Saturday, March 3, 2012

Educational Food

Since my son tends to be a bit of a messy eater (he looks everywhere except his fork when he's eating), it's only very recently that I've introduced him to the joys of soup. I love to make soup, so his first couple of soup experiences were soups that I had made and tailored specifically toward his tastes (he loves corn, carrots, and rice). But when my husband picked up groceries the other week and brought home a can of alphabet soup, I knew it was time to introduce my son to Campbell's for the first time.

Because of his messy eating habits, when I do give him soup I go light on the broth and heavy on the other ingredients. So when I presented him with his bowl of alphabet soup, it was mostly a pile of chubby pasta letters with a few carrots, peas, and corn dotted here and there, with just a tiny puddle of liquid at the bottom. As is often his habit, my son barely glanced at what was in the bowl before absent-mindedly scooping some up while looking elsewhere. But when he peeked at the spoon before he shoveled it in his mouth, his eyes grew big. "Mama! Letters!" he said in astonishment. "Letters in my spoon!"

Being raised by an elementary school teacher, I find teaching opportunities in everything, especially things as obvious as alphabet soup. So naturally, I asked him what letters he saw in his bowl. Every letter he named, I told him something that started with that letter. He pointed out a "B"; I told him that "B is for ball." He found a "T"; I said, "T is for turtle." Then I started asking him to find a particular letter: "Is there an 'R' in your bowl? R is for Ryan! Can you find an 'M'? M is for Mama!"

I laughed at myself a bit for finding an educational opportunity in a bowl of soup. But then, it wasn't the first time I've used food as a teaching tool. We often count how many peas are on his plate, or how many pieces of cheese. I tell him that his peaches are a fruit and that they grow on a tree, and that his carrots are a vegetable and they grow in the ground, and that they both need water and sunshine and soil to grow. I tell him that candy is sweet and we only have it now and then as a treat, but we need to eat meat and vegetables and milk and bread every day to keep our bodies strong and healthy. We talk about how banana slices are circles and wedges of pineapple are triangles. We talk about apples being red and canteloupe being orange and grapes being green or purple.

In our house, food isn't just something you eat to give you energy or because it tastes good. It's something that can teach you colors and shapes and numbers and letters and agriculture and nutrition. Oh, and don't forget all those wonderful food vocabulary words: tasty, yummy, delicious, and scrumptious!

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