What’s in the Basket?

Invest­ing in ear­ly child­hood nutri­tion is a sure­fire strat­e­gy. The returns are incred­i­bly high.”

Anne Mulc­ahy

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 

Hey, Little Ant!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.

Pro­gram outline:

  1. Read the sto­ry Hey Lit­tle Ant by Han­nah and Phillip Hoose
  2. Cre­ate an obsta­cle course where chil­dren crawl under chairs as an exam­ple of how ants move through an anthill.
  3. 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.

Pro­gram outline:

  1. Intro­duce the world of light by view­ing Light by Dr. Binocs Show on YouTube.
  2. 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.

  1. The fol­low­ing books are great choic­es on the top­ic of rain­bows and light:

Books about sunlight

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.

Pro­gram Outline:

  1. Read the sto­ry Diary of a Worm by and pair it with non-fic­tion books about worms, dirt, and plants.
  2. Show them a quick clip about worms from Scishow Kids on YouTube
  3. 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.

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