Friday, April 20, 2012

Preschool Pasta Play

 Such a variety of pasta available and can easily be turned into an inexpensive material to be used with preschoolers!  When reading through the ideas below, remember that you can often incorporate more than one skill with each activity. 

Teach Preschool has an excellent post regarding using food for play.
Discussion of Food Use in the Early Childhood Classroom
Pasta Math

I did not have my number kites easily accessible at the moment so just drew you a picture of what we sometimes do with our bow tie pasta.  I have a set of foam kites with numerals up to 15 printed on them.  They all have a piece of yarn attached.  Children order them from 0-15 and then add the corresponding number of bows to the string.  I've also provided blank kites and they have created patterns with their bows.  For toddlers I have them put as many bows on the kites string as they want but they match the bow color to the color of the kite.
by color
                                          by type                                   by color and type
Creating and labeling the graph is beneficial to do with or in front of the children.  Instead of trying to get the lines straight with a ruler, consider just folding your paper in half and in half again (continuing as you wish) and repeating the other direction then simply use a marker to make your lines a bit easier to see. You can always add another piece of paper above your first to fit more numbers.  Remember vocab: graph, more, less, equal, compare, and etc.

Shape and Number Formation
 Free hand creation or using flash cards or templates as a visual. 
Shape Song Templates used in left picture can downloaded here.
Print on card stock, add your choice of material around the outline to create a texture.  Song were not written by me.  I've seen them all over the Internet over the course of the years and really do not know where they originated from.  If they are your own original songs, please comment so I can give credit where it is due!  Thanks.

Tens and Ones
Really hard to see this picture, sorry.
This was our introduction activity to the rainbow sticks.  We compared them to the individual pasta and she also counted the pasta on the sticks by two to see that they all had 10 pasta shells on them.  Then we sang our counting to 100 by 10s song (one of her favorites) and she wrote the numbers onto index cards.  This was lovely for her since she knows the pattern of counting but has difficulty with the transitional numbers (30, 40, 50, etc). 
This was the second activity we did.  One skill kindergarten children will be expected to know by the end of the school year is to know that the numbers from 1-39 are made up of 1, 2, or 3 groups of ten and a specific amount of ones.  

Non Standard Measurement
After the children have sorted the pasta, it's a good time to get in some nonstandard measurement practice.  It really depends on what age and development your child is as at how much choice you give them.  Since my students are older I tend to give them quite a bit of choice which leads to great conversation and problem solving!  Here we measured our color sorting flowers using a different type of pasta.  The goal here was to see that the smaller the items, the more it takes.  Internalizing this concept will eventually lead for understanding that cm are smaller than inches and thus there is going to be a bigger number with cm for an object vs. inches.  Just helps with their ability to predict/estimate.
For younger students I sometimes glue the pasta to a large craft stick.  I provide a tray or theme related items  and we see which objects are bigger, about the same and smaller than our "rulers".   This is also a great time filler activity.  I've done it where I send them with a tray to go find something in the room that is bigger, smaller and about the same size as their ruler.  It doesn't represent a ruler exactly because when I use these with younger students I leave that little finger space at the bottom of the rulers.  This is two fold, number one, they need somewhere to hold the stick.  :-)  The other reasons is because more often than not they want to measure the big items and so we can overlap the rulers to make a more accurate measurement.

It's always good to introduce or review that idea that when measuring we need to use the same size item.  You may wish to compare a real ruler/yard stick/measuring tape with what you are using for nonstandard measurement.  And a good habit to get into is to state your unit of measurement as they will have to label in primary school.  So for example, "The flower is about 4 bow ties long." 
Pasta Patterning
You can download a simple mat here or just create your own with construction paper.  So many patters can be created!  You might consider having one child create a pattern and another child extend it. 
1:1 Correspondence
Placing one item in each section.  As you can see you can reinforce various concepts/skills here.  1:1, patterning, clockwise/counterclockwise, counting, and work those small muscles in their hands by adding tweezers of some sort.  :-)  Dollar stores and preschool teachers really get along.  We can find all sorts of trays to be used in our classrooms!
This 1:1 correspondence activity also incorporate glue control and counting.  You can download this simple counting mat here.  Consider printing on card stock when gluing items such as pasta.

April Showers Bring May Flowers
Children glued a pasta flower on each stem and then dripped colored glue to make raindrops.  We slanted the page a bit to get the drip look.  This was a two day project as the glue for the pasta took awhile to dry.  We did the glue rain drops first thing in the morning and they were dry by lunch time.  If you'd like a page similar to this one you can download it here.  In the file there is the blue background and white, in case you have light blue construction paper or card stock and want to save in

Simple Addition
Ways to make 9.

Divided plates work so well for beginning addition.  We work from left to right in most things So the children know to use the card on the left and when they are done it goes on the right. 

 Comparing Sets

Odd and Even

Pasta Literacy
Letter or Name/Word Formation
  Build capital and lower case letters!

Practice sight words!

     CVC words, focusing on a,e,i,o,u.

Listening Skills
Listen to or sing a very simple, well-known song.  For example, Twinkle Twinkle.  With your hand, show how the notes go up and down as you sing.  Then sing it again, but this time have the children place a piece of pasta to represent the notes.  The goal hear how the music goes up, down or stays the same.  I use at least a 12x18 piece of construction paper or large piece of foam/felt for this activity.

