“Investing in early childhood nutrition is a surefire strategy. The returns are incredibly high.”
I am the head of children’s services at Ericson Public Library in Boone, Iowa. According to Iowa Department of Education, Boone has 1,901 students and 877 of those students are in a free or reduced lunch program (Kids Count, 2017). That is 46% of the student population and this is just a small town in Iowa. Learning this statistic caused me to take action. By partnering with a local grocery store, we helped raised money to go toward the purchase of nutritional snacks to be offered to patrons attending after-school programs. Since adding snacks to our programs, we have seen an increase in attendance and interest in our programs. Furthermore, adding these snacks has helped to inspire the library to develop programs on healthy eating.
Here are a few examples. (Please note that your library might have a policy against serving food in programs and/or about serving food that is not packaged. These programs can be modified if needed).
Program # 1: The Ants Go Marching
Objective: Exploring the world of ants
Snack choice: Ants on a log
Supplies needed: celery, sun butter (in place of peanut butter), and raisins. Make sure you wash your hands.
- Read the story Hey Little Ant by Hannah and Phillip Hoose
- Create an obstacle course where children crawl under chairs as an example of how ants move through an anthill.
- Finish the program by enjoying ants on a log. Set up a few stations with celery, sun butter, and raisins and have children create their own snack.
Program # 2: Over the Rainbow
Objective: Exploring the world of light
Snack choice: Fruit Platter
Supplies needed: colorful red apples, oranges, green grapes, bananas, blueberries, and plums. Make sure you wash your hands.
- Introduce the world of light by viewing Light by Dr. Binocs Show on YouTube.
- Have children explore the world of prisms by completing the following activities:
Activity # 1: Using a flashlight and an old CD or DVD disc, flip over the disc and turn on the flashlight directly over it. The colors of the rainbow will show.
Activity # 2: Another activity includes a flashlight, cup of water, and paper. Place the cup of water on top of a container. Tape the paper to the wall and shine the flashlight to the cup of water to expose rainbows. Use crayons or colored pencils to draw a rainbow.
- The following books are great choices on the topic of rainbows and light:
Program # 3: Digging in the Dirt
Objective: Exploring the world of worms
Snack Choice: Vegetable Worms
Supplies needed: Use celery for the body, a grape for the head, and blueberries for the legs. Use sun butter to stick the blueberries to the body. Make sure you wash your hands.
- Read the story Diary of a Worm by and pair it with non-fiction books about worms, dirt, and plants.
- Show them a quick clip about worms from Scishow Kids on YouTube.
- Setup two activity stations.
Station # 1: For the first activity station, children will explore dirt by placing their hands in a tub of dirt. Make sure you have a lot of paper towels handy. Ask kids the following questions to help encourage inquiry: What does dirt feel and smell like? Why do you think dirt is important? What critters do you think live in the dirt?
Station # 2: For the second activity station, children will explore the world of worms. Find photos of worms and increase the size of the photos so children can see the texture of the worm. Using crayons, makers, or colored pencils, have children draw what they see. If possible, ask a local bait shop for a few worms and have the kids watch them move in dirt.