We used rubbing alcohol to dye ours but I have read you can use vinegar as well which would be more friendly to kids who tend to put things in their mouths, but from our experience the alcohol worked really well to get vibrant colors. I haven't tried vinegar so I can't say if one's better than the other.
Pasta is a really cheap product. We bought a couple different varieties for a dollar a box- penne, ziti and ziti rigotti. Anything with a hole will work but the straighter pastas like the ziti rigotti and penne worked best for my 3 and 5 year olds for stringing so consider avoiding elbow macaroni when working with preschoolers.
This is a quick and easy project that little hands can lend a hand with. The dying alone is a family project. I like a craft where the process is just as fun as the product. Otherwise, what's the point?
And the projects you can DO with the end results are endless. Necklaces and mosaics. Christmas tree strings. They can be used for sorting shapes and colors and sizes. Counting, adding, subtracting. Practicing fine motor skills of stringing.
Here's What You Need:
- pasta with holes, straight tube-like pasta is best (although the slightly curved ziti did dye the best!)
- food coloring in red, yellow, blue (and green cause that's how it comes you know!)
- rubbing alcohol (we used isopropyl)
- ziplock bags (we used freezer bags and they still seeped a little at the zippers, so beware and maybe double up!)
- paper towels
- 1 cup measuring cup
Here's What You Do:
- Decide how many different colors you are going to make and get out that many bags.
- In each bag, measure 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. (Or even a 1/2 tbs might be fine.)
- Drop 10-15 drops of food coloring in each bag of alcohol to make your colors.
- Meanwhile have your octopus fill the one cup measuring cup with the pasta(s) of his choice. Heap it on there. Let him dump it all in one of the bags while you hold it up. (Don't let the dye out, yuck!)
5. Close it up realllll tight and let him squish that pasta all around in the dye.
7. After they're mixed up really well, lie the bags flat on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.
8. Let them sit there for a couple hour, flipping every so often. *We did two and a half hours for the red, orange, yellow and green. But purple and blue just did not come out as well as I wanted (what're you gonna do- pasta is yellow in nature!) so I dyed them a second time in 1/2 tbs rubbing alcohol and more dye and repeated the process for another 2 hours. This time they came out nicely!*
9. When the pasta has reached your desired hues, drain out the excess liquid from the bags.
10. Dump each color of pasta in one layer, not touching the other pastas, onto paper towel-lined cookie sheets, plates, whatever.
11. Let dry. If it's a sunny day put them out there and they will dry in no time! Our pasta was ready to use in 30 minutes on a hot sunny day.