How to Dye Pasta for Sensory Play

This was what our morning looked like playing with dyed pasta noodles. Does this look gross or fun to you? I think I'm going to start committing to setting up a sensory play activity each Monday. If any extra time to prep is needed, it's nice to do it on a lazy Sunday afternoon so it's ready to go the next day. It will add a little sparkle to Mondays for everyone, don't you think?

Keep reading below for instructions and tips of how to make dyed pasta.

How to dye noodles for sensory play #doseofplay #sensoryplay #invitationtoplay #learningthroughplay #easyplayideas #toddlerplayideas #preschoolplayideas #waterplay #howtodyenoodles #howtodyepasta

Believe it or not, I had never experimented with dyeing pasta for sensory play. If you’re already thinking this is too time consuming, don’t toss the idea out just yet. I tried out dyeing both uncooked and cooked pasta, so it took me around 45 minutes to do it 4 different ways. Our stove is terrible and takes a painful amount of time to heat up, so this contributed to extra time cooking the noodles.

Tips for dyeing pasta quick and easy:

  1. Stick with making 1 color at a time.

  2. Dye the uncooked pasta noodles only.

  3. Make a large batch of uncooked pasta all at once and if you use a portion with water play (food coloring will bleed), you still have a bunch left to reuse over and over again for play without water. It will last a long time if stored in an airtight container or plastic bag.

How to dye pasta noodles for sensory play:

Edible safe cooked dyed pasta. 

  1. Cook pasta according to directions on your bag.

  2. Rinse with cold water.

  3. Follow directions below for the uncooked dyed pasta.

  4. Dry on paper towels. I found it the wet noodles stuck more to newspaper when they dried, but either way you lose a few noodles.


Edible safe uncooked dyed pasta:

  1. Place 2-4 cups of dried pasta in a plastic bag/container. I purchase cheap egg noodles from a dollar store and used some shel pasta that was about to expire.

  2. First put 3 tsp of white distilled vinegar in a small bowl. I used a glass bowl. Next, add 15 drops (or more to get darker color) into the bowl with vinegar and swirl. This method helps the color go on more evenly. I used about 15 drops every 2 cups because I also wanted to make the color pop more for pictures. Feel free to use a little less. 

  3. Pour color mix into your pasta filled bag/container and shake vigorously!

  4. I let my pasta dry overnight on a baking sheet lined with paper towel.

TIP: If you want the look of the pasta pictured in the first picture of the slideshow below, you do not need to mix the vinegar and food coloring into a separate bowl first before add to the pasta. Just add the vinegar to the bag, followed by the food coloring drops.

Truth: I chose to make this edible version in case our 1 year old got curious, but then later realized it wasn’t safe after my daughter wanted soap bubbles! Good thing he didn’t have any interest in bringing it to his mouth ;) As always, be sure to supervise young children around water and if you add any small parts that could be a choking hazard.

Our set up:

  1. Since our weather is hot here and we were using water, we set up outside on our back porch.

  2. I have a very inexpensive platter tray I I use for this type of play or for bringing treats to parties.

  3. The second tray was a recycled from our local dessert shop. My husband is always very sweet about surprising me with desserts when I’m pregnant. I love and hate him for it. The blue “pool/ocean water” is actually a super cheap place mat! I think it was a dollar found at a popular baby chain store.

  4. I included sea toys from my recent dollar store haul. They actually grow if you keep them in water for a few days.

  5. Cheap scoopers from a party store and a dollar store spray bottle.

Tip: I like to start with minimal/simple setup, then add a new element the next time to make it “exciting.” It’s not necessary to do so though every time you're setting up an activity. Kids will use their imagination naturally explore and play differently subsequent times. I do it partly because it’s fun for me to see their reaction! I think next time I might add a different food coloring color to the spray bottle or to the water bowl and let the kids see how the color changes once mixed with the pasta. 

Be sure to stay social with Dose of Play! Let us know what you think or how you would use this activity in your play with kids!

