Learning with the Hungry Caterpillar Tree
In our family the hungry caterpillar book by Eric Carle is one of the most popular and loved books we own. It's colourful images and simple story captured our little ones imagination immediately. We saw in this an opportunity to go beyond the information in the book and expand the learning process of days of the week and foods to teach counting, colours and expand on the foods mentioned in the book.
So we came up with the idea for the tree. A simple design really. Take a large cardboard box and draw a tree, then two bushes and cut them out and paint them. We let our little one help and he loved painting the green tree and sticking it up on his wall.
Once it was dry we then got some paper and crayons and started to go through the book and
draw all the food as we told the story. 1 apple, 2 pears and so on. Using blue tack we then cut out and stuck the fruit to the tree and the berries to the bushes and then let our son 'pick' them as we read the story again.
As the weeks went on and the daily habit of picking food for the caterpillar grew, we expanded it so that now we don't need the book, and we can feed more than just the caterpillar. We added blackberries and raspberries to the bushes, bananas, lemons, grapes and cherries, to the tree, and even added a veg patch of pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and radishes to the space on the wall below the tree. We play all sorts of games now such as finding foods of a certain colour, counting berries as we feed them to teddy, learning what could grow on trees, or bushes. And what is more not only has he learnt lots of new words and improved his counting skills, but he has tried lots of new foods because he likes to eat along with his teddies.
We even made a simple basket from a small cardboard box which he calls his picnic basket and we added all of the other food from the book such as ice cream, pickles, lollipops and watermelon and even some extras like falafel and sandwiches.
You can also talk about the caterpillar and draw your own, or use a teddy, and get some brown paper and wrap him up in his cocoon, and turn into a butterfly. Teach them about other insects too, talk about the seeds in the fruit and show them when you next eat an apple. Talk about nutrition and how too much of the 'junk' food gave the caterpillar a 'stomach ache' as the book says and talk about eating healthy fruit.
Its fun, simple and allows your little ones to learn through play and encourages them to be creative. He loves colouring in the fruit, and sticking it up, and then picking it putting it in his basket and sharing it out to his toys and teddies, so let their imagination run wild. You could even talk about growing food, planting seeds and much more, and if nothing else it is an extremely cheap, plastic free toy that will keep them amused for hours.
Try it and see what fun learning games you can come up with.