Science ideas for young children: Making noodles

Making noodles can be a fun way to learn about science.

Pasta is a food that can take a multitude of forms: ribbons, strings, ear-shaped, bow ties, tubes, spirals and any shape imaginable. It can also be made from a variety of flours. Have you ever thought about how noodles were made? Ask the kids in your life where they think pasta comes from.

If you have flour and water, you can make pasta. Other ingredients, such as salt and eggs, make for a different kind of pasta. Here are some experiments to try:

  1. Begin by making sure all hands, utensils and surfaces are clean. Make plain basic pasta with 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Mix it together to make a dough. After you work it into a smooth dough, let it rest for about a half-hour. Then you can shape it into whatever kind of pasta you want. You can roll it out on a flour-dusted counter with a rolling pin and cut it into strips with a pizza cutter, you can make bow ties or you can roll it into snakes of various sizes. What do you think will happen when you put the noodles in boiling water? Will they change? Will they get bigger or smaller? Will they change in color? Do raw noodles feel and smell different than cooked noodles? Why? Weigh some of the noodles before you cook them and after you cook them and see how much water they absorb. If you let the noodles cook longer, will they absorb more water? If you let them dry on the counter longer, will it change the texture or flavor of the pasta? Try experimenting with different amounts of water, try changing the resting time or try letting it dry for different amounts of time. NOTE: Raw noodles and doughs should not be tasted.
  2. Try making different dough using the above method, but use three eggs instead of water. What are eggs made out of? How might that change the flavor and texture? Will the final noodle be softer or harder? Will it absorb more or less water?
  3. Try making dough with different types of flours. Will bread flour or cake flour still be able to make a pasta? What about flour from rice, corn, rye or buckwheat? What makes the flours different?
  4. Try adding different additions to the flours, such as salt, water, vinegar, tomato or spinach juice and see how it changes the flavor and texture.
  5. Have each member of your group try a different variation on the pasta theme and see which tastes the best and makes the perfect pasta.

Have fun experimenting and going through the scientific process of asking questions, making predictions, conducting experiments and asking new questions – with pasta!

Michigan State University Extension encourages families, daycares, school activities, 4-H clubs or any group working with young children to conduct these experiments. The focus of these lessons aren’t to simply impart knowledge, but to facilitate the joy of discovery and the exploration of the world around us. This is not designed to “give youth the answers,” but to empower them to ask questions and figure things out on their own. When a young person asks a question, resist the urge to answer it, and instead ask, “What do you think?”

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