The term "sensorimotor" comes from the child understanding their world largely through their senses for their first 2 years. This stage is characterized by the lack of language. It focuses on the reflexes like reaching, sucking and grasping that the child is born with. In this stage of development the child eventually develops activities centered on the child's body and repetitious in nature. Children eventually develop the coordination of separate activities and the evolution of language. ("Jean Piaget," n.d.) A final achievement in this stage is recognizing cause-and-effect relationships. In the 18-24 month range, the child will begin to internalize behaviors and build mental symbols. This latter part of stage is when children are able to participate in pretend play.
Activity for Sensorimotor Stage - Infants and Toddlers
For Week 1, "Down on the Farm", I will focus on farms in the U.S. and the foods grown on farms. For this group we talk about apples. I will break the learning into two sessions of 20 minutes each during the week since this groups attention span is short. We will learn that apples come from trees and they are a fruit by doing an art project making a apple tree with construction paper and gluing on apples. We will talk about apples as a healthy snack and have some different types of apples - whole and cut up to eat. I will read them a book called Apples, Apples, Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.
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We will learn and sing a simple rhyme, by an unknown author, about apples that includes hand motions to engage them.
Way high in the apple tree
(Reach very high on tiptoes)
Two little apples were smiling at me
(With hands high in the air, shape them into
two circles looking down at you)
I shook the tree as hard as I could
(Wiggle your body)
Down came those apples
And M-M-M were they good!
(Stand up, rub your tummy and smile)
All of these activities will provide a rich stimulating environment and appeal to their senses and allow them to have fun while learning about apples and their nutritional value. Singing the song with movements will allow the child to express himself even if he has a limited vocabulary. The art project will promote increasing fine motor skills, introduce them to the word "apple" and reinforce the colors of red and green.
Nutritional Education and the Pre-Operational Stage - Toddlers and Early Childhood
This stage is in effect when children are about 2 to 7 years old. The major development of this stage is symbolic thinking. Children start to give labels to everyday objects. They develop what is known as schemes for recognizing new objects. For example, they may call all four-legged creatures by the word cat, even when they see a dog. As children progress through this stage and they acquire more labels, their vocabularies rapidly expand. Children express their thoughts and obtain new information through their expanding verbal communication. (Compeau, 2001)
Symbolic play is characteristic of this stage. Symbolic play is when a child assimilates a concrete object with a scheme which already exists for a familiar object, for example using a broom for a guitar. (Ginsburg, 1988) Also in this stage, children exhibit egocentrism - their inability to view a situation form any other perspective beside her own. A child in this stage believes that the other child he is interacting with has the same perspective and this assumption leads to many conflicts with peers.
Children in the pre-operational stage exhibit illogical thinking. Examples of this are lack of conservation - the inability to realize that if an object changes form it does not necessarily change in amount, and irreversibility - the inability to realize that certain processes can be reversed. Other examples include single classification - the inability to understand that one object can be classified in more than one way, and transductive reasoning - seeing similarities between two or more concrete objects or events when there is actually no relationship. (Compeau, 2001)
The behaviors and characteristics of this stage are most commonly observed in preschool, 2-4 years of age, and the first few years of elementary school, 5-7 years of age. Towards the end of this stage, children begin to show some logical thinking. They start to understand that viewpoints besides their own do occur.
Activity - Toddlers and Early Childhood
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For Week 7, "Gondola Ride" I will focus on pizza, a favorite food of Italy, and the healthy vegetable choices when making a pizza. I will break this teaching into two 30 minute sessions for the week. For the first session, we will talk about vegetables and have a basketful of samples that they pass around. We will review the written words for each vegetable. We will then make a playdoh pizza pie. Red playdoh for sauce and toppings of different color playdoh for the vegetables. If time I will read to them The Pizza That We Made by Joan Holub.
For the next session, each child will be a chef and make an english muffin pizzas with the children for a snack. While they are baking we will play a mystery food activity and put a vegetable in a bag. One child places their hand in and tries to guess what type of food it is. I will ask them to describe what they feel by asking questions such as: Is it hard or soft? Round? Smooth or rough? Can you guess what it is?
The playdoh activity will encourage the children to play with a toy that changes shape which will help them move towards the concept of conservation. The cooking activity will allow them to dress up and take on the character of a chef. The mystery vegetable game promotes a hands on activity and provides a classification exercise.
Nutritional Education and the Concrete Operational Stage - Middle Childhood
In this stage children evolve from egocentric, pre-logical thinking. This stage exhibits organized thoughts that interface with his other thoughts. These thought processes or operations allow children to think logically. Some of the rules of logic include reversibility, identity, and compensation. (Compeau, 2001)
Logical thinking skills increase as children grow and develop in this stage. Complex problems are easier to handle. A child has the ability to think about two or more components of a problem at the same time. They still exhibit difficulty with abstract thinking. Also in this stage, children can come to the realization that other people's thoughts and perspectives differ from their own. They realize that they can be wrong and that theirs and others' thoughts and feeling do not reflect reality. (Yussen, 1982)
For Week 2, "China - Year of the Snake", I will focus on foods from Asia in conjunction with the food pyramid recommended by the US Department of Agriculture. (FNS, 2012) We will discuss color, size, shape, and texture of those foods while viewing pictures. Students will be asked to categorize Asian foods into a food group from the pyramid. We will read the book Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley, allowing those who want to read out load the chance. We will cook rice and make California rolls. We serve the rice and California rolls and eat them with chopsticks. We will make hot tea and have fortune cookies.
The cooking will allow a hands on activity for this age group to manipulate food choices for their California roll recipe. The recipe and instructions are simple enough that all students will be successful. The students will practice classifying the Asian foods on the food pyramid chart to assist in their logical thinking process. With the "Everybody Cooks Rice" book they can think in a broader perspective about other nationalities and the common tie of "eating rice"; breaking out of their egocentric thinking.
Nutritional Education and the Formal Operational Stage - Adolescents
This stage is distinguished by the child applying his logic directly to real objects or situations. ("Jean Piaget," n.d.) He is able to think inductively - from the specific to the general. He is able to generate ideas about things he has not yet experienced. The child starts to formulate ideas in his head, without any support from concrete manipulation. He can do mathematical calculations and think creatively. This student can now think abstractly and generate hypotheses.
For Week 5, "England - Tea Time" - Europe, we will use the following activities along with a cooking activity to discuss the common foods in England and how similar their diet is to the US. We will chart the foods on the food pyramid. The second activity will look at the names of foods that kings and queens loved to eat five hundred years ago. The children will work in groups and imagine what these foods were like and write a poem about one of them or write a silly imaginary recipe.
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For a cooking activity, we will make individual meat pies. The students will be given the original recipe to recopy with their individual tweaks to the recipe. The children will take them home to bake.
These activities promote this stage by the use of charts and illustrations to stimulate the child's developing thought processes. For the recipe, step by step explanations and materials are given, but the student may make modifications - again supporting creativity and math skills. They will be encouraged to work in groups to brainstorm and generate ideas to promote conceptual thinking.
The educational implication of Piaget's theory is the adaptation of nutrition education instruction to the learner's development level. It is important that the content of instruction needs to be consistent with the developmental level of the learner. These summer activities will encourage the children to discover themselves and to learn about good nutrition. The children will be able to explore and experiment, while new understandings are encouraged.