When my son was a tad over a year old, I decided that I needed to make him some fun indoor sensory activities. He loved his sandbox and water table, but sometimes you need an indoor option. I made him a bin of rainbow colored pasta and filled it with scoops, plastic tweezers, small cups, and spoons.
He LOVED it. He is four now and he still plays with it, only now he uses dump trucks and monster trucks.
I thought I'd show you how I made it. As I was scanning Pinterest, though, I saw that many people are using vinegar to dye their pasta. Several people are concerned with the safety of using alcohol vs. vinegar. I used alcohol when I made mine. My thoughts? They aren't eating the pasta. The first time they play with it, they may attempt to put one in their mouths, but tell them no. Emphasize that this is a toy, it is not food. Kids lick everything. I'd be far more concerned with the shoe my son bit than a piece of dyed pasta. Plus, THIS IS SMALL PASTA. DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD PLAY WITH IT UNSUPERVISED. Small pasta = choking hazard.
That said, I am only the mother to my children. I will not make your decisions and I will not judge you for them. You can use either for this project. Will you get the same results using alcohol and vinegar? I tested it for you!
Dying Pasta Using Vinegar or Alcohol
You just need gallon sized ziplock bags, dry pasta in as many shapes as you'd like, vinegar OR alcohol, and food coloring.
Pour about 1/4 cup of vinegar OR alcohol into a bag and then add several drops of food coloring. The more food coloring you use, the more vibrant your colors will be. Squish the bag around in your hands to get it all mixed up and then add about two cups of dry pasta. I chose a different shape for each color, but you do what you want! Close the bag. If you're like me and terrified of leaking dye, double bag it! Lay it down to soak a bit. I shook and flipped the bags every 5 minutes or so, to be sure the pasta was getting a nice coat.
After about 30 minutes, drain any remaining liquid and pour the pasta out onto some foil or craft paper to dry.
My thoughts and tips?
I found that I could let my pasta soak MUCH longer when it was in the alcohol bags. The vinegar pasta started getting soggy pretty quickly. Many sources say to use less vinegar... but that also results in spotty colors. I soaked my alcohol pasta for several hours.
When you use yellow food coloring, use A LOT. The pasta is already yellow, so you need a lot of dye to make it look like yellow colored pasta rather than just pasta.
If you pour your pasta in the bag and start mixing it and don't like the color you're seeing, go ahead and add more food coloring right away. It'll still mix just fine.
The vinegar colored pasta stinks. Like, I made this about a month ago and it is still pretty darn potent!!
Bowtie shaped pasta looks cool, but it chips and breaks easily. Not too big of a deal for a small toddler, but if they start bringing monster trucks to the pasta party, expect some bowtie casualties.
The colors on the alcohol pasta and much more vibrant and smooth than the vinegar. Did you notice it in the picture above? I'll show you again. Alcohol on the left, vinegar on the right. There was no editing done on this photo, aside from adjusting the clarity a bit. In fact the original photo is posted right below it, I just cropped out the tubs.
I hope that helps! If I ever made this again, I'd stick with alcohol. If you are very firmly against using alcohol but still want to make it, vinegar will work just fine. I have also heard of people using vodka... seems like an expensive option to me, but I don't see why it wouldn't work! Have fun, friends.