As a work from home mom, I'm always looking for easy ways to keep my toddler entertained. My daughter also loves to put everything in her mouth since she was a baby. Thus, edible colored pasta was key. I wanted to use a food dye that was natural, and also make vibrant enough pasta that it would be fun in a sensory bin or in crafts. I'm happy to say this easy DIY rainbow spaghetti recipe was a total hit!
Another reason I love DIY colored pasta? As your child gets older, they can help dye the spaghetti and you can challenge them to make more crafts with the colored pasta. For instance, ask them to make a picture out of the colored noodles using the different shades or you can practice sorting the colors. For younger toddlers, simply playing with the rainbow spaghetti should keep them entertained, and you can always add some small goodies in the noodle tray for them to discover. I used sliced grapes since my daughter loves them; you could also do toys or bracelets (another thing my daughter loves).
P.S. If you want even more ideas check out: 7 At Home Toddler Activities With Household Items You Already Own
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How To Make An Easy Edible Colored Pasta For Sensory Play Or Crafts With Toddlers And Babies:
What you'll need to make rainbow spaghetti:
- 16 ounce box of spaghetti noodles
- Food coloring (I used this natural coloring typically, but if I don't have it, I use this natural one or one I find at the grocery store).
- Either zip top bags or tupperware
- Tray/baking dish (this is what you'll lay the noodles on to give to your toddler)
Easy DIY Rainbow Spaghetti Tutorial Steps
Step 1: Cook your pasta al dente
You'll want to boil a pot of water, add your spaghetti, get it fully covered, and then under cook it a little bit. Al dente spaghetti will hold up a better when mixing the food coloring and when your toddler plays with it. If you over cook the spaghetti it'll just turn to mush
Step 2: Prepare your natural food coloring
You have two options for coloring the pasta. If you go with the zip top bag option, you'll want to prep it while the pasta cooks; if you go with the tupperware option you can do it after the pasta is drained and cooled.
Zip top bags: You'll need as many baggies as you decide to have colors. In each bag, you'll add a couple of tablespoons of water and some food coloring. There's no science here, and you can always add more food coloring later on. Personally, I found that the water is what helped the food coloring go a long way (meaning more water and less food coloring). So in one bag I prepared red with water, another bag blue with water, another green with water, and another yellow with water.
For tupperware: see step 4
Step 3: Drain spaghetti and rinse under cold water
Drain your spaghetti into your colander and then rinse with cold water to halt the cooking process. I even added a few ice cubes to the mix, just to cool the spaghetti faster and make it easier to handle with my hands more quickly (mama was on a time crunch during nap time!)
Step 4: Two options for how to dye spaghetti
Zip top bags: Grab a handful of chilled pasta and add it to each of your bags. Squeeze as much air out as possible before fully zipping. Then just mush and swirl around until pasta is fully colored. This in itself can be a great activity for kids.
NOTE: if you overfill your baggies with pasta, the coloring won't be as “even.” Personally, I like that effect, it's more of a cool tie-dye look.
Tupperware: No baggies or trying to reduce plastic? No problem! This is actually the method I prefer, you just may want to only have older kids help out or just do it yourself.
In a tupperware, you'll do a handful of pasta, 2 tablespoons of water, and your desired food coloring. You'll mix well using a spoon until you've reached your desired color.
Step 5: Rinse colored pasta
Add ONE colored pasta into the colander at a time and rinse thoroughly with cold water. This will get off any extra dye before giving to your toddler.
If going with the tupperware method: you'll do one color in the tupperware, rinse both the pasta and tupperware, then the next.
Step 6: Serve colored noodles up on a platter!
As you finish rinsing your colored rainbow pasta, add each color to a serving tray that you'll give to your toddler! I used a baking dish here.
My daughter is in the stage where she really likes moving items between plates/bowls/containers. So when I gave her the baking sheet of rainbow spaghetti, I also gave her an empty cookie sheet. She had fun moving the different colors back and forth, mixing the colors, and feeding it to the dog!
There you have it! any easy edible colored pasta for crafts or your toddlers sensory bin! You can make this rainbow pasta with this natural food dye, or whatever food dye you have on hand. My daughter normally eats everything so I tend to like natural options.
How long does rainbow spaghetti last?
If you leave it out, it will dry out. Even if you just let it sit out for an hour or so, you'll notice it starts to feel tacky. So add water if you toddler or baby starts to lose interest in the tecture.
Otherwise, store just like regular pasta and your dyed spaghetti should last in the fridge for about 5 days just like leftover pasta. Again, you'll want to add water to achieve a more fun slipper effect for sensory play.
With that said, always practice safe food practices. If food is left out for more than 4 hours, it is no longer considered safe to eat, so keep that in mind as that clock does start ticking once the pasta is cooked, through the food dye process, and into playtime. If you do store in the fridge to play with later in the week, consider heating it up to a safe temperature, then allowing it to cool again in case your child does eat/taste it.
Personally (and this is not a medical recommendation, please use your best judgment), I feel safe letting my toddler play with it that day and one other day in that 5 day period. After that, I throw it out.
How to mix up rainbow spaghetti for sensory bin play:
Rainbow spaghetti on its own is a great sensory activity. Kids learn through playing so you can give them opportunity to learn new things and join them in the activity. For instance, narrating “the green spaghetti is in the container, not you took it out of the container,” is a great way to teach through play. Asking your toddler to pass you some blue spaghetti is another example of learning through play.
You may want to mix things up every now and then. You could set out different colored containers and have your toddler match them different colors into the appropriate container. Another idea would be to place a cup of water and let them see how the texture changes when you add water.
My daughter likes to hide and find things right now. So I added her favorite food of the moment (sliced grapes) and she also took some of the dogs food and mixed it in as you can see here:
Surprisingly, this was relatively low mess all things considered. I let her play with it inside on her rubber playmat and it was a breeze to clean up. We also let her bring it outside where some of the rainbow spaghetti dried out overnight. She had even more fun with the dried noodles.
Looking for even more ideas? My friend Kallie rounded up 16 more activities to do with your toddler at home here!