Word Chunks

Making use of those lovely dollar store flashcard sets.  :-)  Here we are listening for word chunks/syllables.  A very common early literacy activity. We often "clap out" the syllables but I find my younger preschoolers can clap out the chunks but then can not transfer the number of claps into an actual number.  For example, they'll clap 2 times and say 3.  So using a manipulative, such as pasta, allows for them to work with chunking in a more concrete way.


I like to do this sort of activity with older preschoolers and kindergarten students.  The goal here is to place a pasta for each sound you hear.  When I do this with a child I do not show them the spelling until after they have put their pasta down.  I find with older children, this is a great way to introduce and explore with the different letter combinations that make one sound.  For example... bee.  You can only here the b and the long e but in reality it's spelled bee and when you see /ee/ it makes the long e sound. 

Positional Words
(Don't you just love my artistic ability?!)
Draw a simple outdoor scene on paper or magnetic dry erase board.  Add a small magnet to the back of a few bow tie pasta.  These will be your butterflies.  Encourage  your child to put their butterfly near the sun, in the tree, above the dog, on the boy, under the flowers, and so on.  It's especially fun to have the children tell what to draw in the scene.  :-)

Pasta Fine Motor
We didn't do lacing these last couple of weeks yet so no recent pics. 
I'll share a couple ideas from other blogs.
For younger students/toddlers use larger noodles.  Use smaller for older students.  Taping the end of the lacing yarn works nicely as well.
This is ideal for toddlers!  You could also use a pipe cleaner in the play dough as well to allow for more durability.  Spaghetti would probably break pretty easily.
Pasta Transfer

Transfer activities are great fine motor/practical life activities.  You can vary it in so many ways to keep interest whether with the type of material you provide, the containers, or the tools that are provided to transfer.   With my older students I like to provide various types of tools to use and then ask later which was the easiest one to use (or the hardest) and why.  With younger students I'll remove all but the one tool that will lead to the most success.  Sometimes I'll use tweezers/tongs to have them transfer smaller items from an open container to a narrow neck container.  Other times I'll provide a round container that they have to hold in their non dominant hand while transferring.  Always a favorite...especially with toddlers.  Having a tray to transfer activities instead of just providing the materials along with your sensory tub appeals to their sense of organization (which most have), teaches responsibility of their space (since they need to clean it up and make it ready for the next child), and it also allows for you to make sure they are experience a certain skill.  Not always will they choose this activity if it's one of several things available.  Sometimes they think it's too hard...especially if it involves tweezers.  But if they don't try and practice they will never know success!

You can get this kind of sifter at most dollar stores or stores like Wal-Mart.  After a bit of exploring with sifting the material I like to encourage them to spoon the flour into the sifter with their non dominant hand and after shaking the flour out dump the material-pasta in this instance-into a container placed on their non dominant side.  This causes them to use their non dominant hand more than they would normally do and makes them cross their midline when emptying the sift.

Pasta Art

Pasta Science
Pasta Butterfly Life Cycle
I couldn't find my own version of the pasta butterfly life cycle project right off so will share a couple of my favorites I've done with kiddos.
Rainbow Star Books                          Dr. Jean       

Spaghetti Sensory
This is the first time I've dyed the pasta.  Typically I leave it natural.  They love to use it with a miniature stainless steel cooking set.  But since we were doing a rainbow theme this past week I decided to go ahead and try a bit of food coloring.  Wasn't as messy as I thought it was going to be.  :-)  I cooked the noodles first, ran cold water over top to cool. added a bit of oil to keep them from sticking and then separated them into seven bowls.  Then I added food coloring.  I suggest you mix immediately after adding the food coloring for a more even color.
Spaghetti molds pretty easily.  Note the child in the right picture.  He had three "volcanoes" that he had molded from a small plastic flower pot.  Then he saw the "bug grabbers" and tried to make a ball that way.  So when you are planning tools...remember to include some that will make some interesting molds!  If you are wondering how much to make.  Well, awhile back I dumped almost a 2lb container of spaghetti all over the floor.  This is it.  A bit less than 2 lbs of spaghetti made more than enough for three trays worth.  It would have easily made four rainbow noodle trays.

Pasta Sensory Tub
 Always allow time for free exploration! Pasta is not a material I consider "messy" and thus I typically do not get the pool out for this material and it allows for more room to spread out which then allows the ability to use the larger trays, which leads to the children naturally sorting the material. Just a reminder that sensory tubs are wonderful at keeping toddlers and preschoolers "busy" but let's not mix it up with "busy work". This can be very meaningful work for the children. And I find that when I listen and observe them working I can easily get a bit of informal assessments completed because more often than not they are often incorporating the skills we have worked with up to that point.
Coloring Pasta
Simply pour rubbing alcohol into a gallon size bag, add a good amount of food coloring. The more color you add the deeper the color of pasta. Zip shut, mix well and allow to sit, "stirring it up" periodically. I wouldn't allow it to sit more than 20 minutes though. If you leave it too long the pasta starts to soften and they stick together. This also happens if you get too much rubbing alcohol for the amount of pasta. I do not measure myself, but I would guess that I use 2-3 Tbs. of rubbing alcohol to about a third of gallon bag of pasta.

Feel free to share some of the ways you have used pasta! I'm always on the look out for new ideas!

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