Ideas
Now that we’ve covered prep and all the tricks, let’s get into how to get the most out of this sensory rainbow pasta play! There are a lot of ways to go about this sensory activity but, probably the best and the easiest is to engage your children in free play.
Let them take the lead. Put the pasta in front of them with no directions and no other toys. Let them explore, question, and come up with solutions on their own. Once your child has thoroughly “discovered” the rainbow pasta they might like some guided play ideas.
Depending on the age of your child, you could mix the pasta colors up, and ask them to sort the noodles by color. They might enjoy a set of silicone tongs to use to pick up the pasta with. This activity is a really interactive and fun way to learn colors and to sharpen fine motor skills. You could set out a variety of bowls and have them fill each one with a different color or use a muffin tin. (Note that using a muffin tin with color sorting will be a little harder for their fine motor skills to maneuver because of the close proximity of the cups).
If your child has a crafty bone, they might enjoy making something with the colorful pasta. An easy exercise is to have them make a rainbow with the long strands of spaghetti. They might also enjoy making silly faces with them, creating a pattern, or even using them to make shapes.
Incorporating Other Toys
Your children might like various bowls and utensils to use while playing with the pasta. Pulling out a muffin tin and filling it up with pasta (color-coded or not) can be really fun. Also incorporating random toys (that you don’t mind getting gummy colored pasta on) can stimulate their creativity. Things like blocks, cars, fake food, etc. This leads me to my next play idea…
Fake food is fun to play with but, real food is even better! If your kid(s) have play pots and pans and utensils, now is the time to pull them out. They will love the opportunity to put real food in their play pots and pans. Pretend to cook and make recipes with the rainbow pasta alongside them. Depending upon age, you could even offer them a plastic knife to cut the pasta.
Any way you do it, this rainbow sensory pasta play is sure to be a hit! Admittedly, this activity is a little messy. It requires a bit of prep and clean-up but, it’s a colorful and fun shake up to everyday play. Leave me a comment below with you and your kiddo’s favorite sensory activity that you’ve done so far!