Growing Vegetable Soup
With video games, movies and endless options for online entertainment, more and more children are becoming disconnected from nature. This is especially true in urban settings. Yet, many proactive approaches are being taken that allow children to explore plants through food. Food and gardening is often the most relatable approach one can take to help today’s youth see the value of plants and what can be found in our natural world.
Food topics can be explored with hands-on activities that include gardening basics, cooking and snack making. Other approaches could include exploring produce for shapes and seeds, asking children what the differences are between fruits and vegetables, or asking children to explain the difference in taste when a vegetable is fresh versus when it is cooked. Hands-on engagement is the key when exploring a topic with children. But in the dregs of winter when the ground is frozen, storytelling and books are a great alternative to outdoor activities. Books can be a fantastic way to explore gardening inside, letting your imagination wonder. One such book that explores garden fun is Growing Vegetable Soup.
Open up the cover of Growing Vegetable Soup and begin a journey into a world that explores plant to plate garden tales in a fun and colorful way. Author, Lois Ehlert, a nationally recognized children’s book author and illustrator is the recipient of many literary awards including the Parents’ Choice Award. Ehlert is noted for her stylized and simple books that have shared the wonders of nature for decades, these include: Planting a Rainbow; Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf; Eating the Alphabet and In My World, just to name a few.
In Growing Vegetable Soup, Ehlert sets up a simple, step by step approach to the stages of gardening. The story gives a child’s eye view to growing vegetables and shows the differences in seeds, leaves and whether you pick or dig up your produce; there are even weeds in their garden! Collage-like pictures, bold colors and the simple but direct text is eye catching. The use of image labeling is fun and informative, and allows for picture and word association for little ones learning to read.
The cycles of planting, watering, growing and harvesting are illustrated in a visual account that brings to life this child’s excitement and curiosity about nature. The book culminates with the harvest and preparation of vegetable soup. They wash, chop and put the veggies into a soup pot! “It was the best soup ever…and we can grow it again next year.”
These types of positive messages reinforce the idea that growing food is not only achievable but can be fun and delicious! Lois Ehlert’s books have been used for story times and environmental education alike. The author’s works can be found online at the Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Scholastic websites.