Monday, April 30, 2012

Stone Soup and other Children's Literature About Food

This activity is an old classic done by many primary teachers in many states for many years.   It seems the story likely originates in France.  Though there is quite a history behind the story (see link below).  The version I have was copyrighted in 1947 and was written and illustrated by Marcia Brown and given the Caldecott Honor.  The story is titled "Stone Soup", 

In the story, three hungry soldiers enter a village and try to get the villagers to offer up food and lodging. The villagers claim they too, are hungry and don't have any food to spare.  So, the soldiers begin making "Stone Soup".
For the activity you will need:
The Book "Stone Soup" (any of its many variations)
A Cooking Pot
Water or pre-made broth
1-2 Large potatoes
1 small head of cabbage
3-4 Large carrots
1/2 lb stew beef that has been browned
Some Pearled Barley (a little for your child to touch and feel that is not prepared, and about a cup of ready-to-use barely).
1 cup of milk
3 round, smooth (and CLEAN/sanitized) stones
AND other seasonings as desired to taste.

I used a crockpot and browned the beef before I began the activity with my little one, but this could be done before dinner time on the stovetop instead of in a crock-pot as well.  The story begins with water, salt and pepper.  I recommend beginning with a broth and additional seasonings for a more flavorful meal.

1. Read the story together.  Stress the use of ordinal numbers (first, second, third. . .)  Ask your child to re-tell the story in his/her own way.  Ask the child what the villagers thought about the idea of Stone Soup.  Why were the villagers so impressed?  Were the soldiers really using magic?  How did the soup really come about?

2. If needed, introduce the word, "ingredient".  Skim through the story together asking your child to pick out the "ingredients" you will need and right down your shopping list.  Use ordinal numbers again, "what will we need first?  What comes second, third?  The Fourth ingredient will be? . . ."

3.  Obtain your ingredients.  Whether your child actually goes to the grocery store with you is not important.  You can simply "obtain" the ingredients from your own supplies, but if he/she does go with to the grocery store or farmer's market, go ahead and put your child in charge of checking off the ingredients as you find them.  If one of your children is in second or third grade, he/she could probably even keep track of the prices on a tablet of paper for you and you can have an extended activity incorporating higher-order math by figuring out how much the soup cost to make.

4.  Read the book together again in the kitchen.  Actually make your soup as you go.  Again, stress the ordinal numbers.  "What do we put in first dear?  Second?" and so on.  Obviously, depending on the age and ability of your child you will want to keep safety around knives and hot objects in mind, but give him/her a role.  My little girl read the ingredients to me and cleaned them before I chopped them and put them in the pot.

5.  Serve your soup with a nice crusty roll made from your favorite bread recipe (or your favorite bakery).  Eat your soup (be sure to remove the stones first and have your child see they have been removed).  Ask, "did we really need to put the stones in there?"  Over dinner discuss how the soldiers tricked the villagers with him/her if he/she wasn't old enough to catch this on his/her own.  Then discuss taste, texture etc. using ordinal numbers again, "what are you tasting first? second? what veggies were in your third bite?" etc.

This story has quite a history and a number of variations.  For information about accessing some of these variations simply take a look at this Wikipedia article - who knew Jim Hensen and Shel Silverstein have both referenced this tale?  Perhaps you'd like to further extend the activity by taking a look at multiple variations of the story and compare.  I know I'm looking forward to seeing Jim Hensen's take on the matter.

Complimentary idea:
If you have another younger child in the home, you can make a simple bread dough recipe and put your younger child to work kneading the dough while you and big sister/brother start the soup.  Bread will take longer to cook unless you use the crock-pot idea, but the sensory experience of kneading dough is pretty engaging for most young kids.

For more information on why and how spending time in the kitchen can help with math skills, check out "Food Math".

Other books that lend themselves to a food-related activity:
The Gingerbread Man or Hansel and Gretle - make a gingerbread house or people. 
All in Just One Cookie - make some chocolate chip cookies while getting a little geography.
Pie in the Sky (Louis Ehlert)  Includes Pie Recipe
Pancakes, Pancakes, Eric Carle  Make Pancakes
Little Black Sambo, Not perfectly PC, but I did once see a more modern take on this             
                             old story you might be able to find (Pancakes).
Little Red Hen  (bread)
The Ugly Vegetables (another soup)
Enemy Pie,  This one is a GREAT one for a lesson in empathy and getting along with 
                            others.  Also a Reading Rainbow Book. (More Pie)
All for Pie, Pie for All  (Even more pie)

Have you encountered other great books or stories that could be inspiration for an activity centered around food preparation?  Please share them with us!  What recipe would you use along with the book if one isn't included?

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