This is a quick activity that can be done on many levels. I am going to try and give ideas for doing this in several different ways. It is ok to try all of these, because children learn in different ways. This activity will be science and math. See the NOTE at the end of the activity for language arts, nutrition, and domestic kitchen science ideas.
This lesson can be done in a grocery store, outdoor market, or farmer’s market.
* Allow each child to have a shopping basket. They have to choose 4-5 vegetables and 4-5 fruits. You may want to divide up and have one child choose vegetables and one choose fruits.
* Simply point out each produce. Ask the child to tell you the name of the produce and if the produce is a vegetable or a fruit.
*Let your child choose a new piece of produce (s)he has never tasted to take home.
* Have your child separate fresh produce you have on hand, into fruit and vegetable. If you have a play kitchen/store set with play foods, allow them to separate those into fruits and vegetables.
*Use the fruit and vegetable cards found here: Produce sorting page 1, Produce Sorting page 2, produce sorting page 3 to print. For sturdy cards, print on card stock or print on paper and glue to index cards. Laminate if possible. If you don’t have a laminator, clear contact or self adhesive clear laminate is available at many $ stores. To use the cards: You will need two small produce containers, like the containers grapes come in, or strawberry baskets will work great for this project. Label one “fruits” and one “vegetables”. Ask your child to sort the cards into fruits and vegetables, putting each card in the correct container.
*After cutting the printable cards, attach self stick magnets, or print on magnet paper. Put a strip of masking tape on the refrigerator. Label one side “fruits” and the other side “vegetables”. **Use the tomato on whichever side you feel comfortable. The debate of a tomato being a fruit or a vegetable is a long-standing debate that we may never know! In our family, tomatoes are used more as a vegetable in salads, sauces, etc.
* Use the cards to graph where they grow: tree, bush, vine, underground.
Ask the following questions: Which one has the most? Which has the least? How many grown on trees and vines? How many more grow on vines than underground? How many of the ones that grow on trees are vegetables? (Good research question: Does any produce considered a vegetable grow on trees?) What fruits grow on a bush or stalk plant? etc. Remember the more your child talks to you and thinks things through, the more language and vocabulary develops, and the more advanced your child will be in thinking things through on his/her own. Be sure and guide the thinking process with young children to help insure they get in the habit of doing this on their own, as (s)he grows.
*How many of the pictures are yellow? Orange? green? red? purple? brown? blue? black? What other fruits/vegetables can you think of that are yellow? orange? etc.
*Ask math problems and have your child actually use the cards to work them out: Add the orange and red produce. How many more green than brown? I went to the store and I bought three fruits and two vegetables. How many did I buy?
*For older children, make an additional copy of the cards. Have your child find the prices of produce in local sale papers or when you go to the grocery. Have him/her write the price of produce on each card. Then ask math questions. I bought 20 ears of corn. How much did I spend? I bought 3 lbs. of grapes, 2 lbs. of apples, a quart of strawberries, and a 3 lb. bag of onions. How much did I spend? We only have $20 in our grocery budget for produce. What can I buy for that amount of money and get the most variety that will feed our family? If you have a secondary student, have them add up what you could buy, including taxes for your area.
*You don’t have ink in your printer and no money to buy ink, that is fine, save those sale papers that come in the mail each week and cut out the produce pictures. Glue (or have your children cut and glue) them to index cards or paper cut to the size of index cards and make your own!! The great thing about this is, you already have prices on them for math questions AND they are already programmed with the produce name, so these are great for spelling words and writing prompts. You will notice in the picture below, some of the words are underlined. Those are the ones that will be used for spelling.
*If you don’t want to take the time to print these on your own, or even make your own grocery store cards, I will be glad to make them for you. I can do individual, small sets, or the complete set of everything, including a food guide pyramid. Just send me a message for more details and pricing.
NOTE:You can add more of a Language Arts component to this lesson by discussing and improving verbal skills. The cards provided can also be used to have your child tell you what sound is heard at the beginning of the vegetable/fruit name, ending sound, the vowel sound heard, number of syllables. For some, these could be spelling words, cards could be used in writing prompts. You can make this as extensive or simple as you would like.
For nutrion education, have your child research the nutritional value in each item. Calories, fat, carbohydrates, etc. Look at the food pyramid (just search, there are LOTS of copies online). Look at these wonderful activities from Agriculture in the Classroom:
Making the connection: Food Pyramid printable worksheet. This one is specific for Nevada, but most states grow/produce all of these products.
Make a Pyramid bracelet for your child to wear and remember how to establish a healthy eating lifestyle.
This is a COMPLETE lesson about the food pyramid. It also has a great set of cards included. This lesson is set up for PreK-5th grade, but can be challenging for any age level and great for a family to do together.