At the end of my last kids’ book post, I asked what you thought of me sharing little “units” you can do with your kids. Lots of you commented, wrote, or messaged me to say you were interested. Yay! With summer upon us, I thought I’d start putting them out there in case (like me) you’re looking at a long, hot summer and trying to think of great ways to keep everyone busy. Also to avoid dying of heat stroke.
I wanted to share things I’d actually DO with my kids. Sometimes, I look at the elaborate “play date ideas” I see on the interwebs and I’m like “Nope.” I don’t have an extra 17 hours a week to essentially plan a birthday party every day of the week. We aren’t doing ALL of these things every day. When we choose a “unit” to focus on, our idea is that by choosing a focus, it’s easier for me to come up with things to do. Plus, when the books we read and the things we’re doing match up, it’s an easy way to keep the conversation going and to reinforce any words or ideas we’re working on.
We pick 1-2 things to do per day, and sometimes that’s just reading the books. Some of these ideas are as easy as clicking “print”and busting out the crayons. Sometimes, it’s just playing with your afternoon snack before/after/while you eat it it. Some are things you could do with a playgroup or friends. Nothing is so labor intensive you’ll be up cramming into the wee hours so that your children can have a Martha Stewart-worthy play experience the next morning. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
First Fun with Kids Unit is (what else?): FOOD!
BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED
1. Little Pea. This was adorable. It was a funny little read about a little pea who does NOT want to eat his dinner. What do peas have to eat for dinner? Candy. A funny read for families with picky eaters.
2. Soup Day. This was a big time favorite. It’s a start-to-finish story about shopping for and making a big pot of soup. There’s a recipe included, but it’s also a great starting point if you want to make your own pot of soup. We read this over and over.
3. Mr. Cookie Baker, Pizza at Sally’s, or Apple Farmer Annie. I keep shouting Monica Wellington’s praises, but for good reason. My kids are FASCINATED by her books. They have them memorized, and LOVE the start-to-finish element of following a dish from start to completion. Plus there are recipes at the end 🙂
4. Tyler Makes Pancakes! This was written by Tyler Florence (whom I love), so I was bound to love it. Even with a predisposition to like it, it really was great. It’s another farm-to-table/start-to-finish book. I think these types of books are really important for having a great conversation with your child about recipes and food. Plus, it’s really fun to read/think about/eat pancakes. Mmm… pancakes. He’s also written two follow-ups about spaghetti and meatballs and birthday cake. Sophie and Milo love them. We read this book daily until I had to sneak it back to the library.
5. Bee-Bim Bop!Besides being incredibly fun to say, this was a really cute book. It’s a look at making the Korean rice-meat-and-vegetable dish bibimbap. The cadence is paced really nicely, and Sophie (and I) loved to say “BEE BIM BOP!” at the end of every page. There’s a recipe at the end of the book, but here’s another gorgeous one.
(Side note: the author, Linda Sue Park, also wrote Xander’s Panda Party, which we LOVED.)
6. Rah, Rah, Radishes!This book is written like a camp cheer. It’s got lots of market pictures, which I love. Sophie loves hunting for things at the grocery store, and real pictures are great for visual learners. There are sister books about fruit and nuts/seeds. Lots of fun.
THINGS TO DO:
1. Make Colored Pasta. I’ve seen cooked dyed pasta all over for a sensory activity, but I prefer this dried version–no one would eat it, and it would last longer! You could string it into necklaces, make stacks, sort by color, mix it all together and make little toys swim in it, scoop it up with dump trucks… SO many options. p.s. make it the night before and let it dry while you do your normal evening wind-down.
2. Play with Your Food! Whether that’s grapes, small cubes of apple, or something sweet like marshmallows or gumdrops, I love this activity. You can also use the food and toothpicks to practice making letters. Genius!
3. Or, make something easier. For littler ones (like Milo), “stringing” berries or grapes onto one long skewer would be easier. I love these fruit wands, rainbow fruit skewers, or very hungry caterpillars. So cute!
4. Stamp! I love fruit and veggie stamping. You can do it with nearly anything–carrots, apples, potatoes, citrus, bell peppers… whatever! You can do this just on paper, or you can take it to the next level and stamp on paper lunch sacks, fabric napkins, or canvas library bags. (Michaels and Hobby Lobby often have great sales on canvas bags).
5. Make an easy recipe together. I’ve got another post coming soon with lots more ideas for simple kid-friendly recipes, but granola, trail mix, and smoothies are pretty much fool-proof. If your child adds a little too much of something, or spills a bit of something else, the end result will still turn out just fine! Practice measuring, scooping, touching different ingredients, and mixing.
6. Hunt for new fruits or veggies. Visit a farm, farmer’s market, or even a new grocery store. Maybe choose something you’ve never had–star fruit, dragon fruit, papaya? What about rainbow carrots, baby heirloom tomatoes, or a new kind of olive?
7. Decorate cookies or make individual pizzas. Any favorite cookie (or paleo “sugar” cookie) recipe will do. You can even skip the cookies and decorate graham crackers. Mix up a batch of frosting, decorate, and take to friends or neighbors. Mix up some pizza crust or pick up some pre-made dough at your grocery store. Let everyone choose their toppings and you’ve got an evening of it!
…AND A FEW BUSY BOOK IDEAS
Because I love a good coloring page…
- Fruit and Veggie Coloring Pages – Happiness is Homemade
- Farming & Farmer’s Market Coloring Pages
- Ice Cream Coloring Page
- Banana Dot-to-Dot (#1-5)
- Watermelon Dot-to-Dot (#1-10)
What are YOUR favorite ways
to get your kids in the kitchen?
For more ideas on getting started, check out this post featuring tips for cooking with kids!