Ocean Water Play

Water play is a house favorite activity around here. Playing in water can be as relaxing or exciting as you or your kids want it to be. I love creating opportunities for water play with my kids because of all the cognitive and emotional benefits that can be packed into a water play experience. 

This post includes affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission when you purchase items I use and recommend by clicking the links below. Thank you for your support!

Ocean Treasure Dig #sensoryplay #oceansensoryplay #play #toddlerplayideas #preschoolplayideas #easyplayideas #waterplay #toddlers #preschoolers #childlifespecialist #bedsideplay #hospitalplay #dollarstoreplay #dollartreefinds #occupationaltherapist #finemotorskillspractice #rectherapy

Benefits of water play activities:

  • Sensory play with different temperatures and textures

  • Fine motor skills practice through picking up and maneuvering objects with different methods/tools in their play activity

  • Problem solving

  • Pretend play and role rehearsal

  • Distraction (from hunger or to allow you a break from chasing them around; from pain while hospitalized; from worries)

  • Can be done independently, in parallel (kids playing side by side), or with others

  • FUN

I’d also like to add:

- Easy set up

- Can help make very distressing medical experiences less scary and painful (e.g. burn care treatments)

- May increase compliance with treatment and cares (e.g. Cystic Fibrosis best treatments, albuterol treatments for asthmatics, etc).

- If it gets a little messy, that’s okay! It’s just water. My disclaimer is: be careful and asses carefully if considering doing it during certain procedures and with children who have feeding tubes, drains, IV catheters, etc. Best to get permission and support from medical team when facilitating.

Get your dose of vitamin SEA and play with this easy peasy ocean play activity:

Ocean sensory play in action! Scooping, spilling and searching for treasure!

Ocean Water Play: Treasure Find Activity

Supplies needed:

  1. Large bowl/emesis basin

  2. Water

  3. Seashells (substitute any “treasure,” like rocks, large glass beads

  4. Various tools for scooping, moving and sorting (e.g. spoons, recycled plastic scoops from powder drink mixes, or these awesome handy scoopers from Learning Resources

  5. Shiny “grass” advertised for Easter egg stuffing/basket filling as “seaweed"

  6. Optional: differing sized/colored cups to sort and hold “treasure”

  7. Optional: additional plastic ocean animals/squirters

*this activity suggests using small items that are a choking hazard for children under the age of 3. Please use your judgement of the child’s developmental level and supervise all young children during this activity. 


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How to Teach Kids Optimism

Guest Post by: Megan Massey, Certified Child Life Specialist

Recently I’ve been really burned out, consumed by the overwhelming events of the world. I feel a physical weight and sadness in it all. It’s important to join in the pain of others, recognizing their hurt and standing with people during hardships. It’s equally important to practice self-care.  It was on one of these extra heavy days that I chose to click through a series of uplifting stories and images of people simply choosing a moment of love or kindness. Luckily for me they captured it in a picture, or video, and shared it with the world. I had tears of joy streaming down my face as I felt the emotional weight of all that I was carrying being released.

We all tend to hold on to the struggles of our day, the one thing that didn’t go as we had planned, the comment that landed poorly, or the unexpected feedback. It’s the same for our kids. I’ve seen it in my child’s body language-when he gets in a funk. He’s hard to engage, everything irritates him, he’s bored and unable to move on.  I did not instantly pull up the link for heartwarming stories-that would not land the same way it did for me.

How to teach kids optimism #doseofplay #optimism #optimistic #howtoteachkids #howtoteachkidsoptimism #parenting #childlifespecialist #childlifemom #backtoschool #bedtimeroutine #endoftheday #teachingkidstoreflect #positivepractices #findthegoodineachday

However, at the end of each day, my kids get their own little moment of one on one time with me. They each have their own bedtime routine, a favorite song, or a back scratch, or a magic kiss to last the entire night, and a prayer. Included in my son’s routine is a challenge, “tell me about the good in your day.” He’s gotten to the point where his competitive spirit likes to count the number of things he can think of, constantly trying to find more than the day before.

