Pasta Dye

A box of macaroni is both inexpensive and biodegradable.  I know it’s a little wasteful to use food for art, but I vowed that we’d donate few boxes of pasta to a local food shelf for every box we use for fun.  It’s a great way to remind your kids that there are people who don’t have the luxury of playing with their food. 

With a little food coloring, pasta and water, you can dye pasta for making necklaces, gluing onto paper, layering into old jars or anything else you can think of.  I simply warmed some water in the microwave, poured it in bowls, had the kids add a few drops of food coloring and voila- pasta dye!  The water should be pretty warm, but not burning hot for obvious reasons.

We then added pasta to the bowls, stirred it and let it sit for half an hour or so.   I poured the dye out of the bowls and let my kids scoop the pasta onto a paper towel-covered cookie sheet to drain.  Later, I put it on another cookie sheet minus the paper towels to dry.  The pasta was sort of sticky and didn’t dry well overnight, so I put it in the oven the next day at around 300 degrees until it felt dry.  You could bake it right away, I think.

I made a little scientific discovery of my own and found that if you leave it in the oven too long, it gets a little brown.  Shocking!  You may like the toasted effect.  It is a little more natural looking but makes the blue hard to distinguish from the green.  Next time, I’ll set a timer!

I was amazed by how much fun my children had just adding food coloring to water and dumping some pasta in.  They checked the pasta every few minutes to see how it was changing.  There’s a fine line here between science and art.  If they love to be scientists, have them check the pasta every five minutes and record what is happening.  Let them try it with cold water to see whether it works as well.  Ask them if they can think of anything else to try.  Get those science notebook out and let them illustrate the project!

note: Two child educators have told me that if you use rubbing alchohol instead of water to dye the pasta that it will air-dry! (no oven required or recommended.)  This would be a great thing to try for older kids.  For younger children, I’d stick to water, since it’s not toxic.


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