In this Caledecott Honor book, author Robert McCloskey tells the story of a mom and her little girl named Sal who have an unexpected adventure with a Mama Bear and her cub. Both pairs are on a mountain searching for blueberries.
Sal’s mom wants to pick a big tin pail full of juicy berries to can for the winter. Sal can only think about filling her tummy with the berries right now. Mama Bear and baby also want to fill up their tummies – also to prepare for the winter ahead.
In this tale, with a whole section that is reminiscent of P.D. Eastman’s “Are You My Mother?,” Sal and her Mom get separated, as do Mama Bear and Baby Bear.
All ends well, no worries.
The story is perfect for reading out loud.
Age range: 3-7
If you read Blueberries for Sal while summer fruits are abundant, you can make a beautiful red, white, and blue(berry) dessert with your little one!
You start with a roll of sugar cookie dough. Bake it into an enormous cookie. Top it with some kind of white topping (cream cheese, whipped cream, or a combination). Then have the kids decorate with blueberries and strawberries in whatever pattern they like.
Want something with less sugar? Have your children count out 15 blueberries + 10 strawberries (halved) into little dishes – one for each member of the family. Top with a small scoop of yogurt.
You can make an easy bird feeder by stringing cheerios and berries onto pipe cleaners. So it’s a good exercise for fine motor skills, while teaching about feeding the birds.
In this great example from happyhooligans.ca, this mom lets the kids load the pipe cleaners. She then twines the ends together into hearts and circles, ties a piece of raffia to each, and hangs from the trees. If you do this, choose spots where the kids can watch through your windows as the birds find the new feeders.
If you don’t already have more permanent bird feeders, this experience might lead you to try that — one that provides endless hours of fascination as you watch the birds come up to peck their fill. In addition, it teaches how birds can use a helping hand during long winters.
Kindness to animals (the opposite of tza’ar ba’alei chayim, cruelty to animals) is considered to be one of the highest virtues in Judaism. One example tells us that a person should not eat before he has fed his animals. In households with pets, that idea will have a lot of resonance.
But Blueberries for Sal takes the idea farther. Sal and baby cub have much in common – they are lost from their mothers, they are confused, they are unsettled. And their mothers are definitely concerned.
Even though the Torah tells us that people have “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth,” (Gen. 1:28) we are instructed that animals are “also God’s creatures, possessing sensitivity and the capacity for feeling pain; hence they must be protected and treated with compassion and justice.”
You can build on this early conversation about caring for and about animals as the kids grow.
Share with your little ones connections that you have with animals. Do you/did you have a dog or cat? Do you/did you ride horses? Or talk about the pets your child (the Mom or Dad) had growing up. They will be captivated! One year, my husband and I went in to our daughter’s preK classroom to read a story and show some pictures of when she was a child. When we stopped at the picture of the dog, that was it. The next 50 comments and questions were about that dog and their dogs and the dogs’ names and their adventures.
Have you picked fruits or veggies with your child? What were your experiences? We had a blast picking strawberries with our grandson when he was about two. And now, both guys love to help harvest cherry tomatoes from our porch plants.
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Ideas. Ideas. Ideas. Pinterest!
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Blintz Festival for Shavuot (blintzes with blueberry topping aren’t just for Shavuot!)