Preschool Nutrition Theme for Preschool
I was not surprised to learn that 70% of obese children or adolescents grow up to have adult obesity issues. However, the results of a recent study about preschoolers did suprise me: 1 in 5 preschoolers is obese. That is such a high number.
As early childhood educators, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to work with families to help preschoolers learn about nutrition and making healthy food choices.
It is my hope that we can help our children and families become more aware of healthy food choices that will help them to become healthy adults. This Theme page is filled with preschool activities and ideas for all areas of your classroom. It includes activities for nutrition and the food groups.
Let the Preschool Nutrition Theme planning begin!
You can either scroll down through this page to see all of the preschool activities for your Preschool Nutrition Theme or click the link below to go to specific preschool activity types you are looking for.
Peggy Kelly is a Health Coach. She was formerly a preschool teacher and director, as well as a mentor and colleague of mine!
She has put together a wonderful, affordable Preschool Nutrition training specifically for us--people who work with children. Massachusetts, and possibly some other states in the U.S., now require annual nutrition training as part of the State Childcare Licensing Regulations.
I had a difficult time finding something that was relevant for our teachers and program. She put this program together and let us know about it...it was a great training and met the state requirements!
In addition, she has recently added a Wellness Training...for teachers because, like most caregivers, we tend to neglect ourselves.
OK, I'm done with the "shameless plug" for her training! Seriously, it's worth checking it out for you and your co-teachers to see if it meets your needs! Click the following link for more information.
Scroll down on that page to find the training.
Berry Cute Bakers!
Materials Needed: Make "bake-able" clay with the children. Give each child a chance to add ingredients!
Mix 4 cups flour, 2 cups salt, 4 tablespoons alum.
When they are done mixing, pour in 4 1/2 cups of boiling water, 1/3 cup of baby oil and a few drops of red food coloring
Mix and knead until the dough is soft.
Give each child a portion of dough. Have them make some figures out of them...anything is acceptable! It's all about building up those little muscles! When they are done, place items on a cookie sheet and bake at 175 degrees (farenheit) for 4-6 hours.
When completely dry, the children can decorate (with glue, sequins, glitter, etc.) or paint!
Paper Plate Pizza Pie
Materials Needed: Paper plates, glue, pieces of paper to represent pizza toppings (green for peppers, white of onions, red for pepperoni, yellow yarn or paper for cheese); red paint.
The children paint the paper plate red for sauce. They then add their toppings using glue!
EXTENSION: Make english muffin pizzas with the children for snack!
Fruit and Vegetable Prints
Materials Needed: Apples, bananas, strawberries, potatoes, peppers, corn on the cob, etc.; paint in colors that correspond with the foods you have; paint trays; paper
Cut the foods in half and place in corresponding colors.
The children print on paper for a colorful paper or use a LARGE paper to make a mural!
Of course, have some extra for snack time!
Healthy Food Collage
Materials Needed: Magazine and catalog pictures of healthy foods, scissor, glue, paper
Have the children cut out pictures of healthy foods. Discuss the foods they see and why they are or are not healthy.
EXTENSION: You could have the pictures precut for them so that you can discuss them as they work on their collage rather than have them cut them out.
EXTENSION: You could also use this as a sorting activity. See the manipulatives section of this page for Food Picture sorting activity.
EXTENSION: After talking about the food groups, have children choose food pictures from each food group and glue them onto precut dish shapes!
Kitchen Tool Painting
Materials Needed: Kitchen tools and gadgets (plastic forks, knives, slotted spoons, potato mashers, etc.); paint and white paper.
Discuss what the tools are used for in the kitchen, if any of the children have ever used them to help cook, etc. while they are painting with them! See the Kitchen Tool Identification activity under the Circle Activity section of this page.
Paper Mache Foods
Materials Needed: newspaper, masking tape, wallpaper paste (or your favorite home made paper mache glue); paint
Help children shape newspaper into their favorite healthy food.
