Washing fruit and vegetables: why it’s a good learning activity for children

Washing fruit and vegetables can be a fun way to:

  • introduce your child to new words like ‘capsicum’, ‘zucchini’ and ‘plum’
  • introduce your child to numeracy concepts like shape, size and weight
  • develop thinking skills
  • encourage your child to explore his everyday environment
  • help your child learn about daily hygiene and healthy food.

What you need for washing fruit and vegetables

For this activity, you involve your child in washing the fruits and vegetables after you bring them home from the market or supermarket.

The more fruits and vegetables you have, the better.

You’ll need a sink and a tap, and a bit of extra time so your child can help you with washing.

How to make washing fruit and vegetables a learning activity

Here’s how to get started:

  • Fill the sink or a tub with clean, cool water for washing your fruits and vegetables.
  • Make sure your child can see and reach. Find her a safe stool or stepladder to stand on if you need to.
  • Show your child how to wash a fruit or vegetable by tipping it into the water and gently rubbing the skin with your hands.
  • Take the fruit or vegetable out of the water and dry it.

Once your child understands what he’s doing, you can let him explore. Watch what your child does and introduce words and concepts by talking and asking questions. For example:

  • Talk about colours. Ask your child to name the colours of the fruits and vegetables.
  • Talk about shape, size and texture. You can compare things – for example, ‘Which tomato is bigger?’ and ‘This carrot is longer than this cucumber’.
  • Explore floating and sinking. Ask your child to guess whether something will float or sink before she puts it in the water.
  • Talk about which parts of the plant the produce comes from. Spinach is a leaf vegetable, radishes and carrots are roots, and tomatoes are fruits (even if they don’t taste sweet!).

Adapting for this learning activity for children of different ages

Be aware of the interests and attention span of your young child. If your child just enjoys splashing in the sink, give him a few firm pieces of produce (like carrots or apples) to wash and handle, and then take over when he’s had enough.

You can challenge your older child with more complex questions while she washes fruit and vegetables – for example, ‘Why do you think plants need leaves?’ You can also just use the time to chat about your favourite fruits and vegetables, or the meals you’re planning to make with the produce.