During one of my recent quality visits to a setting, I had lunch with the children.
One of the children stated that they are having mashed potatoes for lunch.
I replied: “Ooh, I was meant to have mashed potato for my dinner yesterday, in the hotel. Instead, I had sweet potato chips!”
Child: “Sweet potato?” With an unsure look on his face.
Me: “Can anyone tell me about sweet potatoes?”
Children: “No, we’ve never had them!”
I then went on to explain what a sweet potato is. What it looks like and how it is different to a white potato.
Me: “When I go out to the shops later, I will see if I can buy a sweet potato at a shop in the village.”
Member of staff: “Maybe next door to my dad’s shop you can buy a sweet potato?”
Off I went into the village and, surprise, surprise, I purchased the sweet potato!
I sat down with the children on my return and showed them the sweet potato.
Me: “Tell me what we should do with the sweet potato.”
Children: “Eat it!”
This was a great example of sustained shared thinking. My time with the children was enough to really engage in conversation; there wasn’t much questioning but lots of serve and return.
I talked about the different ways that I had eaten sweet potatoes: roasted, chipped, mashed… but never raw. I asked if the children thought that we should try a little. We then had more conversation about our shared experience.
Me: “Tell me what we should do with it.”
Children: “Cook it!”
Me: “Describe how are we going to cook the potato.”
Children: “Go to the kitchen and give it to Agnes (the cook) to cook.”
Me: “I am thinking, what else should we do?”
Children: “Cut it!”
Me: “Hmm, so tell me what might we need to cut the sweet potato”
I went with one of the children into the kitchen and the child confidentially explained to the cook what we were doing and what we needed.
We told Agnes that we needed a board and a saucepan. We came back to the room. I had a sharp knife and started to cut.
Child: “Cut it in half!”
Child: “Cut it in quarters!”
Child: “Ooh, it looks like a pumpkin inside!”
They were making connections, as they had pumpkins last week.
The children then counted out 16 pieces, all from one sweet potato. The sweet potato skins were left on the table and the children had the opportunity to feel the skin.
A member of staff pointed to the clock and said: “Children, we need 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are cooked” and showed that this would be 3.15pm.
With a child, I brought the sweet potatoes in the saucepan to the kitchen and she confidently explained to the cook when we would be back. We went back into the room and I explained to the children that I was going to see their friends in the baby and toddler rooms.
A child and a member of staff came and found me at 3.15pm! The cook had brought the sweet potatoes into the room. The children collected bowls and plates. The children and I discussed the taste and texture of the sweet potatoes and the differences between raw and cooked.
This is a great example of how we can make great use of learning opportunities as they arise – even when we’re not expecting them!
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