Food is a fantastic teaching tool. Children can learn about math, chemistry, nutrition, biology, culture, history — you name it — all while playing with something that’s both tactile and tasty.

And since eating is an everyday activity, food-related exercises help kids explore their environment through a medium that’s fun and familiar. Adults can pass on their values about food, stress the importance of eating wholesomely, and encourage kids to learn to cook dishes they love as well as try something new as part of an edible education. The activity that follows can be adapted for any age group. Enjoy!

The project: make popcorn double as a lesson about the senses

Share kernels of knowledge with your child — literally. Making popcorn is not only a fun and tasty treat for kids, but it also provides an opportunity to teach them about how body parts are used for learning. Explain to your child that eyes are for seeing and watching, ears are for listening, a nose is for smelling, hands are for touching, and a tongue is for tasting.

And a mouth is for reciting catchy rhymes! Teach your child the poem “The Popcorn Hop,” by Stephanie Calmenson:

Put your popcorn in a pot.
Wait till it gets really hot.
When you start to feel the heat,
Listen for the popcorn beat:
Come and do the popcorn hop!

Check out this poppin’ literature: The Popcorn Book, by Tomie de Paola, and Popcorn, by Frank Asch.

What you’ll need

  • A large saucepan with a clear glass lid
  • 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil (such as canola or olive)
  • ¼ cup popcorn kernels
  • Salt and/or melted butter to taste
  • Five blank sheets of paper
  • Pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors and glue
  • Magazines ready for recycling

Make it happen

  • Ask your child to flip through old magazines to find pictures of a nose and a mouth, eyes, ears, and hands. Have your kindergartner cut out each body part and glue the item on a separate sheet of paper.
  • While you make the popcorn (heat the oil first and test a couple of kernels with the lid on — once they pop, the pot is hot enough), have your child record what he sees, hears, and smells as the popcorn pops. The show only takes two to three minutes at high heat, but when things get going, there’s a lot of action to see.
  • When all the popcorn is popped and has cooled a bit, have your child record how the kernels feel and taste. Try the popcorn plain first, then add butter or salt and have him note the difference in taste and texture. He can write, dictate, or draw a picture to explain his senses.
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