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So, I joked to my wife the other day that she was getting macaroni art for mother's day.

But, now I think it's serious, and it's what she's going to get. I want to do some macaroni art with my son (26-months-old), and I'd like some ideas on how to make the process... workable.

In my head, I was thinking of preparing some cutouts or molds ahead of time, so we only need to focus on the pasting of macaroni to the object and decorating it. I was also thinking of using something like Elmer's glue, but in a small dish we can "dip" the macaroni in to maybe contain the mess.

However, I'd really like to know if there are other techniques out there. I did macaroni art in Kindergarten, but not since then. All I remember is I made Christmas ornaments, and we also spray-painted them.

I would like ideas on:

  • What to prepare beforehand myself, and what my toddler can do himself
  • How to keep the inevitable mess minimized and contained
  • How to keep my child engaged long enough to complete all or most of one objet d'art
  • Types of adhesives/materials that work best (and are kid-safe)
  • Anything I need to do afterwards, such as applying a fixative
  • Things to avoid doing
  • Do other noodles work well? We can get any noodle

Suggestions on things to make are more than welcome, but please don't make them your entire answer. I'd really like help with the technique.

I'm confident there are people out there with hands-on experience with what works and what doesn't work.

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    There will be a delay in updating everyone on the project, as baby is coming early. – user11394 May 8 '15 at 21:46
  • If you fear the mess of glue you can use Play-Doh to press the macaroni into. It will air harden. Play-Doh, while suitably hard when dried out, is not the most durable. You can use any air hardening clay from an art store for more strength. – Kai Qing May 8 '15 at 22:25
  • @KaiQing I think you should add that as an answer! – user11394 May 8 '15 at 22:27
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I have no experience with macaroni-art specifically, but when I let my toddler do painting, I bought a huge (3x3m or so) sheet of plastic, put it in the middle of the room, stripped her down naked and then placed her in the middle of the plastic with a few brushes, open containers of paint and some canvases.

At the end of the creativity session, you just remove the art, fold up and throw out the plastic and put the toddler in bath.

If you assume beforehand that the child will make a huge mess, you can prepare for it and just let them go at it. It's much more freedom for them to explore the materials if you don't have to constantly keep them from trying to glue down the table or something like that.

Plus, it frees you up for taking pictures. This is possibly the most important part! I did the painting excercise for mother's day last year, and the picture of her making the artwork is still in the living room, even though the painting has been removed.

(Although this approach is not advised if you have a toddler that sticks everything in their mouths.)

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You covered a bit of preparation when you mentioned using cut-outs. This will help shorten the process to keep the toddler engaged through most/all of the process.

The first thought that comes to mind as far as materials to use or avoid using would be to use a glue stick in place of liquid glue. This will help minimize the mess (I like the glue in a dish, but could be easily knocked over). I'm not sure how well the macaroni will adhere with stick versus liquid glue, but that's a consideration.

You can use ANY noodle. Ziti works well for longer straight-line needs I'd say.

This site offers some ideas for craft projects. It uses food coloring and vinegar to "dye" the noodles. Requires about 30 minutes of prep (including dry time). (Edited dry time, my mistake)

Recipe:

  1. 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  2. 10-12 drops of food coloring
  3. ½ cup any shaped pasta (rotelle/wheels, elbows, ditalini, ziti, spirals, etc.) -- See, any noodle

Directions:

  1. Mix vinegar and food coloring in a measuring cup.
  2. Pour into ziploc baggie
  3. Add pasta and seal the bag
  4. Shake vigorously (fun for the kiddo!) Whatever it takes to coat the noodles
  5. Once the noodles are covered, let the color set in for about 5 minutes
  6. Drain baggie, empty noodles onto a paper towel
  7. Let dry for 15 minutes.
  8. Turn noodles, and let them continue to dry.

The site also has notes from the OP's experience as well. Amount of food coloring needed, tips on making different colors, etc.

The only macaroni project I can remember from Kindergarten was doing an alligator. Macaroni for the scales on the cut-out, then we glued a clothes pin where the mouth was so the 'gator could actually "bite" you.

Pinterest is another good source for ideas if you're really strapped.

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  • I would have never thought about dyeing the noodles! What a great suggestion. I think that having dyed noodles is very likely to increase my son's interest in the project. Would you please include the full steps from the linked website? – user11394 May 7 '15 at 19:38
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    Pretty simple. I'll edit my answer – Brian Robbins May 7 '15 at 19:41
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    Different kinds of noodles are absolutely wonderful. The more shapes and textures to stimulate the imagination, the better! – Acire May 7 '15 at 20:06
  • You could even cheat a little and get the colored pasta, but it may not come in many different varieties of shape and/or size – Brian Robbins May 7 '15 at 21:27
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    I went to the store and thought about getting the tri-colored, but I think the colors are better with the food coloring, based on that article. Also, I found neon food coloring, which was awesome. I picked up a few more kinds, besides the elbow mac we had at home already. Didn't want get too much, as we'll probably have to eat whatever isn't used for art. – user11394 May 7 '15 at 22:19
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For those who don't want to deal with the hassle of the glue mess, you can use Play-Doh and press the macaroni into it. Play-Doh air hardens and is suitably strong, but could be considered a little fragile.

My daughter's preschool uses an air hardening clay found at any art store. It seems to hold very well.

Until I'm confident my daughter won't destroy the house with glue, I will stick to the clay methods. Plus, they love making towers and cakes then embedding all kinds of things into it.

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