Healthy eating habits are a great topic of exploration around the holidays, where food is at the center of most celebrations. Along with nutrition, I also like to include activities related to the body to round out my monthly preschool science and math program.
Great folktales and picture books about food abound in children’s literature, so it was easy to plan my story time. Along with my old stand-bys (telling “The Enormous Turnip” on the felt board and the Very Hungry Caterpillar with props) I added some new favorites: Rah, Rah, Radishes: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre.
Also a newish title from the wonderful George Shannon, which relates all the human effort it takes to make ingredients to bake cookies and bring them to market – from farmers, to metal-smiths, to truck drivers.
The science and math activities following were mostly based on nutrition, digestion and other aspects of the body.
This activity appeals to preschoolers’ love of squishing things! I placed a few slices of banana and some saltines into a plastic bag. Preschoolers were invited to squish the food in the baggies using their hands. While they did so, I invited conversations about how our body smashes food together so that it can be digested. *I have tried leaving food out to let them make their own, but the bananas were too tempting!
Comparing the Large and Small Intestine
I was inspired to create this activity after my visit to CMOE, a hands-on science museum in Evansville, Indiana. I re-purposed some coffee cans with removable plastic lids to help demonstrate the average size of the large and small intestine in humans, 5 feet and 22 feet, respectively. The cans were easy to make – just poke a hole in the lid, affix desired length of yarn to the bottom of the can, put clear tape on the edge of the yarn so that it will go through the lid.
This large foam floor puzzle of the human skeleton (purchased through Discount School Supply) was a good way for older preschoolers to explore the structure of the body.
At this station, I encouraged parents and children to take turns using a stethoscope. The activity I proposed was to listen to the heart when the person was at rest. Then, listen to the heart after that person did 10 jumping jacks! Yet another way to put real equipment into kids’ hands.
The Healthy Eating Plate
A perennial favorite – children are asked to sort through photos cut from grocery store ads (or provided materials to draw or write) and apply them to portions on the Healthy Eating plate. What I like about this exercise is that along with the fact children are compelled to sort, classify, and quantify data, I often hear wonderful conversations about food choices.
Activities exploring the body are typically a great hit with young children. Stay tuned for more ideas!