One of the wonderful things about working with preschoolers is that they are charmed and engaged by even the most ordinary things. A lesson plan on carrots, for example, offers ample opportunities to teach color recognition, basic science concepts and even literacy. Gather a few books from the library on carrots and vegetables as a starting point, or visit a farmer's market or vegetable stand to find carrots in a variety of sizes and colors, including purple and red, to use as you teach your child.
A high-quality children's book is always an effective way to introduce a topic of study. Try reading "The Carrot Seed," by Ruth Krauss. This classic tale tells the story of a little boy who planted a carrot seed and waited -- and waited -- for it to grow. As you read the story, ask your child to predict what might happen next. Learning to make predictions boosts reading comprehension. After you've read the story, make a list of all the things the boy did to help the seed grow. Making lists encourages comprehension and also lets you model concepts like reading left to right, starting at the top of the page and going down. Finally, make a few cards with pictures of the story's events. Work together to put the cards in order. This sequencing activity helps teach story plot and builds cognitive skills as your child works to remember the order of events in the story.
A preschool lesson plan about carrots naturally lends itself to science activities. Read "Tops and Bottoms," by Janet Stevens, to introduce the concept that some vegetables grow above ground and some grow below. Show your child some root vegetables, such as carrots and onions, as well as leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach. Don't forget fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes, beans and zucchini. Compare the other vegetables to the carrots and talk about how they're the same and how they're different. Make a graph outlining which parts we eat -- roots, leaves or fruit -- or try sprouting carrot seeds in a plastic bag. To do so, moisten a paper towel and place it in a plastic bag. Place some carrot seeds on the paper towel. Seal the bag and tape it in a sunny window. Take it down frequently and moisten the paper towel. Soon, the carrot seeds will sprout and begin to grow, allowing your child a first-hand look at the science of seed germination. Your preschooler can grow carrot seeds outside, as well. Sow them directly in the ground or in deep containers. Carrots grow best in cool spring weather and need full sun and moist soil.
Cooking activities naturally incorporate many concepts, including math, nutrition and following directions. Make carrot cake or muffins and let your child help you measure the flour, sugar and oil as an introduction to fractions and measurements. Have your child carefully grate carrots with a carrot grater to boost her fine motor skills and talk about making healthy food choices. While you're at it, point out the sensory aspects of cooking -- the smell of muffins baking or the texture of those crunchy carrots.
Dramatic play sometimes gets short shrift in preschool lesson plans, but when thoughtfully planned, it can serve as a vehicle for language and literacy development, social skills and abstract thinking skills. Set up a pretend carrot or vegetable stand with a toy cash register. Help your child make signs advertising what's for sale. Add baskets or bags for toting the produce. Introduce words like please and thank you as you play vegetable stand. Take turns being the shopkeeper and shopper to teach the social skills of compromise and turn taking. Help your child remember the growth cycle of carrots by acting like a seed, then a sprout and then a carrot ready to be picked. To boost abstract thinking, let your child direct some of the play. Read, "Scarlette Beane," by Karen Wallace. In this magical story, Scarlette, a young child, plants a magical, giant-size garden. Take a cue from the book and act out the story. Make vegetable soup or eat lunch under the table.
During a study on carrots, introduce the idea of primary and secondary colors. Show your child how to make orange by mixing yellow and red. Then, introduce shades. Add a little white and you get a pastel. Add more red and the orange changes. Add a little brown and it changes even further. Get paint chips in a variety of orange shades and make an orange book or slice carrots down the middle and dip the cut sides in paint. Press the painted carrots on paper to make carrot prints.