Five-year-old Anthony has a serious look on his face as he carefully cranks the apple peeler, watching with delight as the bright red peel comes off in one long, snaking curl. He wonders: How long will this peel be? Will it be longer than the last one? Anthony is helping his mom make apple butter. But for him the best part is working the old-fashioned peeler and collecting the peels. Little does he know that he is using some important math, science, and coordination skills along the way.
You probably have several apples in your house right now. What follows are easy ideas for apple fun and learning.
Use a cool apple tool. The right equipment can make all the difference when cooking with your kids. The Peel Away from Back to Basics is a big hit with children. The machine allows you to peel, core, and slice apples in one fast and easy operation. It is safe and easy to use with parental supervision (Peel Away Apple Peeler A505, $18.99 at Amazon).
Compare apples with the five senses. Invite your child to observe and compare red, yellow, and green apples. How are they similar? How are they different? Encourage your child to use his senses to explore. First, sight: Ask him to express what he sees as different about the apples (besides the color). Then move on to touch, smell, and taste. The five senses is an important science topic that is traditionally taught in the beginning of the preschool and kindergarten years. This focus also teaches your child about himself and how his body works.
Take a made-from-apples taste test. Children are often surprised to find out about the different things that are made from apples. Look through your cabinets and refrigerator for a variety of apple products for your child to taste. Try such products as apple jelly, dried apples, applesauce, apple vinegar, and apple juice or cider. Which does he like the best? Which doesn't he like?
Measure with apples. Apples make a great unit of measure. Ask your child to estimate how many apples long the table or counter is. Then line them up to check and see! Try measuring big and little things. It is important for your child to see how anything can be used to measure. This prepares him for learning how to measure with feet and inches. Invite him to estimate "how many" before measuring. You will be helping him learn how to approximate linear measurements.
Print with apples. Did you know that when you cut an apple in half horizontally you find a star inside? The apple halves work well for making apple-print pictures or wrapping paper. Stick a fork in the uncut side of each apple half so it is easier for your child to hold without getting messy. Have him place the cut end in a small dish of washable paint and then press on paper or tissue paper.
Make an apple-head puppet. Weathered-looking apple-head dolls are a traditional early American craft. You can make them at home with your preschooler, though be aware that the drying period can take several weeks. Peel an apple and show your child how to carefully use the end of a peeler, or other blunt tool, to carve out a mouth and two eyes. Have your child place a small scrap of fabric or a napkin over the dull point of a pencil. Then you can press the point into the bottom of the apple to create the puppet stick. Place the apple in a sunny place to weather and dry. When the apple is brown and dry, your child can add yarn for hair or fabric as a scarf. Have a puppet show!
Play hot apple. Play a hot-potato-style game with the family by passing an apple around as you all chant the word apple over and over. When the leader shouts, "Hot Apple!" whoever is holding the apple is it. That person gets to be the leader and calls "Hot Apple" in the next game.
Balance an apple. How far can your child walk with an apple balanced on a large spoon? Try it!
Read apple books. Take a trip to your library to find some apple books for storytime. Here are few to look for:
- The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
- Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
- How Do Apples Grow by Betsy Maestro
- Rain Makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer
- Applesauce by Shirley Kurtz
- A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry
Cook with apples. Write out your favorite apple recipes on cards and ask your child to illustrate. Give these as gifts with delicious samples! Two kid-friendly cookbooks that are devoted to apples are The Big Fat Red Juicy Apple Cookbook by Judith Bosley, and The Apple Cookbook by Owen Woodier. Or try these ideas:
Arrange apple slices on a plate and serve with a variety of dipping sauces. Which flavor does the family like best? Fill small bowls with:
- Flavored, softened cream-cheese spreads
- Vanilla or fruit yogurt
- Melted chocolate
- 6 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
- 1/3 cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and stir.
Loosely cover the bowl with a plastic lid or wax paper and microwave on high for 4 minutes.
Remove from microwave and stir carefully.
Return to microwave for an additional 7-8 minutes, until the mixture is soft.
- Remove from microwave, and mash with a potato masher or in a blender.
No-Bake Apple Oatmeal Drop Cookies
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup apples, peeled and grated
- ¼ tsp. salt
Melt butter and combine with sugar, apples and salt. Boil for 1 minute and remove from heat.
- 1½ cups quick-cooking oatmeal
- ¼ cup raisins or chocolate chips (optional)
Mix well and drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper or nonstick pan. Cool for 30 minutes and eat!
- 4 apples
- 2 tsp. butter
- 2 tsp. honey
- Raisins and/or chopped dates
Core 4 apples (leave the very bottom of the apple uncored so the goodies don't fall out!).
Peel the top third of each apple.
Add 1/2 tsp. of butter and 1/2 tsp. of honey to each apple.
Fill each apple with raisins and/or chopped dates. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
- Place apples in an uncovered pan filled with 1/8 inch of water, and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. In a hurry? Put apples in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 7 minutes.
- Butter for greasing cookie sheet
- 12 small apples
- 12 popsicle sticks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup
- Vegetable dye (optional)
Butter a cookie sheet large enough to hold all 12 apples.
Put sticks into stem ends of apples.
Boil sugar and corn syrup together, stirring only until the sugar melts. When a few drops added to cold water become brittle, it has been boiled enough. Turn off the heat.
- Dip the apples into the syrup, one at a time, holding them by their sticks. Place each apple on the cookie sheet, with its stick in the air. If the syrup hardens, heat it for a minute before you dip the next apple.
Why are the candy apples you buy at fairs and circuses red? Vegetable dye was probably added to the syrup. You could try it. For a change, why not try to make the apples blue?