Apple Picking for Beginners: Part One of Two

September 11, 2012 § 3 Comments

In our family—more than back-to-school, more than lightweight jackets, even more than colorful leaves—fall means apple picking! I’ve already established my obsession with using farms as a classroom for my children. Now add to that curriculum some apple picking (complete with wagon rides, ladders, and pie), and you’ve got a hands-on opportunity for kids to participate in the selection of their own food—while at the same time learning where that food comes from.

When JP turned one, we had his birthday party at an apple orchard outside Chicago. I can still envision him gripping the top of our full basket on his wobbly little legs, removing one apple at a time, taking a bite, returning it to the basket with a single set of teeth marks, and then picking up another and another—until he’d put his teeth on nearly every apple he could reach. We lost a lot of apples that year, but it seemed a small price to pay for a love of apples that has stayed with him since.

For the youngest apple pickers, my favorite introduction to the topic is One Red Apple (Ages 2-4), by Harriet Ziefert, with evocative paintings by Karla Gudeon. The book begins with a single red apple, ripe on the branch of the fall apple tree; it goes on to trace its life cycle, as it’s picked, eaten, dropped, and released back into the earth to sprout a new tree. Children are drawn into the action, as each of the single sentences comprising each page begins with an active verb: “Pick a red apple from a tree.” “Leave an apple core for the birds to eat.” “Watch tiny apple seeds scatter in the wind.” “See small sprouts peek out from the earth.”

But it’s the exuberant art that really captivates kids, and even JP (now almost five) still enjoys this book alongside Emily, who at two is beginning her Apple Education. One painting pays tribute to the important role that bees play in the pollination of the apple blossoms (I’m always looking for ways to introduce my kids to the friendly side of bees). There’s an enticing double-page spread of the farmer’s truck passing all the farm animals on its way to bring apples to the market. And both my kids love the fold-up-and-out page that shows the apple tree growing in size. The excitement on the faces of the children in the story is contagious. In just a few weeks, I know that JP and Emily will once again share in the thrill that is apple picking, and we too will hail, “Thank you, earth, for one red apple.”

JP on his first birthday, beholding a basket full of apples with little teeth marks.

Other Favorites about the Life Cycle of the Apple Tree:
Apple Farmer Annie, by Monica Wellington (Ages 1-3)
The Apple Pie Tree, by Zoe Hall & Shari Halpern (Ages 2-4)
Our Apple Tree, by Gorel Kristina Naslund & Kristina Digman (Ages 3-6)

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