Tape shape with masking tape.
Cover with several layers of newspaper dipped in mache paste (precut newspaper into strips of approximately 1 X 4-6 inch strips).
Let dry, then paint and display!
Materials Needed: Add tractors, play vegetables and other farm items (equipment and animals). The children can harvest their farms!
Circle Time is such a great time for children to learn the social skills of being together as a large group AND to learn more about your Preschool Nutrition Theme!
What Did You Have For Breakfast?
Nutrition begins at home! Many parents feel very rushed in the morning and their children may not "be hungry" and therefore not eat breakfast before they arrive at school.
It is important to A) Know which children do not eat before school and B) Use that information to let families know how it affects their child's day AND to offer suggestions for healthy, quick breakfast foods they can offer their children.
Materials Needed: Large piece of paper with each child's name listed in a column on the left; a marker
Label the chart: What I had for breakfast today
Show the children the chart and ask each child what they had for breakfast and list it.
Compare and contrast what they eat--some will eat the same types of food, some will have foods that the other children have not had!
Talk to the children about the importance of food. It gives us energy to play and work and run! However, we need healthy foods to do this. If we eat only unhealthy foods, we will be grumpy and not have very much energy.
Puppet Show! Someone's Grumpy!
Choose 2 puppets who can have a conversation with your preschoolers about nutrition and healthy foods. One of my colleagues uses 2 puppets and they typically have a "problem" that needs to be solved that we may be seeing in class! It could be not sharing, running, etc. You could use 2 puppets for this Preschool Nutrition circle time activity!
One of the puppets should have a cranky attitude and the other READY TO PLAY!
Puppet 1: I'm SO happy to be at school! What do you want to do today? Want to build a super-duper tower with blocks?
Puppet 2: No, I want to just sit here.
Puppet 1: Oh, wait--you like to paint! Let's go PAINT a super-duper tower together!
Puppet 2: NO...I want to just SIT here.
Puppet 1: Ooookkkaaayyyy... I'll bring some puzzles over here..we can do them together while you "just sit here"!
Puppet 2: NO! I DON'T WANT TO PLAY!
Puppet 1: Why? Why are you so cranky! It's a great day! We're at school! There's lots to do! I had my FAVORITE breakfast and you are wearing your FAVORITE sneakers today! Why aren't you happy?
Puppet 2: Well I didn't have MY favorite breakfast. I got up late and wouldn't eat what my Mom had for breakfast, I didn't feel like it.
Puppet 1: Oooohhhh! You know, breakfast is very, very, very, very, important. Even if you don't feel like eating. Remember what teacher said? Breakfast gives us the energy to have fun and be happy.
Puppet 2: Yeah, I know. I wish I did eat breakfast, my stomach feels grumpy...it's making funny noises.
Puppet 1: Because you're hungry. It's almost snack time. How about if we BOTH make sure we eat snack and have energy and then maybe you'll feel like playing?
Puppet 2: OK! And from now on, I"m going to eat breakfast, even if I don't feel like it!
Puppet 1: Me too! Oh, I hear the teacher singing the clean up song! Let's help clean up so we can have snack!
Puppets 1 & 2: It's time to clean up, it's time to clean up we gonna have snack and eat it all up! hahaha!
Berry, Berry Funny
Preschool nutrition and fun! Absolutely! Where did a boysenberry or strawberry get its name? Hmmm...ask the children and record what they say! Bring a bunch of different types of berries to circle area and ask them! You could make a class book out of their answers!
I read somewhere that there are actually several theories about how strawberries got their name! It has been said that they got the name "straw" berries because they are grown in mulch made with straw or because they were once hung on pieces of straw for decoration.
Also, did you know there are berries that are WHITE when they are ripe? I've never seen one, but wouldn't that be cool to show the children?!!
Yummy, yummy strawberries,
So red and sweet and plump.
