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One of the most important things we do together as families, especially around the holidays, is make and enjoy feasts. From an early age, the spices and foods we share are encoded in memory and are part of our family identity. In this activity, explorers draw inspiration from A Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell, a marvelous book about a family shopping for, cooking and eating food together. Inspired by the rhythmic language and familiar context, kids will “shop” in their nature grocery and mix, swirl and experiment to “cook” their own nature feast!
This activity is magic on several levels. When families talk together about something as near and dear to them as the foods they love to eat or make, kids get to learn more and connect with their cultural roots. If you are able, invite friends to play, and help your child see and celebrate the value and diversity of traditions we have in our culture. Mixing, stirring, sloshing and mashing nature treasures, making mud, or arranging objects to make a holiday feast is all satisfying work that is tremendous sensory development for kids of all ages.
Food and cooking are play contexts that are both common and yet open-ended, which means that children of different ages can play together and still challenge themselves and one another in appropriate ways. The simple act of pretending that one object (e.g. grass) stands for another (e.g. carrots) is an age-appropriate way to develop imagination and the capacity to make believe. Older kids will also build more pretending into the activity, thinking more carefully about the family dish, setting the table, and more. It can be just the right amount of messy, creativity-building play too!