By Julia Howard
With schools closed and many of us working from home, parents are desperately looking for ways to keep their children occupied. Food provides many opportunities for learning and play as well as nourishing our bodies and teaching important life skills. Here are 5 simple ways to use food and our local food system as learning tools for young children:
1. Cooking and Baking
Cooking and baking offer many learning opportunities for children; organizational skills, counting, measuring ingredients, team work, even writing out a grocery list. Cooking can be as simple as a smoothie, a salad, no-bake cookies, or assembling a picnic. Offering choices and presenting the activity as a game can be helpful in keeping the attention of your little ones.
2. Crafts and Games
The internet is peppered with DIY crafts and games to keep kids entertained, but look no farther than your fridge for real fun. Making fruit and vegetable prints with discarded stalks, cores, and stems is a creative, no-waste activity for little ones. Building constructions or creating a piece of art from cut fruit and vegetable pieces can make a tasty snack much more entertaining.
3. Planting Activities
If you want to garden with your kids but you’re not quite ready to dig out a space in your yard, here are some ideas that provide opportunities to grow on a small scale. Herbs, leafy vegetables, and celery may simply grow in water by cutting the plant at its base and placing it in water. An indoor herb garden or an outdoor container garden offers the full gardening experience. If you don’t have time to plant seeds, contact your local nursery as many are offering curbside pickup for plants.
4. STEM Activities
Whether your child is learning about taste vs. smell or the phases of the moon, food can be used for countless STEM experiments to stimulate higher thinking and problem solving. Try shaking heavy cream to make butter, experiment with the many ways to bake a potato, or make ice cream with salt, ice, and cream.
5. Driving Farm Tour or Virtual Tour
For families itching to get out of the house, a short drive through farm country can lift spirits during this difficult time. Make a map of your local producers, roll down the car windows, and take in the beauty that the area has to offer. Nettle Meadow and the Kemp Sanctuary even offer a virtual tour of their farm with opportunities to meet their famous rescue animals.
This week’s recipe: Apple & Carrot “Superhero” Muffins