When I see them in my bowl,
It makes me want to jump!
I eat them very carefully,
I savor every one.
Sweet, delicious strawberries,
To me, they're number one!
Teach your preschoolers about nutrition by introducing the food pyramid.
In advance, make a large pyramid. The top triangle is for "Fats" (butter, sugar, etc.); the next row is cut into 2 equal parts (1 for dairy and one for protein--remember that eggs go with protein not dairy!);
The next row is also in 2 equal parts- 1 for fruits and one for vegetables; and the bottom row is for Grains (breads, pasta, cereal, crackers, rice).
Explain that we need foods from each of the food groups to stay healthy.
Provide pictures of foods from magazines and ask them to place them in the food pyramid chart where it belongs.
VARIATION: Here's a picture of a Food Pyramid that my co-teacher made at circle time! She gave each of the children some play food. After discussing the pyramid, they each had a turn identifying their food and where it would go on the pyramid and then placed it there!
Mystery Food Game
Materials Needed: Variety of fruits and vegetables and other foods (cooked pasta is fun!); box or bag to put them in.
Place one item in the box or bag without the children seeing you! One child places hand in and tries to guess what type of food it is.
Ask them to describe what they feel by asking questions such as:
Is it hard or soft?
Smooth or rough?
Can you guess what it is?
This activity is fun to do with every theme by using themed items. One of the challenging parts of this for preschoolers is that they want so badly to just take the item out of the box or bag without even guessing because they are so excited by the mystery of it all!
You could just let them do this once each! Then, the 2nd time around, tell them they are NOT going to take the item out. They need to leave it in the box or bag and try to guess what it is!
Kitchen Tool Identification
Materials Needed: Have many items used for cooking and preparing food in a large pot with a cover. Some suggestions: Potato masher, slotted spoons, small plastic spoons and forks, spatulas, tongs
Take one item out of the pot. Ask the children if they know what it is. Ask them what it is used for.
Continue with each item.
This is a great conversation starter about eating and preparing healthy foods. For example, a small plastic knife is used to cut bananas, slicing wheat bread, spreading foods on healthy crackers, etc.
EXTENSION: List the items on a chart as well as what the item does.
EXTENSION: Use the tools to paint with! See Kitchen Tool Painting activity under the Art section of this page.
Cooking with children helps develop their math skills and helps them to learn how to follow directions. It also allows for some great conversation!
Ask many questions while cooking with your children to encourage conversation! Be sure to ask specific themed questions while making these fun snacks!
You can help families to offer healthier snacks by sending any recipes you make with the children home! I'd recommend making a "recipe" book throughout this theme (or throughout the year!) and send home Your Preschool's Recipe Book!
You could also share the tasting activities that you do with the children and let families know what foods their children like!
One of the things we do, is to post any charts we make in a very prominent place where the parents will see it when they pick their children up or drop them off!
You could place the chart on an easel in front of their coat cubbies or in front of the door they enter!
Rice Cake Faces
This recipe was sent by Maureen of Hamden, CT and it looks delicious and fun!
Items needed: 1 large rice cake for each child; slices of cheese cut into shapes; raisins; cheerios; pepper slices and some cream cheese; plastic knives
The children make faces on the rice cakes with these ingredients!
Eat and enjoy!
Thanks for the recipe Maureen!
Fruit and Vegetable Tasting
Ingredients and Items needed: Bananas, melons, strawberries, cucumbers, carrot sticks, etc; plastic knives
In advance, create a large chart with three columns. In the first column, draw (or glue pictures) of the foods you will be tasting with the children. Label the second column "LIKE" with a smiley face. Label the third column "DON'T LIKE" with a sad face.
Have the children help you to peel and cut the foods. Discuss the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and how healthy they are for their bodies.
Ask each child if they like each food as they try it. List their name under the proper column of the chart.
EXTENSION: Have the children write their own names in the proper columns. If they are not at the point of writing their names yet, premake name cards with their names on several cards. They choose their name and place it under the correct column.
