Garden Kids Lesson 1: Tom the Tomato


Teacher Planning Notes

  1. This lesson can be taught in separate sections as follows:

Program Introduction; Story and Discussion


Alternativley, the sections can be taught without a break between them if scheduling allows. 

  1. Words marked with an asterisk (*) are key words that have been translated into Spanish and French. These lists of translated words are located here. You may use these translated words in the classroom with the lessons and activities and/or post them on your classroom Word Wall. 

All Teacher/Student Materials



Activities Materials

1. Program Introduction

 6 minutes

Teacher Materials:
  • The following items from the set of plastic vegetables included in the CEC program kit: eggplants, broccoli, green peas
  • The following items from the set of plastic fruits included in the CEC program kit: bananas, grapes, oranges, peaches, apples*, lemons

2. Story and Discussion

 8 minutes

Teacher Materials:

3. Song

 6 minutes

Teacher Materials:  
Total Time: 20 minutes  

Learner Objectives

Students will:
  • Identify where plant-based foods* come from.
  • Understand why growing plant-based foods in gardens and on farms is important to their health.
  • Identify what plants* need to grow.
  • Identify the steps of a plant's growth.

Activity 1:


 6 minutes 

Introduce the concept of growing plants to produce food and the CATCH Early Childhood Garden Kids classroom component. 

  • Think about the food in your kitchen or someone else's kitchen. Imagine opening the refrigerator or looking on a shelf in the kitchen. Where did that food come from? (Possible answers: stores, restaurants)
  • The food your family buys at a store or a restaurant was some place else first. Where do you think the food came from? (Possible answers: a farm, a garden)
  • Some of the foods we eat come from animals. Can you name some foods that come from animals? (Possible answers: meat, chicken, eggs, milk*) Other foods we eat come from plants-- like strawberries and carrots* and corn. Can you name other foods that come from plants? [Accept any fruits*, vegetables*, nuts*, grains, and beans as answers.]
  • Foods that come from plants grow on big farms and little farms. They also grow in gardens next to houses and schools. Some foods that come from plants grow on trees in people's back yards or farms. Some foods that come from plants can even be grown in gardening pots!
  • Did you know that all fruits* and vegetables* come from plants and trees? They do! And did you know that all fruits* and vegetables* help your body grow and be strong? They do! Eating fruits* and vegetables* helps you be healthy. When you're healthy, you feel good and you don't get sick as much. When you're healthy you feel strong and you can play for a long time. It's fun to be healthy! It's fun to be healthy! Let's all say that together. [Have children repeat this sentence once or twice.]
  • There are lots of different kinds of fruits* and vegetables*. Let's talk about a few of them.

Show the following from the sets of plastic fruits* and vegetables included in the CEC kit, and tell children what each one grows on:

  • Oranges, peaches, apples*, lemons: Fruits* that grow on trees
  • Bananas: Fruit that grows on a big, tall plant
  • Grapes: Fruit that grows on small plants
  • Eggplants, broccoli, green peas: Vegetables* that grow on small plants
  • Do you think growing food is important? (Yes) Why? (Possible answer: We need the food to eat.)
  • Growing food is important! And in a new program, called Garden Kids, we're going to learn a lot about growing fruits* and vegetables* and other plants that we eat. 
  • We'll also find out what plants need to grow. We'll plant seeds that will grow into plants. And we'll eat some foods that come from plants. 
  • Let's start our Garden Kids program with a story. If you listen carefully, you'll find out what plants need to grow.  

Activity 2:

Story and Discussion

 8 minutes 

Teacher Materials

  1. Tell the children that the story is about a tomato and a gardener. Ask them what a gardener is. (Someone who works in a garden; someone who grows things in a garden).
  2. Show children either a real tomato or the tomato from the set of plastic vegetables included in the CEC kit. Tell them that a tomato is a kind of vegetable. Ask children to raise their hand if they have eaten a tomato. Ask a few children to describe how it tastes.
  3. Tell children that the tomato in this story has a name: Tom the Tomato. Read the story, showing the illustrations as indicated.

Story: Tom the Tomato

My name is Tom the Tomato. [Show the real or plastic tomato] I can from a tomato plant. Listen, and I'll tell you my story.

One day a gardener put a tomato seed in the ground in his garden. The ground was made of good soil. [Show Illustration 1

For eight days this seed slept in the good soil. While the seed was sleeping, roots grew out of it and went down, down into the soil.

Then on the ninth day, something else started to grow out of the seed. It was a stem, and it grew up and up--out of the soil, where there was air and sunlight. [Show Illustration 2] Soon a few leaves grew on the stem. Now the tomato seed had become a plant.

As the plant got taller, more and more leaves grew on it. The air and sunlight helped the plant grow even taller. So did the rain that fell from the sky. And when it didn't rain for many days, the gardener gave the plant water*. [Show Illustration 3]

After many days, yellow flowers grew on the plant. Later, little tomatoes started to grow from the flowers. One of these tomatoes was me--Tom! The sunlight helped me grow bigger. So did the rain and the water* that the gardener gave me. At first I was green. Then slowly I changed to red. 

