Roots, Stems, Leaves, Fruits, Flowers & Seeds

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Your child has learned that plants are the basis of the food chain. You can use the activities below to reinforce your child's understanding of the role plants play in our diets. As a precaution, remind your child to never taste other kinds of plants without checking with an adult first.

Picking Plants At The Market
The next time you're at the market with your child, point out foods that are examples of roots, stems, leaves, fruits, flowers, and seeds. For example: Roots: carrots, turnips, beets, radishes. If possible, look for examples with leafy tops, to remind your child that the part we eat grows underground.
* Stems: celery and asparagus
* Leaves: spinach, cabbage, kale, and all kinds of lettuce
* Fruits: apples, pears, plums, and mangoes
* Flowers: broccoli and cauliflower
* Seeds: corn, peas, dry beans, oats, and nuts

As you locate these items at the store, discuss with your child how each looks like a leaf, a stem, and so on. For example:
- Talk about how the root vegetables grow underground, just like the roots of plants at home or in the garden.
- Look closely at the broccoli florets. Point out how each is a bud, like a flower waiting to open.
- At home, you can cut open an orange and point out the seeds inside. Explain to your child that a fruit is any edible seed-bearing part of a plant.

Construct A Fantasy Plant
After you return from your shopping trip, challenge your child to use the various plant parts to construct a complete plant. For example, take a parsnip (a root), connect it to a piece of asparagus (a stem), add some sprigs of parsley (leaves), cherries (fruit), broccoli (flower), and finally a few grains of rice (seeds). Ask your child to draw a picture of your colorful creation as a reminder of the plant you created together.

Roots and Stems In Action
Try this experiment, along with your child, to show how roots and stems pull water up into a plant.

- Take a stalk of celery (or a carrot) and cut off 1 inch from the bottom end.

- Place the stalk in a jar of water.

- Add food coloring to the water (blue or red are best) until the water becomes dark.

- Let the stalk sit in the water for 24 hours.

- With your child, look at the stalk the next day.

- Discuss the color of the leaves at the top of the stalk. Scrape the surface of the celery stalk with a knife--do you see the colored tubes?
- Discuss their role in "feeding" the plant. Cut the stalk in half and discuss what you see.
- Challenge your child to explain how the water reaches all the parts of the plant.

Plan A Plant Picnic
You and your child can plan a picnic together that features an all-plant menu. Try to select foods representative of each plant part. For example, your picnic basket could include potato salad made with low-fat mayonnaise; celery sticks; cauliflower florets; cole slaw (also made with low-fat mayonnaise); bread (challenge your child to explain how bread is made from plants); and rice cakes spread with a reduced-fat peanut butter and apples. Or you can simply pack one main item that includes all the parts--a big salad with radishes (roots), spinach (leaves), celery (stems), broccoli (flowers), and tomatoes (fruits), sprinkled with sesame seeds on top.

To drink, bring along fruit or vegetable juice, or try making iced ginger tea (just boil a bit of ginger root and sweeten to taste). If the weather permits, take your picnic outside and find a nice spot. If not, simply spread a blanket on your living room floor and dig in!
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