September is Hunger Action Month and this year I am proud to be part of a team of mom bloggers who are raising awareness about this important issue. To see what the other moms have been up to, check out the Moms Fighting Hunger Facebook page and follow along to get more ideas of what families can do to support this cause.
Since my children are still very young, I wanted to introduce the concept of hunger in a hands-on and age-appropriate way. Each of the following five activities tries to put “hunger” into understandable terms for preschoolers, while developing positive character traits that will help encourage empathy for those in the world who experience hunger.
Here are 5 activities to teach preschoolers about hunger.
Magazine Activity to Inspire Thanks
This activity was meant to help the kids think about what wonderful foods they have access to, in order to inspire gratitude in their hearts. I gave the kids a stack of food pictures cut out from magazines, and wrote on a big piece of paper “We are grateful for our food.” Then they chose foods to glue on – taking time to find their favorites at first, and then we also added more that made our bodies strong.
After discussing how we can show our thankfulness for our food (including showing gratitude to those who grow/sell/make our food and not wasting food) we also talked about how every person in the world deserves to have enough food to live. I asked simple questions like, “How would you feel if you were hungry all day and did not have any food to eat?” and “What should we do if we know someone does not have enough food?” Then we finished off by considering how important it is to find ways to support people who do not have enough food, which I said we would be doing in the coming days.
Trip to the Grocery Store to Learn About Food Finances
On this day when we parked in front of our local supermarket, I turned around and told the boys I had a special experiment for them. I explained they had $5 to buy lunch (together): we would look at different foods to see what options they had and I would help them figure out if they had enough money. Through this activity I hoped they would learn how important money is for getting food every day (if you don’t have your own garden, of course).
First we stopped by a cafe on our way to the grocery store, and looked at the prices of the items there. The boys quickly discovered how expensive even one piece of pie was (almost their whole budget for lunch) so we kept going. We looked at many options in the grocery store, and finally they decided how to use up their $5. We talked about eating on a budget and how many children do not even have $5 to eat lunch every day, and that some families have less money to feed the whole family three meals a day.
Then we talked about how we can find ways to share with the children who do not have the same foods as we do, and how donating money so people can buy enough food is just one way to help. I think this activity gave the kids some awareness for how blessed they are to have food every day; and hopefully more understanding about how others are living in very challenging situations.
Learning about Hunger
I was very moved by Sheila’s post over at Pennies of Time sharing how she created an opportunity for her family to experience eating a “rice meal” or “fancy meal” for dinner one night, to introduce the concept of hunger. My children are a bit younger than hers, so I modified the activity accordingly.
First I explained that some families cannot afford to buy much food, so they eat the same affordable foods every day such as rice. Then I gave the kids a plate of rice for dinner. My oldest immediately said, “I don’t want just rice, I’m more hungry than that!” So I asked how it felt to only have rice and if he could imagine eating this every day. I was surprised how many questions came up and how much we got to talk about issues surrounding hunger (just to give an idea of ages, my son just turned 5 last week).
I felt just having rice on their plates at first sight was an age-appropriate way to begin the discussion about what some children around the world are facing, but after a few minutes of talking I gave them some other food to eat with their rice (which I had prepared ahead of time and was waiting on the counter without their knowledge). I knew my 2.5 year old was not old enough to understand why I would only be giving him rice, and that I could not give more to one child and not the other. I think the activity did its job of offering a simple introduction to hunger and for inspiring empathy for those facing it.
Raising Awareness About Hunger
This activity was meant to introduce the idea of doing what we can to make a difference. After making muffins and enjoying some ourselves, we packed the rest for daddy to take to his coworkers. I helped the boys make a poster along with a link for people to make a donation to fight hunger, and explained to them how the people who work with daddy will be given these muffins and will see the poster so they can find out ways to fight hunger.
Even though our efforts may only make a “small” difference, the boys had the opportunity to share for the wider good (which only came with quite a bit of talking about why we were giving the muffins away). They also became empowered to spread the word about hunger, which by the end of the poster-making was beginning to sink in. 🙂
Donating Money Not Spent on Restaurant Meal
I figured one very important element of our Hunger Action Month activities this year would also be finding a concrete way to support the children who are hungry. There are many ways to do this, but due to practical reasons this year we chose to support the cause financially.
So I explained to the boys that on this day, instead of going out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants we would add up the money we would have spent there, eat at home, and donate what we “saved” to No Kid Hungry. We made a simple budget dinner at home and made our donation online. By sacrificing one meal out, our family helped feed a few children. It was quite empowering… and yet easy at the same time.
If you are looking for more ways to take action in the community, check out these 13 Ways Families Can Help Fight Hunger by Coffee Cups and Crayons.
