A week or so ago I picked up several bags of penne pasta at our local grocery store, brought it home, and dyed it in various colors to have it ready for necklace work this school year.
To dye the noodles, I placed them in ziploc bags and added a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring. I then double-sealed the bags and laid them out flat. After about 30 minutes, I flipped the bag over. Then I poured the noodles out onto waxed paper to dry. Once out of the bags, it dried pretty quickly. I am planning to dye wagon-wheel pasta as well.
I like to have a variation of necklace work out on the art shelf all year. The children really enjoy it and it is great for developing fine motor skills. Additionally, as children become more aware of patterns, it is a good patterning activity.
Here is the necklace work for the beginning of the school year as it will appear on the shelf. From the top, going clockwise, are: apples punched from construction paper with holes punched in the center, red/yellow/green striped straws cut into small pieces (NOTE: to prevent these from flying all over when you cut them, cut them inside a ziploc bag), pipe cleaners cut into thirds and wound around a pencil, colored pasta, and yarn bundles with plastic needles. Throughout the year, I vary the items seasonally by using different colors and shapes.
I will place some small plastic baskets next to this work on the shelf. To do the activity, the child takes a needle, yarn bundle, and some of each stringing item and places these into a small basket (leaving the round green divided container on the shelf). They take their supplies to a table and string them to make a necklace. There is some teacher involvement in this. For example, a teacher usually needs to thread the needle (and I usually tied it to the needle so it wouldn't repeatedly come unthreaded) as well as tie the opposite end to a shape so all the pieces don't come sliding off. Then, of course, the adult has to help cut the needle off and tie it to make the necklace. If any of you have other ideas for making this more independent, let me know. My only thought is to have several needles already threaded with shapes already tied on the ends. However, I am afraid these would get really tangled in the container.
Here is a close-up of the needles I use. I just got them in a package of four in the sewing section of Wal-Mart.