Objectives: The children will learn where their food comes from, how it grows, our relationship with the sun, and the food chain. They will build on their understanding of healthy eating and how we take care of the environment and ourselves. There will be opportunity for refinement of fine motor skills with planting seeds, picking, washing, chopping.
Areas of learning: Science/biology, numeracy/measuring, practical life/gardening, meal preparation and cooking, care of the environment, care of self, healthy eating, food hygiene.
Introductory activities: The sun game. This will help the children understand our dependence on the sun for our food. The children place the cards with plants/flowers/crops/vegetables/fruit around the sun in a circle. Then the cards with animals that eat plants around the outside. Then the outer circle is made up of carnivores.
- We can introduce the food chain and how everything on our planet is dependent on the sun. I used these wonderful free printables from The Learning Ark and drew the sun with Am.
- You can explore lots of different activities together, such as drawing parts of plants together, growing peas in clear cups, investigating how fruit and vegetables help our body, and how plants and flowers help the environment.
- Activity: Plant some vegetable seeds with the children. We like the M&S little seedling kits which have seed infused sheets with little compost blocks, and tiny paper pots.
- All you have to do is soak the compost block ’til it expands, fill the pot and pop the seed sheet on top.
- Label each one with the name of the plant, and the child’s name. Place in a sunny area, water it, observe its growth daily.
- Measure the height of the shoots and record the numbers, which will help the children incorporate numeracy into the activity and give it a practical purpose.
- If you are lucky enough to have a sunny patch of outdoor space, you can plant seedlings in containers, clearly labelled, and continue planting throughout the spring and summer so you always have a ready supply of vegetables.
- Edible flowers make a beautiful addition to the kitchen garden, and the children will love garnishing salads with the bright petals.
- Once your vegetables have grown, invite the children to prepare a meal with them. A fresh salad of warm new potatoes, peas, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, herbs and edible flower petals will be a wonderful sensorial experience for them, as well as developing practical life skills and a love of nature and food.
Things to incorporate: hand washing, food preparation, chopping,
In real life
It is summer in the UK, and so has rained for the last 45 days, with about three hours of weak sunshine. It is lockdown, and you are desperate for fresh air and Something To Do so you and the child have planted hundreds of seeds and seedlings.
Your child has shown zero interest in the sun game, even though you spent ages downloading the printables, trying the print the damn things on the insufferable printer, cutting them out, sticking to card, and laminating them. Then cutting them again.
She has also shown no interest in the activities you’ve introduced – peas in pint glasses, growing their shoots up the side in wet kitchen roll. Drawing the different parts of a potato plant.
The seeds you planted six weeks ago have struggled into the light with spindly stalks. You started measuring them, but then she wanted a competition and hers weren’t winning so she cried.
You planted a packet of broad beans, tenderly watered them with the Montessori Child daily, observed and measured them. If you were feeling particularly tyrannical, you shut one or two in a cupboard with no light in the name of science.
You now have four or five huge pods, which buy a moment of precious joy as child pops them into a bucket, and looks very sweet in her sunhat.
You show child how to pod them at the kitchen table. You hastily google and find out that unlike peas, broad beans can’t be eaten raw out of the pod. There’s definitely fewer in the bowl than before, but she swears she hasn’t eaten them. You later find them squashed into the carpet.
How big are people’s allotments and vegetable gardens? This took two months and you’ve got about ten broad beans.
But this is lockdown, time has no meaning here.
Next you pluck some butterhead lettuce leaves. The snails ate most of the plants, and the culprits have been chucked over next door’s fence. ‘Snail patrol, snail patrol, be there on the double’ the child shouts gleefully as she hurls them over the buddleia. You have a discussion on care of animals, and she looks at you doubtfully as you squash some aphids.
The tomato plants have some kind of yellow flower on them, and no sign of tomatoes. You are unsure if they are in fact tomato plants.
Your edible flowers have weird gummy black flies stuck around the stamens. You leave them well alone.
Your leek now looks like this.
Potatoes! The potato bags have a little flap you can open to pull the baby potatoes from the roots. Child lifts the Velcro flap and approximately 5kg of compost spills out onto the decking. Husband groans. ‘Never mind’, you trill, child fetches dustpan and brush.
Are those new ones or the original seedling potatoes? They are small and wonky and a bit green. Child enjoys washing them and spreading more earth in physically impossible places.
Child washes and dries the lettuce leaves, and chops them with scissors. Together you carefully boil the new potatoes (and possibly some very old ones) and finally the broad beans.
Your salad has seven broad beans, five new potatoes, four lettuce leaves, and some sad parsley from the herb ‘garden’.
Your child makes the dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. She then screams because lemon juice got in a imperceptible cut on her finger and she needs a plaster Now. Not that one, the Paw Patrol ones. No, the Skye one. And she HATES pepper. The dressing is placed in the fridge for later, or when you notice it covered in mould three months time.
Family forlornly eat the salad. You pour a glass of wine and order pizza.