Preschool

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Healthy Food Sort

Learning to categorise and classify objects is a big part of the early years mathematical curriculum. It helps memory skills and also build visual perception and thinking skills. This Very Hungry Caterpillar activity helped Z (aged 3.8 years) boost these essential skills with the help of a familiar story book character.

This idea could of course apply to different story characters or ideas too – sorting colours is a classic, you could also try letters, numbers, colours or shapes too. Whatever you decided to choose, make sure that your child is familiar with the concepts first. For this caterpillar themed activity, Z was extremely familiar with the story – as are most three-year-old children, right?

You will need:

  • A roll of paper
  • Colour crayons
  • Discs with the fruit that The Very Hungry Caterpillar eats. These were from a game we bought in a local bookstore, but you could always draw some onto card or use pompoms to represent each ‘fruit.’

What to do:

Start by drawing out the circles on a large sheet of white paper (we tend to use the reverse of the paper for another activity afterwards) For ours we used the circular ‘coins’ that came with the game – oranges, strawberries, pears, plums and apples.

I also decided to draw The Very Hungry Caterpillar so that Z could make the connection to the book – this worked out well because she then decided to ‘feed’ the caterpillar before each item was sorted.

As this turned out to be a pretty straightforward task for Z, she also counted the items in each circle too. Here are some other ideas to make the activity a little harder:

  • Designate each fruit with a number so that the correct amount is sorted
  • Try a Venn diagram e.g. colour and fruit
  • Add in the unhealthy treats that the caterpillar tries, then sort by healthy v. unhealthy – this should lead to rich discussion.

As i’d left the caterpillar blank, Z coloured him in too – colouring shouldn’t be overlooked as it’s another great way to work on fine motor skills.

Key Benefits

With Z being so young (3.8 years) I don’t like to keep her long at the table. The learning we do is short and sharp – this activity was approximately 10- 15 minutes. From experience, they tend to loose focus after this point. For that reason, I like the activities we do to have other hidden skills. This activity worked on:

  • memory skills – by learning to categorise and classify
  • Visual perception and thinking skills – sorting objects by type
  • Fine motor skills – picking up the ‘coins’ then colouring the caterpillar
  • Crossing the mid-line – working on a large piece of paper provided plenty of opportunities for Z to stretch and move.
  • Early literacy – identifying and naming objects. Also recalling parts of the story.
  • Early numeracy – counting the items that had been sorted.

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British primary school teacher and mum of 2.

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