Pumpkin Soup

My kids have more books than we know what to do with. Wicker baskets, wooden bookshelves, car backseats, and floors are home to stacks and stacks of children’s books. However, there are certain ones that Maggie and Jack could hear every day and not tire of. Many is the time I’ve curled up on the couch with the kids and read Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, a tale of a cat, a duck and a squirrel who live in the woods in an adorably cozy little cottage, and spend their days divvying up the tasks of making their daily meal of pumpkin soup. It’s a delightful read, and even though they’re no longer 2 and 3, they insist that I still do the voices of the three different characters. I love that some things never change.

Last weekend, I rummaged through all the books in search of fall themed ones, pulling out, among several others, Pumpkin Soup. “Is pumpkin soup a real kind of soup?” Jack asked. All this time, I discovered, the little guy figured pumpkin soup was as fictitious as a cat, a squirrel and a duck living harmoniously in a woodland retreat! So in honor of the books’ fuzzy, furry trio, we decided to dedicate an autumn afternoon to making our own batch of pumpkin soup for supper. Using pumpkins grown in our very own garden, we set out on our own book-inspired culinary adventure. Just like in the book, the kids all had a hand in helping. Cutting, scraping, stirring, spicing, and then tasting!

When I was in kindergarten, my mom indulged our love for Dr. Seuss and made green eggs and ham with us. Our second grade teacher followed up a reading of Stone Soup with our very own classroom soup creation, and story time with Strega Nona resulted in a big pasta lunch.

Celebrating a favorite book by recreating a recipe or an activity is a wonderful way to engage your children in reading and stoke the creative fires. Kids love the correlation between a great story and trying something themselves with a hands-on activity. Have a Curious George fanatic in your household? Snuggle in for a read of Curious George Rides a Bike, and then follow the instructions on page 18 of the book to create your very own paper boats, just like George did! Preparing to cut down the family Christmas tree? I recommend first enjoying a read through Christmas Farm. It’ll put you in the mood for a long, brisk trek through the tree fields in search of the perfect tree, and also offers up some educational tidbits about Christmas tree farms.

As we cooked and stirred our pot of soup, the kids asked questions. “Can you make pumpkin soup with any size pumpkin, Mom? What if pumpkin soup was the only thing you ever ate? Wouldn’t you get bored with that? And don’t cats like to eat meat, anyway? Is he a vegetarian cat? Are there such things?” The chatter was fun as we experimented with the new recipe. Maggie, ever thoughtful, asked if we could get Great-Grandma’s Limoges china out for supper. “This calls for fancy, doesn’t it, Mommy?” Why, yes, I think it does!

There’s no end to story book inspiration. Whether it’s baking some cookies after reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, going on a scavenger hunt to follow up Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, or allowing Jack and the Beanstalk to inspire you to plant some seeds, the simple act of spending time with your child doing something fun, educational and creative will build happy memories that children will cherish for many, many years.

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