There are a few activities that spark interest at almost any age, especially in these summer months. That is gardening and making something to freeze! There is something so curious and intriguing about watching food grow and then watching it transform. Some of the best learning about food happens in these natural, unforced environments. It gives space to engage at the level that works for their bodies, and often the natural curiosity encourages them to try and explore more then they would if food was just placed on their plates. So let’s look at two of our favorite summer time foods that come from the garden and the freezer, how to engage your children and some great recipes that you can reproduce in your home.
The huge flavor and smell of pickles doesn’t make it a first choice to most parents when introducing new foods to their child. But the transformation of cucumber to pickle is such a great way to learn about two different foods, as well as great herbs and spices that can come along side.
Visual: If you have a garden, then starting at picking cucumbers is the first great step. If not, just going to the grocery store or farmers market and looking through the different varieties can be such great learning at the visual and interact steps for your child.
Touch: Preparing cucumbers by slicing with child safe knives and cucumber slicers allows children of all ages to explore tactile steps as well. Cutting circles and varying sizes of slices is great as well.
Smell: This is where pickles are such great learning! Dill, Vinegar, Mustard seed….. even Kool-Aid! There are so many ways to engage smell when making pickles. For older kids smell test where you close your eyes and try and guess the smell is a fun a creative way to explore this step.
Taste: If your child is ready for the taste step, the transformation from cucumber to pickle is such a great way to see how a food can transform. We have listed several recipes for refrigerator pickles here for quick and easy ways to prepare your pickles on the sweeter or spicier side.
Popsicles are an obvious summer choice but for children who aren’t automatic lovers of these cold treats sometimes we forget about how much fun learning and engagement can happen when we make popsicles from scratch.
Visual: If you have a garden, then starting at picking fruit or even herbs like basil and thyme are great mixes with fruit flavors. If not, just like cucumbers, just going to the grocery store or farmers market and looking through the different varieties can be such great learning at the visual and interact steps for your child. You can let them choose a color and then get 2-3 fruits that fit within that color scheme.
Touch: Preparing fruits again with child safe knives, cookie cutters, peelers….. all sorts of fun ways to explore these foods at the touch step. If the wetness of fruits is difficult for your child, you can place the cut fruit in plastic baggies and let them smash them with their hands or a wooden spoon. You can let them chop them in a chopper or operate the blender.
Smell: Learning about fruits at the smell step can be wonderful experimenting. What does a watermelon smell like unopened? What about after we cut it? Or after its all blended up? Does the smell get bigger? Smell is a great place to use those herbs to mix in with your fruit. Watermelon and Basil is a wonderful combination.
Taste: If your child is ready for the taste step, then being up at the blender tasting your creation can be the place for them. Does it need to be sweeter? A little honey? More strawberry? Let them take small tastes and then decide what your creation may need. And then taste tests before and after freezing is a great way to see how the food changes, not only in visual and touch characteristics, but taste as well.
See some great fresh fruit popsicles we found that are sure to engage all your senses.
And remember, it’s all about learning, exploring, and experimenting (especially for those older kids). That is why we love this food. It has such great ways to experience all the steps and keep things fun.
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