With all of the social distancing, sickness, and radical lifestyle shifts we've encountered lately, it's hard to remain positive. I wanted to do something with my kids to remind them that there are still things we can be grateful for right now. Same sort of concept as looking for all the helpers during a crisis situation. Honestly, I myself find it hard to look to the positive; so, a gratitude practice could be super helpful all around.
By gratitude, I mean what we are thankful for right now, despite all that we're going through as a society. In anticipation of this craft, I asked my kids what they are grateful for right now, and their answers really ran the gamut. Lol. It would be funny to hear what different kids say.
After making a list of their answers, I asked my kids to pick one thing and create an art project around it. I started off just wanting them to write/decorate their gratitude word on colored construction paper, but both of my kids wanted to draw too. This craft is pretty open-ended.
NOTE: I discovered that making a gratitude list is best done as step 3 and not at the beginning of the craft. This way, you have something to do while the pasta shells dry. You'll see this in the craft instructions below.
Shells and Things
The idea is to write your word of gratitude on paper and then decorate the letters with glued-on, colored pasta shells. The craft can get fancier. For example, my daughter is really into gems and we have a big bag of various gems/sequins/pom-poms/googly-eyes I got at the craft store. She wanted to add that into the mix. You could really use any craft supply you have around: feathers, felt, glitter, etc.
COLORING THE SHELLS
The fun and messy part of this craft is coloring the pasta shells. I would recommend doing this right away, as the first step. I began the craft with our gratitude list, and I think that was the wrong move. The shells needed more time to dry than I anticipated. [See instructions below for optimal order of steps]. Here are some TIPS on getting your shells to dry as fast as possible.
- Set up a protected work space. Food coloring is not the same as washable markers! Again, I made this mistake. I would suggest covering your table/work area with newspaper or something disposable, to capture any rogue dye drops. Otherwise, as I did, you will have to follow your kids hands around with a wet rag.
- Make sure you are using a small amount of liquid. It doesn't take much to turn the shells into a cool color. As stated in the instructions, only mix 1 t of vinegar with a couple drops of food coloring. Too much liquid will pool inside the shells and instead of drying, the shells will be sitting in liquid. Because we used too much liquid, I even found myself having to transfer the wet shells to a second piece of parchment paper, and, believe me, you don't want all that mess!
- Use enough shells. We used 1 cup of small shells to make 3 pieces of artwork and the shells were spilt up between 5 different colors. And that seemed to be the perfect amount. Make sure there are enough shells in each bag of coloring/vinegar. If the amount of shells is too small, the shells will be swimming in liquid.
- Spread the shells out on the parchment paper. The pasta will not dry if the shells are heaped up onto one another. Spread the shells as widely as you can. I used a spoon to spread them. But make sure the colors don't run into each other, unless you want rainbow shells! Lol.
This really is a simple craft, albeit slightly messy. Your kids can do whatever they want to their paper. For me, relaying the concept of gratitude was the most important aspect of the craft. While we liked using small shells because we were having our One Pot Vegan Pasta with Chickpeas for dinner and because shells are fun to dye, you don't have to. Use anything you have around the house to adorn your work of thankfulness. You could go the natural route and use leaves, twigs, dried moss, etc. Or go the sparkly princess route with a lot of gems, glitter and rainbows. Whatever you and your kids are into will be awesome!
While making this gratitude craft, you and your kids might want to take a moment to learn some fun facts about this meal's featured ingredient:
🍴 SHELL PASTA 🍴
- Shell pasta is also referred to as conchiglie because its shape resembles a conch shell.
- Shell pasta comes in three sizes: small (conchigliette), medium (conchiglie) and large (conchiglioni). Large shells are often stuffed and baked.
- Shell pasta is a good source of carbohydrates, which give our body energy.
Ingredient: Small Shells Pasta
Corresponding Recipe: One Pot Vegan Pasta with Chickpeas
Skills supported: Fine motor, (pouring, mixing and gluing), math (counting), following instructions
✂ supplies ✂
- parchment paper
- small bowl
- white vinegar
- food coloring
- 1 cup (or less) uncooked small shells
- Ziploc Sandwich Bag(s)
- colored construction paper
- pen or marker
- any other art supplies you like!
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SEE HOW TO MAKE OUR GRATITUDE WORDS CRAFT:
📝 instructions 📝
Consider setting up the craft before cooking so that your kids can get to work right away.
1. Set Up: Lay out a piece of parchment paper. [You may need to weight down the sides of the parchment paper so they don't curl up - we used clementines]. In a small bowl, combine 1 tsp of white vinegar with 1-2 drops of food coloring. Mix together.
2. Color the Pasta: Pour vinegar-color mixture into a ziploc sandwich bag, add a bunch of uncooked shells, and seal bag shut. Shake bag of pasta vigorously until shells are evenly colored. Pour colored pasta onto parchment paper and spread out so they're not on top of each other. Allow pasta to dry for at least 5 minutes. [Repeat as many times as you like with different colors]
3. Gratitude: While shells are drying, ask your kids to call out things they are grateful for. Make a list of their answers and have them pick out one word or phrase. They (or you) can write that word(s) on a piece of construction paper.
4. Make Your Art! Glue shells onto the letters. [To make this more challenging/interactive, have kids count how many shells it takes]. This is the creative part. Decorate your paper however you like: draw what the word means to you, add color, glue gems, use stickers/stamps, do whatever makes you happy!
*For toddlers especially, these tasks may require adult supervision and/or assistance.