Popcorn Fun! Activities, ideas and more.

Aug 27, 2012

Today, I am super excited to introduce you to Steph from Boy Mama Teacher Mama.  She writes a fabulous blog choc-a-block full of great activities that promote learning and enjoyment. If you're yet to discover her blog, then you must go over and take a look. I shall leave you in her capable hands. Debs :)

I am so happy to be guest posting on Learn with Play at home!  My name is Stephanie and I am the creator of Boy Mama Teacher Mama. I am also a former primary school teacher and a mom to two amazing boys ages 3 and 5. I am also a mom to two adorable Pugs who were my children before my boys were born.  I was born and raised in the US (Chicago area then onto the Seattle area), and am currently living in Sydney, Australia.  
Here I share with you some fantastic fun that you can have with a simple material... corn!
"Mom, do you think popcorn and corn are the same thing?"
This is what my five year old asked me today on the walk to the grocery store. Man, the things we take for granted that we think they know, but they don't! So, it was time to institute, "Popcorn School" in our household. What fun!
But, before we start, head over to itunes and search for the song, "Popcorn!" by the Barenaked Ladies and play it!  It is a fun song that will get your child "popping" around the room and ready to think about popcorn!
Popcorn Basics
• Popcorn comes from corn (no assumptions right?)
• There are six different kinds of corn, but, “zea mays everta” aka popcorn is the only one that pops.
• In the United States, over 17.3 billion quarts of popcorn is consumed each year!
• Corn is grown in 6 different states in the US. This area is known as the "cornbelt."

Why Popcorn Pops
Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel’s hard surface.  As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand and eventually turns into steam. This steam changes the soft starch to an extremely hot gelatinous goop. As the kernel continues to heat up, the pressure inside grows and grows until it finally bursts open. So, what you are seeing in a piece of popcorn is actually the inside of the kernel on the outside! 

Be a Kernel and POP!: Have your child get down on the floor and pretend that she is an un-popped kernel of popcorn. Then walk her through the stages of becoming a piece of popcorn.  Begin with something like-- “You are one tiny kernel in the pan along with hundreds of other kernels. You are closed up tight. Slowly the pan gets hotter and hotter…”

Check out this video of popcorn popping in slow motion: Popcorn in Slow Motion 

Did You Know?
• The un-popped popcorn at the bottom of the bowl are called, “old maids?”
   Native Americans used to believe that a little demon lived inside each kernel. The demon would get so angry when his house heated up that he exploded and that is why popcorn pops.

Popcorn Activities

Cook up a batch of popcorn for the following activities. Be sure to set aside some un-popped kernels as well. Don’t forget to make a little extra to munch on…

Popcorn Addition: Using 3 cups or plates and a die, you can practice addition.  Roll the die once and put that many piece of popcorn on the first plate, roll again and put that many on the second plate. Then pour the contents of the first two plates onto the third and count how many pieces you have all together. Want to take it a step further? Use a pencil and paper to show the addition problem or try subtraction instead.

Popcorn Popcorn Patterns:  Use popcorn and kernels to make patterns. 

Popcorn Art: Use popcorn and kernels to make a picture or design

Popcorn Bags: Using a plain paper bag (lunch bag), create your own popcorn bag like you might see at the circus, the fair or the movies.

Math Bags: Want to add some math to your newly created Popcorn Bag? Throw a few number cards inside the bag and have your child draw two cards then add, subtract or multiply the two numbers. Or remove 3 or more cards and practice adding number strings.

Popcorn Taste Test: Prepare popcorn in a few different ways (see recipes below), gather up the family and have a taste test. Create a popcorn graph to show the results.

Song, Story or Rhyme: Write a song, story or rhyme about popcorn.  Here is a simple one we made up:

Popcorn popping,
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Popcorn popping,
When will it stop?
Popcorn popping,
Ready to munch.
Popcorn stopping,
Ready to crunch!

Popcorn Tic-Tac-Toe: Instead of x and o use kernels and popped popcorn.

Popcorn Stand: Have a popcorn stand instead of a lemonade stand (or both!).

Sprout a Kernel: Put some soil in a container, add a few kernels of popcorn and water. Place the cup in a sunny spot and watch your kernel grow. Kernel should sprout in about a week or so.

Have an Older Child? 
Try this two step activity:

How Much Room?  Fill a very small container with popcorn kernels and fill the same size container with popped popcorn and set both aside (out of view).  Now, with your child, count out 2 kernels and show him what that looks like. Then show him what 5 kernels look like. And then 10.  Repeat these same steps with popped corn.  Ask some of the following questions:  Which kind of corn (popped or un-popped) takes up more space?  If you had to fill a big container with either popped or un-popped popcorn, which would make sense to use? What about a smaller container? Which makes more sense?

Kernel Estimation: Now that your child has an understanding of how much space popped and un-popped popcorn takes up, take out the two small containers you filled up. Place them in front of your child.  As these question: Which container is holding more items?  How do you know? How many kernels do you think is in this container? How many pieces of popcorn are in this container?  Show your child again what 10 kernels looks like and what 10 pieces of popcorn look like. Using this visual information, together try to estimate how many kernels are in the container and how many pieces of popcorn there are.  Then count and see if you are right!

Note: Estimation is not an easy concept.  Often we expect young children to just instinctually know what it means and how it works. This is not true! Guiding your child as described above, helps your child to begin to understand estimation.

Popcorn Recipes
   Party Popcorn from She Wears Many Hats
   Easy Caramel Corn 
   Seasoned Popcorn:  Simply add any of your favorite ingredients to the melted butter and enjoy! Try cinnamon sugar or parmesan cheese.

Popcorn Books
   Popcorn! (Elaine Landau )Popcorn! is a picture book for older children complete with historical facts, legends, trivia and recipes all featuring popcorn.  
   The Popcorn Book (Tomie DePaola) Friends get together to make some popcorn and have an adventure that is sure to please young readers. 
   Corn  (Gail Gibbons) A non-fiction book about all things corn. 
   Popcorn (Frank Asch) Bear is left home on Halloween and decides to invite his friends over for a party.  Each friend decides to bring some popcorn to the party. Bear and his friends decide to pop all the corn and soon the house is filled with popcorn….
More great information about popcorn can be found at Popcorn.org