Various toddler books and websites promote the idea of pasta exploration as a sensory game, but I’ve hesitated to do any pasta activities with Travis ever since one attempt in January (18 months old), when he put a dry pasta shape in his mouth and then looked at me in horror. I was flabbergasted, as he has never been a mouther, and this confused attempt to eat pasta was literally the only time in his life I worried about him gnawing on something inedible.
So at 22 months, I decided to give dry pasta another go, with various goals in mind.
The first was simply for the sensory experience, providing him with a large basin and scoop. He quickly lost interest (a little too old now, I think), and decided it would be more fun to throw the pasta.
Here’s one of those moments to keep your parenting cool! I turned his curiosity into a lesson on dynamics, telling him pasta could be loud or quiet, and we wanted our pasta to be quiet i.e. gently placed back in the container. When he got a little too toddler-y on me (those pasta shapes were just so intriguing skittering and breaking across the kitchen floor…) I moved the game to the rug.
My second goal was to have Travis sort the pasta by shape, so I provided him with 3 types I thought were different enough: rigatoni, fusilli, and rather fun tennis rackets (racchettes).
Despite having learned his colors and shapes very early, Travis shows no interest in sorting, and ignored my attempts to encourage him to sort today, but I took the opportunity to discuss the differences between the shapes (curly versus straight, wide versus skinny), and I know he absorbed it on some level.
Once we moved to the rug, though, things got interesting. Travis became very concerned with clean up, and sang himself the Gymboree clean-up song while moving pasta pieces from the rug back to the box, which I’d left on the floor. He enjoyed this version of the game for quite a while.
He then stumbled upon the discovery that one of the shapes I’d selected (rigatoni) could fit on his finger and voila! He started having the pieces talk to each other like puppets (acting out Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, in fact). I was laughing hysterically, and joined in the fun.
Who knew? Rigatoni puppets. Sometimes it takes an almost-two-year-old to have the best idea.