An Appley Adventure

Inspired by Busy Toddler’s “Playing Preschool” — but a way more informal version of it — I sat down with the book “Ten Apples Up On Top” from the library and began reading. I didn’t call anyone over to the rug or make them pay attention to what I was doing. I read it all the way through once to my daughter (2). Then I retrieved ten apples from the cupboard and sat down to read it again.

As I read, I lay the book flat on the floor and started placing the apples on the book. One apple, two apples, three…counting them out as the characters in the book talked about the numbers.

ID: Me, a person with short fluffy brown hair, leaning over on a blue fuzzy rug and placing apples on top of the book, “Ten Apples Up On Top”. Next to me, a toddler is eating an apple and looking at the book with interest. His face is covered with a privacy sticker.


ID: Me, a person wearing a maroon sweatshirt, leaning over the book “Ten Apples Up On Top” on the floor, a blue fuzzy rug. Next to me, two children are holding armfuls of apples. Their faces are covered with privacy stickers.

We didn’t make it past four before the novelty of ten apples loose on the rug was the focus of play instead. 😊

I made sure to buy lots of varied apples at the store…green, yellow, red, big, small. I loaded those five words into Chatterboards, a free AAC app that I use playfully and casually on my iPad Pro with my son (3.5).

ID: A photo of a screen of an iPad. It has an AAC app called “Chatterboards” up on the screen, and on this page of the AAC app are 5 buttons: “red apple”, “big apple”, “yellow apple,” “small apple,” and “green apple”.

Soon we were all eating lots of apples! I made sure to talk about what we were doing with our new vocabulary. Which apples were which colors? The yellow ones were really more yellow-and-red stripey. We talked about that too. We talked about stems and cores and seeds — some more vocab words I have in Chatterboards but hadn’t made visible or added pictures to yet. I’ll add those in on an activity for a later day.

I brought out toothpicks and showed the kids how they could poke into the apples. I thought maybe we would spear the little bits of apples and then eat them, but they were way more interested than I thought and sat happily sticking the toothpicks into the apples for about 20 minutes (the 2yo) and 40 minutes (the 3.5yo). He threw out some vocabulary and some thoughts of his own, telling us that he thought that it looked like “sunny”, “firework”, “candles” (i.e. in a birthday cake), and “spider”! He also related the poky end of the toothpicks to the poky thorn bush in our backyard.

ID: A toddler kneeling on the rug, with a red apple in front of him. There are several toothpicks sticking out of the apple. Part of his face is covered with a privacy sticker, but he has a look of intense concentration on his face.
ID: A young toddler with three apples in front of her, that have various amounts of bites taken out of them, and various amounts of toothpicks sticking out of them as well. Her mouth is open wide in delight.

-Joint attention (aka, all of us paying attention to a new thing, and looking at one another to see how each other was interacting with it!)
-Fine motor (pinching the little toothpicks, pushing them into the apples, pulling them back out)
-Bilateral (“two-sided”, i.e., your two hands) coordination (having to use one hand to steady the apple, while the other pushed a toothpick in)
-Sorting, comparing, contrasting, grouping (talking about which apples were which colors, or which sizes)
-Sensory input (the sticky juice of the apples, the smell of the apples, the taste of sour vs sweet apples)
-Language abstraction/symbolic language (the pictures of apples on the buttons on Chatterboards representing the actual apples; the pictures in the book representing apples)
-Counting to ten
Lots of wonderful learning through process play!

ID: A toddler holding an apple that has about 80 toothpicks sticking out of it, covering it almost entirely. He looks very proud.