While there are many wonderful Thanksgiving books available for little readers, we opted for a non-traditional book for our November meeting. Although not a typical Thanksgiving story, I believe Stone Soup is equally as fitting as it focuses on being grateful for what we have and therefore giving to others. It also features a community style meal. Sound like familiar Thanksgiving themes?
Stone Soup is a classic folk tale that has been retold as children’s books by many authors who each have a slightly different take on the story of soup that is made from “just a stone”. We chose the version by Heather Forest, for several reasons.
First, this version focuses on sharing. In the story, two travelers help show residents of a town how they can make a community soup by each contributing a small ingredient. The take-away message from the book is that if everyone shares (no matter how small the contribution), everyone benefits. I think it’s safe to say that most 2-year olds can learn from a little extra discussion about sharing!
Second, Forest uses repetitive phrases that made this book digestible for our toddler audience. Many of our toddlers are ready for longer stories now and enjoy sitting for extended periods of time one-on-one, but this was the longest story we’ve attempted in a group setting. The kids received the book very well and were very engaged (to our pleasant surprise) during the entire group reading, no doubt due to the repetitive phrases in the book that they could help say along with the reader. My 2 1/2 year old was walking around saying phrases from the book like, “Bring what you’ve got. Put it in the pot. We’re making stone soup” for days afterwards! He walked up to guests at our family Thanksgiving dinner and said, “Do you care? Will you share?” (another line from the book)!
Third, the accompanying illustrations in the book by Susan Gaber are beautiful and represent a diverse community.
We chose to use the recipe provided at the back of the book and made stone soup as both our activity and our snack this month. We all had to do a little prep work to make this activity go smoothly.
Before the meeting: we ensured that everyone was able to read a copy of the book with their toddler prior to the meeting. The familiarity helped the kids engage in the group reading. We also divided up the ingredients in the recipe between members. Items that needed to be washed and chopped were done so by the parents in advance of the meeting and were brought ready to go in the pot. Everyone cut their vegetables up very small to cut down cooking time. I also washed and boiled a stone so it was sanitized for our soup!
During the meeting: we laid out our book club painters tarp on the floor of the kitchen and placed one pot and one bowl in the center of our circle. The recipe in the back of the book calls for some ingredients to be added to the soup later than others so we wanted to be sure to keep those separate as the kids contributed to the soup. Each child added his or her ingredient to the appropriate spot when we got to the portion of the book that mentions it. If the child had an ingredient that wasn’t explicitly stated in the book, we just added it orally. After all ingredients were added, we took the pots away (you can imagine how curious little hands were), we added the liquid ingredients and the first pot of vegetables to a large stock pot, and then finished reading the book. We followed the remainder of the instructions in the book recipe to cook the soup while the kids played. Do plan enough time for everyone to wait for the soup to cook (it took about an hour). We also prepped some Irish Soda Bread dough in advance of the meeting using the recipe at this link: http://rainydaymum.co.uk/irish-soda-bread-cooking-with-toddlers, which we stuck in the oven while the soup was cooking.
When the soup and bread were cooked, we all gathered in the kitchen again for our “stone soup feast” (which essentially ended up being lunch for the kids and parents alike). The soup and bread were a hit with the vast majority of kids, many of whom finished their bowls and asked for more.
Post-meeting reflections: This was great fun and the kids were very engaged in this process. We could see the wheels turning as they learned from reading the book and making the soup. The end result was a healthy snack/lunch. However, this was definitely a more involved meeting. Cooking soup while hosting a group of toddlers, babies, and mommies in your house requires some juggling and intentional prep/planning. I also had an extra helper in the house that day: my husband happened to be home from work and helped monitor the cooking of the soup/bread when I needed to walk away to attend to the other play activities going on in the house. An extra helper isn’t necessary, but was very nice to have!
I highly recommend planning a Stone Soup book club meeting, even thought it required a little more prep than we usually aim for with our activities and snacks. The extra effort was worth it and I can even see us repeating this activity in a couple of years because the kids will get something different out of the experience at that time.
Be sure to check out the photos in the slideshow below to see our soup making experience!
We hope all of our readers found some way to share in community this past Thanksgiving! We are so thankful that you have joined us this year in our (online) book club community!