My toddler gained a new understanding about food and where different foods comes from through our recent summer activities -- fruit and vegetable u-pick as well as beach clamming (though we were too novice to harvest any clams!)
It felt like the right time to dive deeper and introduce her to the concept of food chains and food webs in our ecosystem. We started reading "Who Eats What?: Food Chains and Food Webs" by Patricia Lauber and her curiosity and interest in the topic grew.
To bring this concept to life and encourage her learning, I created this fun fishing game for my toddler. The tactile, hands-on and fun elements of this fishing game helped to reinforce knowledge from the book, inspire conversation as well as boost better recognition and recall of the content.
Fun Magnetic Fishing Game for Food Chain & Food Web Learning (STEM)
The context and theme I chose for this food chain/web learning activity is marine life. For learning about food chains/webs for land animals, you could create a sensory small world to promote natural and easy learning through hands-on, tactile play. Examples of sensory small worlds here.
Main Takeaways for My Toddler:
The purpose of this activity wasn't to drill in my toddler the memory work of who eats what. My focus was to nurture an understanding how of what food chains/webs are, how they come about and the importance of each species in the whole ecosystem.
These were the key 'lessons' I wanted to drive home:
Every species is important in the food chain/web. A change in one link is felt up and down, and throughout the chain. The extinction of one species would lead to the same fate for its predator.
Humans co-exist with many other living species on Planet Earth and we depend on them for our basic needs (food source/clothing etc). When we take care of animals/plants, we help ourselves.
All food chains/webs start with green plants, as they are the only living things that make their own food. All animals/humans depend on green plants for food, even those that don't directly eat plants.
Materials & Steps
The creation of this marine ecosystem was low-cost as I repurposed fridge magnets (strong round magnets + flat rectangular strips) for the marine animals/plants, made the fishing rod from an old crocheting needle and used existing art supplies to illustrate the marine species. I added some suggestions on everyday materials you could try in place of those I used.
Steps to create this magnetic fishing game:
- Illustrate plants and animals on paper and stick flat magnets onto each of them at the back (Refer to examples of food chains/webs below to determine the characters you wish to include in the game)
- Create a fishing rod by using something long and sturdy as the rod (I used an old crocheting needle; alternatives include a pencil/marker/hard straw/disposable chopstick/slim cardboard tube), attaching a string and cardboard earthworm drawing to it and then taping a strong round magnet to the earthworm illustration
- Place marine plants/animals into a container decorated with blue paper/cloth/playscarf/pom pom balls to mimick the ocean
- Model how the fishing (i.e. magnetic attraction) is done, explain magnetic force then invite your toddler to play
- Engage toddler in a play conversation with rich vocabulary about what's happening and who eats what to boost language development
Examples of Food Chains/Webs:
These are some of the food chains/webs I used, referencing the book:
- Tiny plants --> Striped anchovy --> Altantic mackerel --> Dog snapper --> Great barracuda
- Tiny plants --> Herring --> Tarpon --> Shark
- Tiny plants --> Krill --> Squid --> Tuna --> Humans/Sharks/Whales
- Kelp --> Sea urchins --> Sea otters --> Eagles/Seals/Humans
I hope your child loves this fun magnetic fishing game, and has a great time learning about food chains/webs!
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.