Ingredients and items needed: wheat bread, milk, food coloring, pastry brush, toaster, plastic knives
Have children brush the toast with milk that has been colored with a small amount of food coloring. They can paint shapes, faces etc.
EXTENSION: Make healthy spreads with the children to top it with such as apple butter, or add sliced bananas or other fruit to the top!
Of course! Provide a variety of fruits and small plastic knives. Include the children in preparing the fruit.
They should spoon fruit into a bowl for snack time.
Try this for a dip: Mix 8 ounces with 1 cup of chopped strawberries. Yummy!
Ingredients Needed: Vegetable broth, already cooked long grain rice, pre-cooked carrots, oyster crackers; bowls for each child, plastic spoons to eat with; crock-pot, ladle tablespoons
Heat the vegetable broth in a Crock Pot. Place about 1/2 cup of broth in each bowl for each child.
Place the rice and carrots in separate bowls with a serving spoon.
Supervise children as they scoop into their broth: 2 tablespoons of rice and 2 tablespoons of carrots; 3 or 4 crackers.
If possible, take pictures of each step and make a REBUS card--a picture card with words--of each step. For example, the first card should be WASH HANDS. The second should be " Add 2" with a picture of rice and a spoon on the card.
Materials Needed: Precut vegetables (peppers, cucumbers, carrots, etc.); raisins; paper plates
Children should make a face from the vegetables!
Provide several different types of bread in loaves. Discuss and record what the children say about them.
Cut each one to investigate the middles of them.
Taste each type...do they like it?
Suggestions: Rye, pumpernickel, whole wheat, oatmeal bread, etc.
EXTENSION: List each type of bread on a chart and list the names of the children who like and don't like each one.
Materials Needed: Food containers (such as cereal boxes, milk jugs, etc.); play fruit and vegetables, plastic carriages and carriers, play register and play money.
Be sure that all recycled items are clean and sanitized. For boxes (such as cereal boxes), stuff with newspaper or recycled paper and tape closed for durability. For money, instead of purchasing it, encourage children at the writing table to make their own money and print numbers on it!
I do recommend that you laminate play money as the children have the habit of crumpling it up by the fistfuls at clean up time!
Encourage preschool nutrition in your own restaurant. As a large group, discuss some healthy foods that could be ordered in restaurants. Make up a menu for those foods and set up your Dramatic Play area as a restaurant: table, chairs, kitchen area, etc.
Materials needed: Stickers of foods to help children learn about preschool nutrition such as fruits, vegetables, etc.
Place 1 sticker (or have the children choose their own sticker) and place it on the paper. The children paint a picture around their sticker.
Provide carrots that have a lot of greens on the end (or celery!) and let the children use them as paintbrushes!
Pass the Egg
Materials Needed: Hard boiled eggs and one un cooked egg
Where do eggs come from? After talking about it, show the children what the inside of a hard boiled egg looks like and what an uncooked egg looks like! Then, provide a hard boiled egg in the shell to pass around the circle while music plays. When the music stops, the person who has the egg, should roll it across the circle to a friend...be careful!
Also, provide hard boiled eggs as an addition as a preschool nutrition snack today!
Shopping Obstacle Course
Materials Needed: Plastic shopping carts, play food items, index cards, obstacles to go under, over or around (cones, mats to walk on, etc.)
In advance, write the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on several cards. Give the children a card and tell them they need to purchase that many items at the store that is on the other end of the room. However, they need to get past the obstacles to get to the store.
Have them follow the course to the "store". Once there, they need to find the number of items as listed on their cards, place the items in a bag and then follow the course back to the beginning.
Have the children work in groups of 2 to move the watermelon across a room. BUT, they can only use one hand each, not two!
Of course, have some watermelon as a snack when done!
Fruit, Fruit, Vegetable!
