Pasta Mosaic

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It’s finally happening… My little boy who used to happily jump at any art project I suggested has his own agenda now. And while I lament that he’s not quite so pliable or amenable to activities I’ve anticipated, I also am celebrating this three-year-old independent spirit and the imagination that accompanies it.

Cue this project as the perfect example. I thought sorting and making art with pasta might nicely fill some time on a Sunday morning since I had several boxes of dry pasta in the pantry. Sorting is a great skill for little fingers and minds, but silly me, every pasta I had was a variation on penne…in different lengths! It turned out we had regular penne, medium-sized pennette, and super-short ditalini.

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This turned the sorting into a neat challenge based more on length than shape, so Travis actually sat happily to help me sort for a while.

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My suggestion to paint the pasta after was met with indifference though! A bit miffed, I pulled out glitter paint. That made things decidedly more sparkly and fun, and we discovered that painting penne is quite silly and tricky since they roll.

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What worked best? Dabbing at them on a piece of wax paper and leaving them to dry? Tossing them into a whole bath of paint and swirling them around?

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Travis decided it was more fun to paint the bowls holding the paint, but eventually we had lots of sparkly painted pasta, and left it to dry.

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The final idea was to turn all that painted pasta into a mosaic, but Travis was completely uninterested…until I suggested that the glue was caulking, and the pasta was “ants” coming through the floor (a game based on a recent, real-life scenario….).

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Well then he couldn’t get enough! We caulked and caulked, and filled puddles of glue with “ants” trying to get into our kitchen.

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When I asked if he thought our paper was full enough, he pointed to the remaining pasta pieces and adamently told me, “No Mom, still more ants.”

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Once we’d used up all the pasta, he needed to “caulk” two more pieces of construction paper before he tired of the game.

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So there you have it, a valuable lesson on my son’s ever-growing independence, but also a reminder that incorporating his latest interests and imaginative play might still just get him to sit and make art with his mama.

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Harvest Pasta Salad

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This make-ahead pasta salad, recipe care of High Five magazine, is chalk-full of veggies like late-summer tomatoes and fresh corn. Bonus points if you make your own pesto with the last of summer’s basil, though I confess we used a jarred version (made with kale leaves instead!)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup cooked green peas
  • 3/4 cup cooked corn
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and toss with the olive oil. Let cool
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the pesto, mayo, and lemon juice in a large bowl – definitely a kid-friendly step!Harvest Pasta (1)
  3. Add the cooled pasta, then sprinkle with the Parmesan, salt, and black pepper.
  4. Fold in the tomatoes, peas, and corn, and serve cold.

Penne with Cheesy Chard

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The cheesy flavor in this quick main dish meal comes from a mix of nutritional yeast and vegan Parmesan sprinkles.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12-ounce) box whole wheat penne pasta
  • 3 Tofurky Italian sausages
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1/2 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the sausage and cook in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until browned. Add the finely chopped stems from the chard; cook for 4 minutes. If you use rainbow chard, this step will look beautiful!Penne Cheesy Chard (1)
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the reserved water to the sausage mixture, along with the pasta and the finely chopped leaves of the chard. Cook about 1 minute, until the leaves wilt.
  4. Stir in the Parmesan, nutritional yeast, and breadcrumbs, tossing to combine.

Pasta Bead Sequencing

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Here’s another fantastic activity for the Kool-Aid dyed pasta we made a few weeks back. We’ve already strung together bracelets with our pasta beads, but this time I used the pasta for a slightly more educational purpose.

Using the template available from Kiwi Crate, I printed out pictures of the pasta beads arranged by color, and then had them laminated. You can skip the lamination, but doing so means you can do this activity again and again!

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Encourage your child to line up the beads in the order that’s shown on the card. As an alternative, give him or her a pipe cleaner, to thread the pasta in order.

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Travis is a little young to accomplish a task like this from start to finish still, but he loved selecting a pasta piece from his bag and placing it on the correct color. We’ll work up to completing the whole sequence on pipe cleaners as he gets older!

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This activity would be perfect for on-the-go moments when you need to keep your kiddo occupied, like a restaurant or waiting room.

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Update: At closer to 3, Travis now loves doing this activity directly onto a pipe cleaner!

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