My hope is that this practice will help change his heart, and his eyes. Shaping how he sees the world, and how he carries his burdens and his blessings.  Reminding him that as he goes to sleep-there was good in his day, even if he has to think hard to find it. 

Here are some prompts to try out with your child:

Tell me about the good you saw or felt today.

What is something good you saw or did today?


It doesn’t have to have emphasis on the “best” thing that happened that day.

You can also include: 

“What was the most challenging part of your day?”

“How do you think you handled that?”

“If you could do it all over again is there anything you would change?”

If the conversation opens up a discussion about challenges, try to end with some positives 😊

Here is the link of images and stories I clicked through. 

How to teach kids optimism #doseofplay #howtoeachkidsoptimism #teachingkidsoptimism #optimism #findthegoodineachday #childlifemom #parenting #backtoschool #bedtimeroutine #teachingkidsreflection #cultivatingoptimism

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Encouraging kindness and other positive behaviors (Book Review)

f there’s one thing that I’m learning over and over as a parent is that you’re not going to get everything right or with the outcome you want all the time. That would just be too easy! When this happens in my life, it often leads to putting too much pressure on myself, guilt and negative thoughts about myself as a mother.

One thing I try to be mindful of is

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Help kids cope when feeling angry (book review)

Raise your hand if you will do anything to eliminate or shorten some of the meltdowns that come along with that cute, tank full of emotions, child of yours (arm up over here). Parenthood is tough for anyone and everyone and takes every ounce of patience you thought you had and then some.

When my daughter’s pediatrician entered the room at her 3-year-old well checkup, she raised her eyebrows and asked how we were doing with an understanding smile and nod. She knows I’m a child life specialist and I jokingly (but not really) said how I really didn’t realize the meltdowns and challenging behaviors were so precisely timed to start the day before she turned 3. I mean seriously, I knew they were coming, but I still wanted to pretend it wasn’t!   

In these days when meltdowns come more frequently than solo bathroom breaks, I have so much gratitude for the writers and illustrators who teach children healthy habits and strategies. Books are the one tool that never seems to fail to help children recognize, validate, and give healthy ways to cope with emotions is through books. Since children often need more than one time to learn and implement these little (okay big) lessons, books are a saving grace for this tired Mama!

Help kids cope when feeling angry #copingtools #preschoolbooks #booksforpreschoolers #managingemotions #emotionalregulation #coping #angery #angry #mad #booksforyoungkids #booksforkids #doseofplay

I probably don’t need to be another voice telling parents how important it is to read to children from the get-go. We know it helps them understand the world around them, learn how to communicate, bond with caregivers, identify routines, and so much more. Reading to my children has truly been one of the most special experiences for me as a mother. Not only does it give me all of the feels to see them immersed in story, I feel so proud when I see them take away information they’ve learned to help themselves master a skill, understand emotions and identify ways to cope with stressful situations (just to name a few reasons).

Children’s books have been a guiding light to help me remember to step outside of my own agenda and remember on tough days that young children are full of big emotions whose brains are rapidly growing. When I focus on the normalcy and the reason why for their behavior, I find it easier for myself to remain calm and help them figure out how to calm and/or problem solve.

I typically will introduce new developmentally appropriate books to my three-year-old when she is calm and, in a place, she will listen. Then after it has been introduced, it is offered as a choice to help her calm down if it is available. Books have been a huge influence in helping her find ways to help herself calm. Often, she needs prompts or reminders, but she has also shown how capable she is to implement the strategies we or the ones from her books teach her. As an example, she has learned to stop, slow down and then try again when she is escalating due to frustration (disclaimer = less likely on no nap days). It feels incredible when I hear her from another room getting frustrated and it turns into her excitedly saying, “I did it! I tried again! It worked.”