Teach your children this version of Duck, Duck Goose! Change the name depending upon which food you are learning about (Grain, Grain, Dairy; etc.)
Book Suggestions for the Library
iu>Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food by Jan and Stan Berenstain
Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak
Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables From 'A to Z' by Lois Ehlert
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
If You Give a Moose A Muffin by Laura J. Numeroff
Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry and the Great, Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
5-A-Day Count this Way!
Provide real fruits and vegetables. Have work on their one-to-one correspondence by counting out 5 from the group of food provided. We all need 5 a day to stay healthy!
EXTENSION: Provide other play foods that promote preschool nutrition as well that are not fruits and vegetables. Ask them to count out 5 items that are in the fruit/vegetable food group. Allow them to also classify foods in other ways: colors, shapes, etc.
How Many Worms
OK, so worms are not part of a balance preschool nutrition plan, but apples are!
I'm not sure where we found this activity, but here it is!
Make 10 apple shapes. Hole punch a different number of holes in each apple. Make ten apple basket shapes, each with a numeral on it (1-10).
Encourage the children to count the number of "worm holes" in an apple and then place it on the corresponding number.
Materials: Round cereal with holes in the middle, yarn
Provide a bowl of HEALTHY cereal for the children to string (and eat)...remember, this is about nutrition- that means NO sugared cereals (like Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops, etc); only healthy foods! As always, check for allergies before having this activity ready.
Happy Harriet and Grumpy Gordon
Materials Needed: Healthy and unhealthy laminated foods; 2 boxes (shoe box size works!)
On the bottom of the boxes, cut a large hole out for a mouth and draw eyes, a nose and add hair. Make Harriet's face a happy smiley mouth and Gordon's a sad mouth.
As the children pick up each food, they should determine if it is healthy or unhealthy. Healthy foods go into Harriet's mouth and unhealthy into Gordon's.
Food Sorting Activity
Ingredients and Items Needed: Precut and laminated pictures of foods from magazines and catalogs; 2 bowls to place them in (one with a smiley face in the bowl that reads "Healthy" and the other bowl with a sad face that reads "Unhealthy")
Children sort the foods into the bowls based on whether the food is healthy or not.
EXTENSION: Children can sort by food group as well. Have bowls for each food group-dairy, fruit, vegetables, grains, etc.
Preschool Nutrition Dance
Materials needed: Play food pieces including both healthy and unhealthy (junk) food; 2 large bowls or boxes; CD player and music.
The children should dance with their food piece. When the music stops, they should place their food in the appropriate bowl or box--healthy or unhealthy!
Have the children act out different types of food such as:
Toast popping out of a toaster
A peeling banana, etc.
One Potato, Two Potato
One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four.
Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes more!
Change the food based on theer favorites. Encourage them to hold up the number of fingers as they sing this!
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie!
This is a GREAT book by Alison Jackson! Sing the book to the children! Of course the traditional "I Know and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" is great fun......not great preschool nutrition education, but fun! ;)
Materials Needed: Egg beaters and wire whisks!
Place some dish detergent in your water table and provide egg beaters and whisks as well as bowls. You could also add a squirt of yellow food coloring or paint to represent eggs! They can serve up some "Preschool Nutrition Bubbles"!
Add soil to your sensory table. Provide play food items that grow in the ground and items for your children to plant them with!
Materials Needed: Frozen bread dough; bread pans; Pam spray; waxed paper.
Spray the pans with the cooking spray. Place the frozen dough in the pans. Cover with waxed paper. Check on dough throughout the day as it rises! The children will be very excited at how much it rises! Bake it for the next day's snack.
EXTENSION: Have a ruler handy to measure how high it gets! I've placed a paper on the wall behind the pan and marked the rising as well!
Materials Needed: Fresh carrots with greens on the tops, potting soil, carrot seeds, small cups
Pass the carrots around so the children can touch and check out the entire carrot. Encourage them to touch, smell and discuss what they notice about them. Explain that the part we eat, the orange part, grows UNDER the ground...it is actually the ROOT of the plant! The green part is the part we would see on top of the soil!
