Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cooked Spaghetti

Cooked Spaghetti in the Sensory Table
Here's a once-a-year thing for me: cooked spaghetti in the sensory table. We put it in the table with a little bit of warm water, colanders, tongs, spaghetti spoons, plates, and bowls. The kids really enjoy serving up the spaghetti and they get lots of practice squeezing with the tongs. I've only ever had one child taste the spaghetti and by that point it had been touched by so many other children that it didn't taste very good.

Two years ago I put the spaghetti out on trays and it dried overnight. The next day the kids had tons of fun smashing it to little bits. As it dried it made neat shapes. In the two years since it's been rainy when I did this. This year I tried to dry it in the oven. A little paint had gotten into the spaghetti and after two days the spaghetti was still mostly damp and had started to smell. Next year I think I'll try to reboil it before drying it to try to kill anything that might grow while it dries. I also won't pick the rainiest days of the month!

I do have one small qualm about using spaghetti, and it's because we're using food for play. Normally, we teach children that food isn't for play. After all, there are people who don't have food to eat, let alone play with. We have other food that we use in the sensory table, but it's often colored or presented in such a way that the kids don't seem to perceive it as edible. There's just no getting around that with the spaghetti. Also, the other items we use over and over, sometimes for years. I make myself feel better by buying packages that have been smooshed or otherwise damaged that people probably shouldn't be eating anyway, but if you're hungry a little smooshed packaging probably wouldn't bother you.

What do you think about using food for play?

Allergy Note: Clearly, this activity should not be used with your wheat or gluten allergic students. You could make it gluten and wheat free by using rice or corn pasta, but the cost would be extremely high.


  1. We have a no food policy in our daycare, too. Not even dried beans to make shakers.

    One educator made pasta necklaces (Penne and shoe laces) and the director made her apolgise to each parent the next day in case they were offended. (She didn't want to take the necklaces off the preschoolers after they'd made them because they were so proud of their masterpieces.) The parents were confused, and didn't care. It made the whole thing very awkward.

    I get the not wasting food thing, that food is for eating.

    But should we stem their creativity? Pipe cleaners are for cleaning pipes, but we use them in crafts. My weekly reading words were given to me in empty tobacco tins at school. These things didn't me in my choice whether or not to roll my own cigarettes or smoke a pipe.

    I don't know. Is it such a big deal?

  2. I guess it depends on your personal food situation. We didn't really pause about using food before this year, when food prices across the globe went sky-high and more people are starving than ever. With people we know losing their jobs and finding it hard to make ends meet, it seems a little insulting to play with food.

    The reality is that most of our families get the point, but they aren't offended if we use food for play. As I said, food that gets used over and over isn't problematic at all. This may be the last year I can do the spaghetti thing, though. I doubt my director would prevent me from doing it, but I'm looking at the parents who will be with my class next year and seeing some activists. I'm all for righting the world's wrongs, so I may choose to take the higher road next year.

    What do you think I should do?

  3. I agree with using food for play that can be re-used many times (such as dry rice and beans--they can last for years), but I generally don't like using food for crafts or play, unless it will be eater later. Why not have a spaghetti snack that the kids can serve themselves, using the tongs and colanders?

    That reminds me of something we do here in Japan: there is a summer custom of eating "nagashi somen", where a long piece of split bamboo (or other clean cut pipe-like material) is tilted at an angle to make a slide, with water flowing down the pipe to a bucket, or sieve if outside. The somen (rice noodles) are slowly ladled in at the top of the "slide" and children and adults stand along it and try to catch the noodles with their forks and put them in their bowls of broth. Sometimes fruit is added, or hard boiled eggs. It is a lot of fun, and a popular summer activity at kindergartens. So I guess what I'm saying is: It's best to play with your food, and then make sure to eat it!