Updated: May 26, 2021
A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum
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A Tasty Treat
My toddler and I had so much fun playing with food! One of the highlights for me was getting to make stone soup. We made it together in the morning and it simmered in the crock pot while he napped. When he woke up the house smelled delicious and he ate carrots, celery and onions and asked for more! I definitely noticed that learning about food had the added benefit of my toddler being curious about and willing to try new foods!
Building Background Knowledge
Depending on their age, children will come with varying levels of understanding and vocabulary knowledge about food. What I found valuable was the conversations that were sparked about the classification of food and where it comes from. I also noticed that by intentionally involving him in kitchen, it carried over into his independent play. Win-win!
*Books with an asterisk are my Top 5 Picks to Add to Your Home Library for this unit
Hot Pot Night! - Chen, Vincent
Right This Very Minute: A table-to-farm book about food and farming - Detlefsen, Lisl
Stone Soup - Brown, Marcia
Growing Vegetable Soup - Elhert, Lois
The Very Hungry Caterpillar* - Carle, Eric
The Little Red Hen - Muldrow, Diane
From Grass to Milk - Taus-Bolstad, Stacy
Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons - Rosenthal, Amy Krouse
Additional Book List
Books in bold are also the suggested books in another unit.
Eating the Alphabet* - Elhert, Lois
How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food - Butterworth, Chris
Jane Foster's Let's Eat! - <-- Interactive book (sliders pour the juice, butter the toast)
Fall Harvest: Bringing in the Food - Rustad, Martha E. H. (diverse characters)
Follow the Recipe: Poems About Imagination, Celebration, and Cake - Singer, Marylin
The Milk Makers (Reading Rainbow Book) - Gibbons, Gail
The Vegetables We Eat - Gibbons, Gail
The Fruits We Eat - Gibbons, Gail
Tomatoes to Ketchup - Herrington, Lisa M.
Milk to Ice Cream - Herrington, Lisa M.
From Wheat to Bread (From Farm to Table) - Keller, Kristin Thoennes
From Peanuts to Peanut Butter (From Farm to Table) - Keller, Kristin Thoennes
Thank You, Omu! - Mora, Oge (diverse characters, promotes sharing)
The Colors of Us - Katz, Karen (a beautiful depiction of diversity using different flavors to represent skin tones)
Dragons Love Tacos - Rubin, Adam
Rainbow Stew - Falwell, Cathryn - <-- Loved this one! (diverse characters)
Whopper Cake - Wilson, Karma
In the Garden with Dr. Carver - Grigsby, Susan (diverse characters)
Feast for 10 - Falwell, Cathryn (diverse characters)
Pancakes, Pancakes! - Carle, Eric
Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party - Dean, James
Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes- Dean, James
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - Numeroff, Laura
Jamberry - Degen, Bruce
Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? - Lass, Bonnie
Dinosaurs in the Supermarket - Knapman, Timothy
Pirates in the Supermarket - Knapman, Timothy
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - Barrett, Judy
Culturally Diverse Food and Characters
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story - Maillard, Kevin Noble
Bee-Bim Bop! - Park, Linda Sue
A Big Mooncake for Little Star - Lin, Grace
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao - Zhang, Kat
My husband and I (naively) bought my son the Step2 Espresso Bar Play Kitchen for his first birthday as his "big" gift because we wanted something small. Little did we know, he was a long way away from any imaginative play. After the novelty of taking everything out of the bins and cabinets wore off, it sat untouched for a while before we moved it to closet. I pulled it back out for this unit and was so happy to see him engage with it in a whole new way! We played with it every day and frequently since. If you don't have a play kitchen, you may want to consider getting one to take the learning to a new level. If I had a playroom and the funds, I would buy this one: KidKraft Farm to Table Play Kitchen Set, Large, Multicolor
You'll want to get some accessories for your child to play with. A word of caution, when it comes to play food, don't get the cheapest plastic set as it can warp easily. I prefer wood for durability and handling but they can be pricey. I've added to our collection over time, but if you're looking for something cost effective, I've read good things about Learning Resources Farmer's Market Color Sorting Set
This Melissa and Doug Slice and Toss Salad Set was great for practicing cutting. It comes with a child-safe knife and cutting board that we used to cut bananas and avocados.
These Melissa and Doug Food Groups were a great way to practice sorting
The Melissa and Doug Scoop and Stack Ice Cream set is magnetic and goes great with the upcoming "Things that Go Together" unit.
I bought the Melissa and Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set for my nephew but really wanted to keep it for myself.
I love to bake and my KitchenAid stand mixer is my prized possession so this is on my wish list: Melissa and Doug Make-a-Cake Mixer Set.
Think about what/how you like to cook and what your child's favorite foods are to get an idea of what your child will want to play with. If they love to dip, get a condiment set! My child could live off mac and cheese, so a pot, a box of elbow noodles, a spoon and a strainer kept him entertained.
Developing life skills: take your child grocery shopping and find ways to let them help! Let them pick out/bag the produce or find an item on your list from the shelf. Talk about the food groups as you navigate the store. Allow them to put the groceries on the conveyor belt. You might be surprised how their behavior improves when you give them meaningful purpose.
Field trip: depending on the time of year, give your child a hands-on experience with where food comes from. Take them the orchard to pick apples or the pumpkin patch in the fall, a blueberry patch in the summer, a nursery in the spring or a dairy farm year-round. Helping them make connections to the real world is so powerful!
Cooking Activity: Make pizza bagels while reading Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party. Let your toddler choose the toppings (from a pre-selected menu of options). You might be surprised at what they choose!
Easy Craft Paper Plate Spaghetti and Meatballs (or pizza or cookie, whatever your child likes)
Bonus Letter Review: read If You Give a Pig a Pancake and make pancakes and pour the batter in the shape of different letters. They won't be perfect but it will be fun!
When it comes to making the bread in a bag, read the instructions carefully. I measured out all the ingredients and forgot to add a cup of flour at a time, working into the yeast before adding more so my bread didn't rise well.
What was your favorite part of this unit? What other books did you read? What other activities did you do? Please share your photos and feedback in the Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Curriculum Facebook Group in Photos/Albums/Year 1 Themes → Food
Until next time, may your coffee be warm and your toddler be busy!
Up Next: Playing Preschool: Unit 6 - Five Senses
See Also: Introduction to Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler, A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum, Unit 1: Apples, Unit 2: Colors, Unit 3: Nursery Rhymes, Unit 4: Clothing