Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Macaroni Fun

Age Range - About 12-24 months

This is one of Adrianne's all time favorite activities: playing with a big bowl of uncooked pasta!

Macaroni is a great developmental toy for toddlers because it really helps them to fine-tune their motor skills, which is really important for aspiring artists and all people, really. Not only that, but they usually can't get enough of the "toy." Adrianne used to sit down and play with macaroni for hours on end, literally! She wouldn't stop until I put it all away and brought out something new for her to play with.

So if you want to help your baby to grow and develop, pull out that pasta and let's get cooking!

Here's what to do:

FIRST:

PROCEED WITH CAUTION!!! Macaroni is a choking hazard, you must supervise your child at ALL TIMES. Pasta is one of Adrianne's favorite foods, so it took her a couple of macaroni playtime sessions to figure out that this macaroni was NOT edible. Watch you baby carefully to make sure no macaroni gets popped into the mouth and have your baby spit it out immediately if any does happen to get in there.

ALSO:

Before you do anything, clear out a large area (maybe the living room floor) and make sure there is nothing that little pieces of macaroni can get thrown under easily or hidden in. This activity can get messy and dry pasta makes a rather unpleasant crunching sound if it gets sucked up in the vacuum!

Then spread out a giant blanket or sheet over the floor. You'll make macaroni center in the very middle of the blanket. If the floor is all cleared up, this isn't really necessary, but it sure does make clean up a whole lot easier! Just pull all the corners up when you're done to get the macaroni to pool in the center of the blanket, then you can scoop it up rather than picking each little piece up one by one all over the floor.

YOU WILL NEED:

1. A large bowl or pot. We like the bowl better because it's easier to see into and to reach into. Adrianne has a very sturdy glass bowl in this picture, which is great because it is heavy so she can't dump it over and because it makes a fun noise when you hit it with a spoon!

2. A couple of big spoons. We have a large flat spoon for stirring and a large ice cream scoop for, well, scooping! There is also a measuring cup, which is also good for scooping and it's easier for little hands since it's got a big mouth and a short handle.

3. A little bowl. You gotta have some option. Big bowl, little bowl, who knows which is better til you try it?

4. A few fun containers with lids. Our favorites are water bottles and baby food jars. Water bottles are great because they have a real tiny opening, and baby food jars make a great jingly sound with the macaroni.

5. Macaroni, of course! The best kind of macaroni is elbow macaroni. It is small and easy to collect but just fun enough to keep little ones happy. We've also tried mac'n'cheese noodles but these are too skinny and it's very frustrating because they always seem to get stuck in between little baby fingers, which interrupts play.

So here are some fun games you can play with the macaroni:

STIRRING and SCOOPING:

Using the spoons, show your little one how to stir the macaroni in large circular motions. Your toddler will love the sound of the macaroni as she moves it around. But it's easy to get carried away and let the macaroni go flying! Show your baby how to stir slowly and carefully to keep the macaroni in the bowl.

Scooping is a tough thing for toddlers to get right away. It requires a lot of advanced wrist movement and careful placement of the spoon in order to properly execute. Your baby may not be able to get it for a while. That's okay! Just show him how the spoon can hold the macaroni if you scoop it. Then hold his hand in yours around the spoon and help him scoop it. This guidance will be cast away before you know it if baby keeps at it. Soon you'll have a little scooping pro!

FILLING:

I don't know about other babies, but Adrianne is fascinated by containers. I am convinced she will make an expert professional organizer in the future! She just loves putting small things into containers.

Using a variety of containers with your little one will help them in so many ways. By trying to get the little pieces of macaroni into the different containers, they are learning how to manipulate objects and putting together the fact that if they move their hands a certain way, the little macaroni moves a certain way too. The different openings will help teach your baby all the different ways she can manipulate with her hands in order to get the macaroni to go where she wants it.

Water bottles have a tiny opening, which is a little bit more of a challenge. If your baby can't get the macaroni in the bottle at first, start with a larger container. A mason jar would work well, for example.

COVERING:

Fill up an old baby food jar with some macaroni and teach your little one how to cover it with the lid. Adrianne is a little obsessed with lids so she got this one really easily. She even now has the knack of turning the lid so that it tightens. Of course, she doesn't know how to get it off after that so Mommy has to help out from there.

But the baby food jar will make very pretty music when it is filled with macaroni and covered! Shake it up! Your baby may be more fascinated with the covering and uncovering part, but shaking the jar is fun too. There are a lot of fun things you can do with a filled up jar of macaroni. See what your baby can come up with!

POURING:

 Once you have the bottle or other container filled up, it's time to empty it! Pouring the macaroni out of the container is a lot of fun, but it can get messy so be vigilant!

Show your toddler that he can pour it into the big bowl or the little bowl. Let him see what happens if he does. You can also transfer the macaroni from the big bowl into the little bowl and pour it out of the little bowl back into the big one! What craziness!

If your little one figures out the great fun of pouring the macaroni out onto the floor, then show her how to pick it up and put it back in the bowl. You may be fortunate enough to have a toddler that will exclaim "Uh oh!" when macaroni falls onto the floor, but I can tell you right now, Adrianne is not one of them! She thinks it's much funnier when the macaroni goes everywhere! But she also enjoys the praise she gets if she manages to pick it all up.

If you encounter this situation, don't yell or scold. Just ask your baby, "Please, can you help me pick up the macaroni and put it back in the bowl?" Use a lot of gestures to help explain exactly what you want your baby to do. Ask the above question and demonstrate by putting a piece of macaroni back in the bowl. If your baby does it then praise her! Say "Good job! Thank you so much for helping!" Then encourage her to get all of the rest of them with you. Eventually she will be so proud of herself when this happens that you won't even need to do it with her. She will gladly pick it all up by herself.

MOST IMPORTANTLY:

Follow your baby's lead! Try all of the above activities with the macaroni, but don't force any of them on your little one if they are just completely uninterested. See what your baby can come up with while playing with the macaroni. This activity is meant to be 100% fun and great for development! If your baby is really concentrating on, let's say, filling and pouring...let the baby fill and pour to their heart's content! It means they are really learning! What a gift!

I hope this brings some peaceful playtime into your home, as it did in mine! Good luck, and remember to supervise carefully!

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