To continue on our food exploration, we gave the children Mango’s in their whole, cut, and bite-sized form. A book titled, “The Languages of Food”, originally inspired this activity. The goal with these food exploration activities is to allow children to expand their horizons and become comfortable with food in their whole and sliced form. Not many children have the opportunity to experience a mango in its whole form (or pineapples, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more.) The children have learned so much about these different foods concerning their texture, scent, taste, colors, seeds, and juices! (We attached some blogs below to link you to other posts we’ve written on this same study.) This allows for a wonderful sensory experience because the children are able to acquire knowledge of the world (and of food) through hands-on experience, not by memorizing or being taught, and it opens the door for children to understand food, where it comes from, and be willing to taste many things.
To further our project of fruit exploration, we gave the Toddler 1 class plantains to explore. The children quickly discovered that plantains are quite different from the regular bananas that we enjoy each morning or snack time. The children approached the plantain differently and explored in their own ways:
One child picked up the plantain, felt the weight, and then dropped it on the table. He continued to do this over and over again, each time picking up the fruit and then dropping it on the table. This repetitive activity introduced the concept of gravity, weight, and cause-and-effect. This helps to develop a child’s fine motor skills and is a visual-audio experience because it allows them to watch where the object goes and hear the sound of it hitting the table.
The children participated in an art activity this week by making a fall masterpiece using leaves. The project started by their utter fascination with the leaves outside on the trees, so we encouraged them to express their knowledge and interest in leaves in a multiple ways, one of which through this activity!
We gave the children large leaves and set up an area for them to paint with various warm, fall colored-paint and a variety of paintbrushes, and some paper baking cups. We actually weren’t sure what they were going to do with the materials, for examples: use the leaves to paint, paint on the leaves, use the cups to paint, paint on the cups, use the cups to hold the paint, use the leaves to hold the paint, etc.
One goal we’ve been trying to achieve is to show the children that each food has a different taste and textures. To illustrate this, we cut up some cucumbers with the children so they could taste and play with them. As you can tell in the photos below, the cucumbers received a variety of reactions from the Toddler 1 class. One child enjoyed eating them, one child enjoyed sharing them, two children bit into the cucumbers and quickly spit the vegetable out, and a few children enjoyed playing with the cucumber skin and attempted to construct figures with it.
According to Dr. Susan Evans Morris, children need to learn about new foods in an unthreatening way. “When they stir, pat, smear, pour, and make designs with an unfamiliar food, they experience the sensory qualities of that food. What olor is it? What does it smell like? What does it feel like on my hands? Is it smooth or does it have some texture? Is it wet or dry?”
By allowing children to play with the whole cucumber, prepared slices, and engage in a sensory experience, they developed the comfort to explore the food with their mouths and this also gave them the confidence and greater willingness to experience the food. Moreover, the teachers had a chance to observe the children communicate, problem solve (when building with the cucumber skins and deciding what to do if they didn’t like the taste), work on their fine motor skills (by picking up and handling the vegetable), and describe the different tastes and textures they were experiencing.
According to Susan Revermann, a great way to continue this study at home is to take your child grocery shopping with you and turn it into a fun learning experience! Pick up various whole foods and show them to your child. Hold up two foods with contrasting colors, various shapes, different sizes, sweet smells, pungent smells, and foods that they may and may not recognize. Even if your child doesn’t quite understand your words yet or have the words to describe it themselves, your child will be developing their language skills while participating in a visually stimulating experience!
“Art is an experience that requires free thinking, experimentation, and analysis — all part of creativity.” – MaryAnn Kohl
One day in class we presented the children with fluorescent paint on the light table and on a large piece of white paper as a provocation. We were curious to see if the children would treat the paint the same when painting on the different surfaces. Our role as teachers was to simply observe, ask questions, and encourage them that yes, painting with your fingers and hands is okay.