Straws, Pretzels, and Wiggle Worms: Teaching Math and Science at Snack Time
By Carolyn R. Tomlin

Did you know that you can introduce young children to math and science activities at snack time? All it takes is a creative mind and a willingness to learn with the kids. Use the following tasty ideas to turn snack time into a creative math and science learning experience.


(Before beginning any activity that involves food help the children wash their hands and sanitize all utensils and/or equipment to be used during the activity.)


Math Activities

1.       Older children may form block numbers and letters by using stick pretzels. Keep track of the children's creations by writing the numbers and letters on chart paper or on a chalkboard.


2.       Place carrot sticks end to end on a table or desk. How many carrot sticks does it take to measure the table? What other objects could you measure with carrot sticks?


3.       Provide the children with snacks of different geometric shapes. Crackers can be found in squares, circles, and even triangles. Cheese, fruit, and vegetables can be cut into various shapes as well. Talk about the shapes of all the snacks. Later, take a walk and find other objects that form geometric shapes. Photograph and post on a bulletin board.


4.       Teach one-to-one correspondence by placing one pretzel by one object, two pretzels by two objects. Continue to number 10.


5.       Introduce position words, first through fifth by placing apple wedges in a line in the middle of a table. Say, "Mario, will you take the fourth apple wedge for your snack. Elizabeth, will you take the third apple wedge for your snack." Continue this activity until all children have their snack. Older children may be able to work to 10th place. Praise children for listening.


Science Activities

1.       Give each child a straw and a miniature marshmallow and ask them to blow the marshmallow across the table using only the straw. Talk about how air is used to move objects. Say, "Name other ways we use air?" (Fans, air conditioners, blowing a balloon, flying a kite)


2.       Provide each child with two cups and a straw. Fill one cup with water, juice, or milk. Show children how to place a straw in their cup. Then encourage them to press their index finger over the top of the straw. Without moving the finger, transfer to another container. What happens when you remove your finger? Provide time for each child to experiment with this project.


3.       All children enjoy "cool" cooking. Guide youngsters to make a worm cake by letting them make individual servings of instant pudding. Provide pudding mix, milk, plastic cups, and spoons. As for the "insects," use gummy worms. Introduce vocabulary words like stir, mix, and shake as you work. Show how a dry mix can change forms by adding a liquid. After the pudding sets a few minutes, it returns to a solid state. Amazing!


Carolyn Ross Tomlin is a former assistant professor early childhood education at Union University.