Have fun playing with your food

How many times have you heard, “Don’t play with your food. Eat it?” Now young children can have fun with food and make it a learning experience, too. For more fun learning activities, pod casts and videos see www.grandparentsteachtoo.org.

What to do

Shapes are found all around us. Recognizing the basic shapes circle, square, rectangle, diamond (rhombus), and triangle is important in math, literacy, and art.

For breakfast use a variety of cereal shapes after checking packages for the lowest amount of sugar and carbohydrates. Toast, eggs, and fruits can be cut into different shapes to discuss during the meal.

At lunch and suppertime, prepare a meal featuring these shapes. Sandwiches or cut up meat and cheese are a good place to start. Cut the bread into triangles. Fruits and vegetables can be cut into many shapes. Experiment with other foods and talk about sides and corners while preparing the meal. Young children my help cut food with a table or plastic knife.

Patterns are found everywhere. Exploring and playing with patterns provide an understanding of math and science concepts. You can play basic pattern games with food that help children recognize, copy, extend, and make predictions about patterns.

Using finger food like cereal, fruit, and vegetables like peas and corn create your own repeating pattern. The simplest would have two elements repeating again and again. Young children will need at least three repetitions to recognize or repeat the pattern.

A vegetable tray provides a good starting point. Select two vegetables such as peas and corn. The pattern would go like this: pea, corn, pea, corn, and pea, corn. Have your children repeat the names as you lay them down. Then ask if they can tell what comes next and place the vegetables down. You can extend the pattern by adding another food such as a bean. You can do this with fruits, berries, or cereal. Explore color patterns that repeat such as red strawberry, blueberry and purple grape.

What else can we do?

Look for other repeating patterns in clothing such as stripes in a shirt or scarf, beads of different colors, or toys. If your child begins a pattern while playing with Legos or different size cars, point it out and ask what comes next.

Look for ways to incorporate movement. Your children can follow as you create a pattern such as step, clap, step, clap or stand, sit, and lie down. Add music to your pattern or sing songs such as “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

Read books with repeating patterns such as “The M&Ms Color Pattern Book” by McGrath. Add motion and music with Raffi’s “Shake My Sillies Out” or Rosen’s “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” For more fun, create your own pattern book together using stickers.

Editor’s note: Grandparents Teach ,Too is a non profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. Writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan (PAM), Upper Peninsula Association for the Education of Young Children (UPAEYC), Northern Michigan School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, and NMU Center for Economic Education.