To find even more ideas and posts about this initiative, check out the Moms Fighting Hunger Pinterest Board and get a glimpse of some of the supporters of this initiative in this fun slideshow. To learn more about Hunger Action Month visit this website.
Do you have more ideas to teach preschoolers about hunger?
Or what did you do for Hunger Action Month? Leave your ideas in the comments!
What wonderful ideas. It is so important to teach our little ones the value of things that they would otherwise take for granted. My little man is still a bit young to fully understand, but I definitely use your ideas once he is older.
Great activities! On their level, but still empowering for young kids!
Sheila @ Pennies of Time
Chelsea, What a great list of activities that help teach children about a hard issue to understand! Bravo to you for teaching them the vocabulary and awareness now — will make it so much easier later when other lessons are learned! ( Great picture of the boys ready with the muffins!)
Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy
This is a wonderful initiative Chelsea. I will definitely be considering this when Elliott is a bit older, it is so very important.
Emma @ P is for Preschooler
These are great ideas because they are just right for a preschooler’s understanding. Teaching them to appreciate what they have and to help those who aren’t as lucky is so important. Our library does a food drive every November and I don’t think my 4-year-old has ever really grasped what it’s about, but this year I think she’s ready. She can help me pick out some food, put it in the box. Thanks for the ideas!
Some really important messages you are teaching here, thanks for sharing.
Julie - Ladybug's Spots
What an important, yet very overlooked topic! Food and hunger are such a big part of our lives and yet we forget to teach our children the value and meaning of this everyday thing. Thank you for the reminder!!!
I am always saying to my children ‘ you don’t know how good you’ve got it girls, eat your dinner!’
These activities are such a good way of them understanding that children ARE worse off than them and that they SHOULD appreciate the variety and amount of food available to them. What a wonderful, important post honey.
Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky
There are so many good ideas for teaching gratitude for food right here. My little one takes food for granted so much. I say “we’ve run out” of such-and-such and she just looks at me and says “well, make some more!”. This is something we should work on understanding more.
I think it can be so hard for young children to really grasp that others don’t have enough to eat, or somewhere to live when they are so far removed from that… so these ideas are awesome to really make the things we talk about make more sense!
What Kate said ^^
What a great way to introduce such a difficult concept. I love that each mini-activity is a day apart – it gives the kids a chance to ask questions and ponder before they are extended again. My girls are probably a bit too small yet for this (my eldest has just turned three) but I’ll revisit this again next year. 🙂
Great ideas as always Chelsea :). It is such a tricky concept. xo P
Such thoughtful ways of teaching them about important world issues. I sometimes try to explain to my fussy eater how some children have nothing at all to eat, but these activities look like they would really get the message across. Your boys are very cute 🙂
Elise @ Creative Play Central
Such meaningful ways to learn about important values and make a difference.
Great ideas Chelsea. I love practical real ideas that people can try at home with their own children. Great message to be spreading as well and including your children in.
Rachel | Racheous
This is such a great post! I really struggle with how to approach this with Cam, I’ll pin this to remind myself!
What a gorgeous collection on ideas. It’s never too early to start teaching children about the world and how to make it a better place. 🙂
Pinned this! What a wonderful way to teach such an important concept to young children. If you have time, every Friday I host a link party with over 100 bloggers, 800+ readers and 700+ subscribers called Family Fun Friday. I’d love it if you’d share this post. I’m a leader in a MOPS group and my readers are young moms with young kids. The party grows every week – I hope you can join in and share this awesome post!
Jackie@My Little Bookcase
We’re really lucky in Australia aren’t we. Hunger is not something I’ve actively thought to talk about with my kids. Thank you for these wonderful suggestions.
Hello, thank you for your caring and thoughtful post.
Your activities and conversations with your children will do much to instill empathy in them.
I invite you to consider also exploring the question of Why hunger exists in the world, when there is more than enough food to feed everyone? Beginning from a place of caring, this question leads to a critical awareness of the failure of existing institutions to meet many people’s needs. It demands of us that we not only do what we can to share our wealth, but also to explore the question of how broken systems can be changed to satisfy more people’s needs.
Chelsea Lee Smith
That’s a wonderful suggestion, Nicolas, thanks for bringing it up. There’s definitely a lot to consider and learn about there, for myself included.
I’m coordinating the missions portion of our VBS and was wondering if you would mind me using your outline here? I think it’s very well done and would love to share it with the children in our community. Thanks
Chelsea Lee Smith
Hi Lindsay, yes definitely feel free to use the outline – a simple reference to my blog would be much appreciated. I’m so glad the activities will be useful for your group!! Good luck!