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How to Use Fruit & Veggies to Develop Language Skills

I love going to a farmer's market and finding new treasures (or delicious favorites!). And I love to wander through the produce department randomly smelling fruit and veggies that I pick up! I have long thought that grocery stores and produce areas in general make for a great starting place for language development! So I thought it was high time that I show you a few of the language skills that you can work on at home after a shopping trip or even right there in the produce department!! Of course there are many language concepts that you can work on, but here are a few:

Babies and Toddlers

Work on building background knowledge! When they are older, their teachers will give them these organizers that say K-W-L before they learn about something. The "K" part is for "Know" or more fully "what do I already know about this topic" (the W is "want to know" and the L is for "what I learned") The information that you expose your child to now will be what they draw from later! It's what's in their imagination and memory to fully comprehend stores and integrate new information that they learn! By building this background knowledge you are working on Vocabulary! First it will be receptive (or understanding) vocabulary and later they can name the items which is expressive vocabulary!

1-2 Year Olds

Your one year old should have a growing vocabulary that they are beginning to use to get things done! They tell you what they want and what they don't want! As they approach 2, they should be putting the words together. A great word to teach your child, that shows them how powerful communication is (and really, don't we all communicate to get what we want or to tell everybody what we are thinking?!) is the word "open." I love my Mystery Bag Game and this is a version of that! You can use a bag or a box, just pick something they can't see through!! Encourage your child to say "Open" or "Open the box!"telling you what to do to reveal the hidden treasures in your box! As they say it, do it! Get excited about the process of discovery!! Once open, the next powerful word is: "Look!" As you show each treasure in your box, say "Look! This is asparagus." "Look! This is a bell pepper!" Use the word "look" many times. You can even have your child LOOK in the box and tell you what he sees! "Look! Bananas!" Two year olds can also start to tell about where things can go! Simple prepositions like "in" and "out" are fun to do with mystery boxes of produce! Take the corn OUT of the box! Or pour the blueberries OUT of their containers. Then put them IN the fridge. Or put them IN the colander!

3 Year Olds

Two year olds learn to name colors, so at 3 they can start to combine those with the object they are describing! "Yellow" now gets attached to "banana" and becomes "yellow banana!"  You can add other great describing words like "small potato" or "big apple" or "long carrot" or "round pumpkin!" I like to find things that are common and unusual to compare them. Red tomato. Yellow tomato! There are orange carrots and purple carrots! You can find small potatoes and large potatoes.

4 Year Olds

Four year olds are beginning to say so many things! They have so many thoughts to share! One fun activity is to make up sentences about the fruit and veggies that you have. Then have your child repeat your sentence. You get to expose them to longer sentences than they would typically say, introduce new vocabulary and a variety of grammar forms! Start with 4-5 words then increase to up to 10 words! The apples in the bag are large! The zucchini has many small dots on it! I can feel the papery skin of the onion! Let your child make up sentences too! Have fun taking turns making up sentences for the other person to repeat!!

Number Concepts

This is also a great age to work on number concepts up to five. They can rote count to higher, but understanding the one-to-one correspondence up to five is a good goal! I like to start lower than that around three total items. I would give my child a bowl full of something like radishes or small potatoes or blueberries and then in sets we would put them in the colander to wash. "Give me 3 radishes!" Then hold out your hands and wait for your child to place three radishes in your palms. If they give you to many you can put them down and count with them. "Let's get 3 radishes! One. Two. Three!" then put them in the colander. Do this over and over until your child gives you 3 each time. Then you can mix up the quantity you request. Sometimes ask for two, sometimes ask for four!

5 Year Olds

Sequencing is a very important skill for reading comprehension or for telling a story about what just happened. With five year olds, I love to work on sequencing things that have been personally experienced. "Remember when we got the corn from that roadside stand?! Let's tell the story to Mommy!" or "Hey, that banana was a great snack. Let's tell the story of how we ate the banana for a snack" You can take pictures of special events (like the corn shopping experience, probably not the banana for a snack experience! LOL) and then review them to help remember details and steps in the story. Try to get 3-4 steps in the sequence. "First, we stopped at the roadside stand! Then we picked the perfect ears of corn! Now we are eating the corn for dinner!" Kids love to look at pictures of things they've done, especially if they are in the pictures! You can also work on advanced location concepts. The little ones worked on "out" and "in." Bigger kids can work on "next to," "behind," "near," "top," "bottom," or "through."

6 Year Olds

Now, your little language learner can also be a kitchen helper!! You've worked on sequencing of things you've done, now work on planning for the future! Work on problem solving what you will do! You have all of this delicious produce in front of you, what will you do with it? Make a plan together. "Let's make zucchini fries for dinner!" Talk about the things you will need to do. You can work through problems that might arise like what objects you'll need (cutting board, knife, cookie sheet) as well as work on "what ifs" What if we don't make zucchini fries, what else could we do? What if the knife isn't in the drawer, where will we look? Since you are talking about the future, use the future tense verb: WILL! We will make zucchini bread! We will need the cheese grater, a mixing bowl and the rest of the ingredients! Actually, we made zucchini-carrot muffins. Yum!

Bonus Activities -

Great for Elementary Age Kiddos

Telling personal stories of your experiences with produce. Talk about favorite food experiences or fun adventures you've been on! You can also find out where your food came from? If there are little stickers on the produce that tell "from _____" go find that place on a map! Our mangos came from Mexico. Our corn from South Florida! Geography is awesome! You can talk about the science (and history) of what make it a fruit or a vegetable! Such an interesting topic! Finally, you can make a Still Life! Play with art! Use pencils, markers or crayons to make a beautiful piece of artwork celebrating your produce! -Lauren PS: want to watch this instead of read?! Check out my YouTube page!! Click here! Pin it for later:

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