Peas in a Pod

At Willow Cottage we LOVE to grow. Our gardens and vegetable patches aren’t always going to win beauty competitions, but the children certainly know how to grow some great fruits and vegetables and are always enthusiastic about doing so. This month we have been harvesting, admiring, podding, counting and tasting peas.

At each of our settings, we have enjoyed nurturing and watching our plants grow from tiny seeds and shoots to full grown plants. We have learnt that some animals like to eat the same vegetables that we do. We have also considered the weather and all the different kinds we need to help our plants grow. When the rain hasn’t fallen for a while, we can help out and we love using our watering cans.

As practitioners, creating an invitation-to-play is part of our every day practice. A tray of peas in their pods, or a pea plant itself, opens up a world of exploration and learning experiences for us to support. Like:

  • the development of fine motor skills that occurs by popping open the pea pods and plucking out the juicy peas,
  • the knowledge that is gained in realising that once a pea pod is opened, it can never be closed again,
  • the mathematical exploration of noticing and comparing the different sizes of peas and the similarities (and differences) in the numbers of peas in their pods.
  • the learning about the nutritional benefits of eating frozen vegetables and exploring frozen peas.
  • Eating raw and cooked peas and exploring the differences in taste and texture.

These are to name but a few. These experiences often proceed in the direction of a child’s interest or enquiry.

The children begin to learn about food handling and healthy eating from the very start of their time at Willow and they do so by having fun and playing with their friends.

At our Bletchingdon setting, scooping and pouring peas quickly evolved into painting with peas. Rolling the tiny balls around on the paper and seeing what patterns could be made. The concentration that little hands, arms and brains need, to focus on getting peas out of their pods was easy to see in the children’s demeanour. Sitting with a tray of peas and having the opportunity to be involved in conversation and discussion, begins to give children the opportunity to explore two-channelled attention, being able to listen and do for short spells.

The children in both family groups at Farmoor were able to access the pea podding activity. Having observed, they were then able to imitate what they had seen and listened to. Using their full focus and attention to detail, the children snapped the pea pods open and emptied them into assorted bottles.

We encouraged maths, counting, size and shape. Talking about how healthy peas are in our diet and the nutrients they contain. This sparked a conversation with a particular child, who talked about how “the broad bean that he had planted at nursery had grown so tall at home and that he had eaten some for his supper“. After the activity the children helped to freeze the peas so that their friends, who weren’t at nursery today, were able to experience the peas as well.

At Eynsham the children were role modelled how to pop the pea pods by Kate. There was a wonderful conversation about whether we preferred cooked peas to raw peas and afterwards, the practitioners asked the children if they would like to learn a rhyme about peas. The children were excited as Kate recited the rhyme. Whilst reciting the rhyme, more children came over to investigate and joined in.

After podding the peas, some children decided they wanted to put the peas straight into the bowl, whilst others chose to place them on the table and count them. There were cheers of “I did it!” and much satisfaction when the total number of peas in the pod reached 10.

Willow Cottage’s pedagogy (how we teach), recognises and celebrates the process of an experience over the product or outcome. The invitation to an activity or experience may well be something beautiful to photograph, the what is left when the children have finished is not always so photogenic! We know the children have been engaged and deeply immersed in an experience from observing and following where they lead, responding appropriately in the moment to support deep level play.

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