We recently went to a friend's house and explored her wonderful garden! If you don't have your own garden, I find the most gardeners would love to share their pride and joy with you, as well as some of their harvest, especially during tomato and zucchini harvests. :-)
I noticed she had beans on a trellis and asked if our nature preschool group could shell them after they are dried. She was ecstatic and it turns out that she had a small barrel of dried beans from last year that still need shelled. She hasn't taken the time to do them all so just goes out and shells a few at a time for whatever soups or other foods she is making.
We shelled dried beans at nature preschool last year as well. I will say that it was a great fine motor activity for the children, giving their hands real work that needed to be done. It was even therapeutic for the mothers who shelled and chatted. It gives meaning for gathering while being purposeful in work.
We brought home the barrel of beans and started shelling. My boys were very enthusiastic about shelling the beans, sitting in the living room and enjoying the time chatting together. They also would shell while we watched television or were out in the living room. It is a great activity of service and work, connecting us to our food and local food sources.
These hands need work and service opportunities, making this perfect! I love all the varieties, colors, and patterns of the beans!
The boys loved the tactile feeling of running their fingers through the beans. To be honest, I did, too! Later, I found this elephant in the beans. I think they enjoyed it!
We have done similar activities with sunflower seeds, taking the seeds out of the sunflower head, and dried corn, taking the kernels off of the cob. In each case, the children have been doing real work and engaged/absorbed in the activity. Can you think of other harvest type activities for involving the children? What has been successful for you? Thanks for sharing!
When I bring items like this into nature preschool, I usually set it up as an optional activity on some type of table. I find it helpful to have a bin for the items that are shelled and another one for the refuse. We try to compost the "leftovers", but will use the corncobs as loose parts and as part of native inspired games. To be honest, the beans become a loose part as well, perfect for sorting and so much more!