“How do dinosaurs say I’m Mad?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, is witty while teaching a great lesson about how to cope with anger. I love reading it with really dramatic facial expressions and watching my daughter playfully mimic me. Each page gives examples of what the dinosaur doesn’t do when mad (e.g. scream and shout, throw books, etc.) Then, as pictured below, it shares a healthy way to respond when feeling mad.

When the kids were napping one day, I had some fun taking photos. Squish/stress balls are one of my favorite tangible coping tools to give to kids and teens. I thought I would give this dino his very own squish ball, simply made with a bit of air in a water balloon. When I showed it to my girl, she had the sweetest amused reaction. It was surprise mixed with joy and excitement to play. Any bit of guilt or shame I had for using spare time for the pictures all made it seem WORTH IT.

What are your favorite books to teach young children about emotions and how to cope? Subscribe to the newsletter, so you don't miss the ones I will be sharing next!


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Bullying: Everyone Counts in this Colorful Book

Books for Young Children #bullying #booksaboutbullying #teachkindness #inclusiveness #childlifespecialist #teacher #preschool #preschooler #booksforkids #booksforpreschoolers #teachthemyoung #standupforothers #earlyeducation

Child life specialists help children cope with life stressors, primarily injury and illness in the medical setting, but we are often in a position to help with related stressors outside of the hospital walls. Our rapport made with a family often lends itself to learning about stressors for a child and family within the walls of the school and home. If and when it is out of the scope of our services, we happily make the appropriate referral and sometimes partner with that discipline to help the family feel heard, supported and geared with some resources upon leaving the hospital. In these situations and as a mother of two, I've discovered the value children's books offer that explore and process challenges children face, such as emotional regulation, caregiver separation anxiety, or bullying. 

I'm in the process of compiling a comprehensive go to book resource list for children and families. In the process of looking for books that help reinforce emotional regulation strategies to my preschooler, I found a number of books that I am excited to share with parents and health care professionals working with young children.

Written by Kathryn Otoshi, "One" colorfully labels feelings and helps reinforce identifying numbers. It sends an important message about being kind, inclusive and standing up for someone if they are being bullied. For that reason, it's not only educational for preschoolers, but school-aged children as well. It's not a new book, published nearly 10 years ago, but one that still holds a valuable lesson for young children today. 

By Kathryn Otoshi

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Explaining Brain Death and Organ Donation to Children

As a child life specialist, I am always learning new things and developing creative and appropriate ways to educate about procedures, diagnoses, medical equipment, medical terminology- the list goes on and on. I know what it means to jump from patient to patient and to learn as I teach, and I’ve developed an ability to appropriately adapt my intervention to best meet the needs at hand. That being said, I will never forget the day I was first asked to explain brain death and organ donation to school-aged children.

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Syringe Play

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that kids light up from new and unexpected kinds of play. It doesn’t have to be complex. Some of the easiest and most fun play ideas that have come to me without referencing good ‘ole Pinterest have been from just looking around and recycling empty containers, using loose kitchen and game parts, and following the lead of kids. I take a character or type of play

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Fingerprint Impression Pendant Keepsake Leaves an Imprint on your Heart

Quite possibly the greatest gift I have received since starting is a pendant necklace with Olivia and Robby's fingerprint impression. It's a one-of-a-kind, small treasure that symbolizes the larger than life power their love has on my heart. It seems quite fitting that this meaningful piece of art comes in the form of an impression from the tip of their finger. Our love, after all, is wrapped around their little finger, right?

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Preparing young children for the dentist using play

Let's not kid ourselves, most adults aren't thrilled to go to the dentist. I have to admit, I used to be one of them. In a surprising grown up twist, I will take my floss scolding for a little dose of quiet time to myself. I love my kids, but any stay at home caregiver of littles knows how golden 30 minutes of time is for uninterrupted thoughts. But enough about me, I'm here to share how proud I am of my three year old for her bravery during her last visit to the dentist.

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