A Preschool Potato Curriculum
St. Patrick's Day is March 17th -- and as you know we have some great educational and fun ideas for celebrating with your little ones.
Because potatoes are a staple of the Irish diet, I thought it might be fun to explore some ways to learn using potatoes. So, here for your pleasure and enjoyment is a Preschool Potato Curriculum.
Note: Remember, learning should be a joyful experience for young children. If it's not fun, don't do it. Temper everything suggested here based on your child's interest and ability. There's no hurry. Use what works, and leave the rest for another day, another time, or never.
Potato Hunt -- Go to the grocery store or Farmer's Market and look for different kinds of potatoes. There are white, red, brown, purple, and Yukon gold potatoes, to name a few. Talk about the different names, varieties, colors, shapes, and sizes. Buy a few of each kind to use in the following activities and experiments. Don't forget to cook one of each variety. Have a taste test. Can you taste the difference?
Explore a Potato -- What has eyes, but cannot see? Ask your children this question. Can they guess the answer? If not, give them a clue. Let them put their hand into a brown paper bag that has a potato hidden inside. Can they tell what it is just by feeling it? Tell them to remove the object from the bag. It's a potato! Did they know that a potato has "eyes." That's just another word for the little white spots (sprouts) or buds on the potato. Count the eyes on your potato! Did you know that if you plant them, they will grow! Here's how to do it....
Cut a chunk of the potato that has an "eye" on it, and put it in a pot filled with potting soil. Cover it with 1/2" of soil. Water it whenever the soil gets dry, and keep it in the sunshine. Soon your potato plant will grow. The actual potatoes grow below ground, but the leaves and stem grow above ground. When your plant gets big enough, and weather allowing, transplant it outdoors into the garden. Soon, you may have potatoes!
Potato Science Experiment -- If you have some old potatoes, the "eyes' may have sprouted. You can use a sprouted potato to show your child how a plant seeks the light of the sun in order to grow (it's called phototropism -- in Greek "photo" means light and "trope" means turn).
Take a shoebox and poke a round hole (approximately 1" in diameter) in one end of the shoebox. Put the sprouted potato at the opposite end (from the hole) of the shoebox. Put the lid on the box, secure it with duct tape (so that light doesn't "leak" through the lid) and set the box in a sunny spot with the hole facing the light. The idea is that the light should be coming in from the hole only. Now you wait.
Count how many days until you see the sprout growing out of the hole in the box, in search of light. If you want, you can do this experiment with 3 or 4 different potatoes (one for each member of the family). Everyone can put their potato-in-a-box in a different window of the house. Have a race to see whose potato finds the light first!
What foods are made from potatoes? In advance, assemble some French fries, potato chips, potato bread, and then ask your child if they can name some food made from potatoes. Let them taste some of the food you've assembled.
Cooking with Potatoes! Make a batch of mashed potatoes together. Show your child how to cook the potatoes, cool them, and mash them with an old-fashioned potato masher (fun!). Let your child add a little salt, butter, and milk. Mix it all up to make yummy mashed potatoes. You might try making a batch of instant mashed potatoes too -- and have a comparison taste test.
Fun with Mashed Potatoes!
- Paint Your Potatoes! Well, not really. Just add some food coloring to make mashed potatoes any color you desire. For example, make them green for St. Patrick's Day!
- Write, Draw & Sculpt with Mashed Potatoes! Put the mashed potatoes in the refrigerator until cold. Spread them on a cookie sheet or in a shallow roasting pan and invite your kids to make mashed potato sculptures. Create whatever shapes they want with mashed potatoes. Practice writing numbers, letters, names, and words in mashed potatoes.
Make Potato Prints! -- Note: Depending on child's ability, parents may have to make the "potato stamps" and then just let the children use them to transfer designs onto paper. To make a potato stamp just cut a baking potato in half and using a pencil, draw a design on the potato. Start with simple shapes -- star, moon, triangle, number, letter, etc.
You can use the pencil to carve a design in the potato, but if more detail is required, an adult should cut around the pencil design with a knife. Place some tempera paint on a paper plate. Dip the potato design into the paint and firmly press it onto paper. Repeat as many times as desired.
Read About Potatoes -- An interesting children's book that presents facts about the life cycle of various plants including the Potato is, "From Eye to Potato (How Things Grow)" by Ellen Weiss.
Rhymes with Potatoes! -- Here is a children's rhyme featuring the potato:
One potato, two potato,
Three potato, four;
I like mashed potato,
May I please have some more?
The above rhyme is also used as a counting game and to figure out who is "It" in some children's games. I've heard a variation that goes like this:
One potato, two potato,
Three potato, four;
Five potato, six potato,
Seven potato, more?
Play "Hot Potato"! -- Get the family to stand in a circle. Take a raw potato and toss it back and forth across the circle from one player to another. If someone drops the potato, they have to sit down, and everyone takes a step back to make the circle bigger and the distance to toss the potato from one person to the other greater. Keep going until only one person is left standing. They're the "Hot Potato!"
If your child enjoyed our Potato Curriculum, he or she may enjoy the following fun activities:
- Learning with Lemons
- A Pancake Curriculum!
- Make Your Own Butter!
- Irish Potato Science & a Potato Curriculum!
Have fun learning with potatoes and give your little ones a hug for me!