Have the children put soil in their cup and then some carrot seeds. Put them in a sunny area and have the children check on their seeds each day.
EXTENSION: A great introduction to this activity is the story The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.
EXTENSION: Show and help the children to peel the carrots that you have shown them! Then use a grater to grate the carrot. Mix in some vanilla yogurt, raisins and perhaps crushed pineapple to make Carrot Salad!
Peas in a Pod
Materials Needed: Fresh pea pods, paper and crayons.
Let the children open and manipulate a pea pod! They can eat it if they want to try it. Encourage them to draw about this investigation!
Milk a Cow
Materials Needed: A non latex glove, a common pin, watered down white paint.
Fill the fingers of a glove with watered down white paint. Poke a small pinhole in the tips of a few of the fingers. Tie off the glove.
Hold it while the children squeeze the fingers as they squeeze the "udders" of the cow for the milk to come out.
The Need for Water
Materials Needed: A few tall, clear plastic cups; food coloring; celery; large pitcher of water
Place a few drops of food coloring in each cup (use a different color in each cup). Ask children what they think will happen.
Explain the importance of water to things that grow. Without it, they would get to dry.
Explain that as people, we grow and therefore we need water as well! Give each child a cup of water as you discuss what needs water, why and your impending science experiment with the celery!
Check the celery each day for changes. It does take several days before any color begins to show in the celery.
An interesting note that we found last year: We used blue food coloring and red food coloring in different cups with celery. Once the celeries had absorbed a lot of color, the children wanted to keep them both in the water to see what would happen. We had them out at the science table for almost a month! What we notices is that the RED celery actually began to wilt, turn brown and pretty much die but the blue one was fine. We pondered that result and decided red is not good food coloring for celery.
As teachers, we decided there must be something to the concerns with red food dye.
Preschool Nutrition and Healthy Food Book
Materials Needed: Magazines, food catalogs, "books" made in advance, glue sticks, scissors
In advance, make a My Preschool Nutrition and Healthy Food Book for each child. Simply stable several pieces of plain paper together covered by construction paper.
Encourage the children print their name on the front cover.
The children should look through the magazines and cut out the healthy foods they see that they like to eat and glue them on their pages. For printing practice, have index cards premade with pictures and the words of each healthy food so that children can write in their books the foods they like as well.
If I were a Food...
At the writing table, encourage the children to draw a story about what type of food they would be if they could! As they are drawing, ask them to tell you their story. Begin it with, "If I could be a food, I would be ______________. I would....." Have them fill in the rest! Staple their story to their pictures and read them at your next large group/circle time!
Preschool Nutrition Theme Field Trips
Contact a local farm, dairy farm or grocery store to set up a field trip!
Preschool Nutrition Theme Classroom Visitors
There are many opportunities with a Preschool Nutrition Theme for visitors to your classroom! Survey parents for opportunities as well as your local community!
Some ideas for visitors:
Preschool Nutrition Theme HEALTHY FOOD PARTY!
In advance, send a note home to families to bring in a healthy food that they like to eat at home such as a fruit, vegetable, bread, etc.
The children should help you to prepare their food and "display" it on a plate for snack time! Make this a very special event by setting the table with a tablecloth, special plates, etc.!
EXTENSION: Make a chart (you know I LOVE charts!) that lists each food in a column. Have a 2nd column labeled I LIKE IT and a 3rd labeled I DON'T LIKE IT. Precut out each child's name as many times as you have foods so that they can tape their name next to each food!
Preschool Nutrition Theme Family Project
Send a note home asking families to send in their favorite healthy family recipe. Put them together to make a Class Family Recipe Book
Preschool Nutrition Resources
Many organizations have information to help teach preschoolers about nutrition. Here are a few I have found.