One day I was big, dark red, and very juicy--and ready to be picked! [Show Illustration 4] The gardener put me in a basket with my friends from the tomato plant. And here I am! [Show the real or plastic tomato]


Ask children the following questions about the story. 

  • Tom the Tomato said that he came from a tomato plant. What did the tomato plant come from? (A tomato seed)
  • Why do you think the gardener planted a tomato seed? (He wanted to eat tomatoes from the plant he grew.)
  • Did Tom the Tomato say that the gardener planted the tomato seed in dirt or in soil? (In soil) There's a difference between dirt and soil. When you sweep a floor, you sweep up dirt. You can't grow plants in dirt. But you can grow plants in soil. Plants need soil to grow. In our next lesson, we're going to learn about soil.
  • The gardener planted the tomato seed, and then some things grew out of it. One thing that grew out of the tomato seed was the stem. [Have children repeat the word stem a few times.] Did the stem grow down or up? (Up, out of the soil) Another thing that grew out of the tomato seed was the roots. [Have children repeat the word roots a few times.] Did the roots grow down or up? (Down into the soil)
  • What grew on the stem? (Leaves, flowers that tomatoes later grew from)
  • What helped the tomato plant grow taller and taller? (Air, sunlight, rain and water the gardener gave it)
  • How did the tomato plant get water* when it didn't rain for a long time? (The gardener gave it water*.)
  • Can you be gardeners? (Yes) You're right. You can be Garden Kids. You can grow plants, and you can work in a garden. 

Activity 3:


 6 minutes 

Teacher Materials

Tell children they are going to sing a song about what they learned in the story "Tom the Tomato."

  • Let's think again about what happened in the "Tom the Tomato" story. First a gardener put seeds in the ground. What two things grew out of each seed? (Roots and a stem) What did the plant need to grow? (Good soil, air, water*, and sunlight)
  • Let's sing a song about this. It's called "Planting, Growing, Picking."
  • The music part of the song will sound like something you've heard before. Listen to the music. [Hum the tune to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"; then ask children to identify it.] We're going to sing different words to this music.  

Teach children the song. When they sing the second line, have them indicate "up" and "down" using their index fingers.

Song: "Planting, Growing, Picking" [Note: Underlined, boldfaced words and syllables are the strong beats and should be given the most stress.] (sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star")

When you put seeds in the ground,

Stems grow up and roots grow down

Air and water, soil and light

With these things the plants grow right.

Two months later you can pick

Red tomatoes that are big

Note: For background information, see FYI: Gardening Resources and FYI: Fruits and Vegetables in the back of this teacher's resource manual. 


Extension Activities:

  • Have children sing "Planning, Growing, Picking" outside the program lessons.
  • Read aloud age-appropriate books that illustrate the sequence of seeds sprouting and growing to mature plants. See FYI: Gardening Resources in the back of this teacher's resource manual. 
  • If possible, take children to a school, community, or private garden. Prior to the excursion, explain the rules for behavior, such as walking carefully not to damage plants, and touching plants and picking produce only when invited.
  • Display long pieces of newsprint or butcher paper on which you have written the alphabet in large letters, with enough space between letters that words can be written next to each one. Announce the following words from this lesson, emphasizing their initial sound: flowers, fruits*, garden, leaves, plants, seed, stem, tomato, vegetables. Have children repeat each word as you write it next to the appropriate letter. [Notes: (1) In each lesson, words that can be added to this "Garden Kids Alphabet" will be indicated in the Extension Activities section. (2) This activity may be done in a smaller format in your classrroom's Language Center.]
Curriculum Connectors Materials  Task
Math/Science Center or Language Center Copies of "From Seeds to Plants," located in the Coloring Activities section.  Children cut apart the illustrations and place them in the correct sequence. They can work in pairs to describe the illustrations and explain the sequence of seeds sprouting into plants. (Optional: Children color the pictures.)
Math/Science Center or Language Center Books with drawings and photos that illustrate the sequence of seeds sprouting and growing to mature plants. After the books have been read aloud to children, they can work in pairs to explain the sequence to each other.
Language Center Audio equipment; a recording you have made of the story "Tom the Tomato."    
Children listen to the recording. Notes:You may also want to record the discussion questions provided in the lesson, or other questions of your own, and have children respond quietly to them. You may want to provide a copy of the illustrations for children to view as they listen to the recording.
Language Center Copies of the four illustrations from the story "Tom the Tomato." Children working in pairs order the illustrations according to when the events occurred and then re-tell the story using the illustrations. 
Language Center The eggplant, broccoli, and/or green peas from the CEC set of plastic vegetables. Have children re-tell "Tom the Tomato" from memory substituting a different vegetable and name. Point out that they have to use different words to describe the vegetable when it is ready to be picked.
Language Center or Dramatic Play Center Plastic gardening tools; a gardener's straw hat; an empty seed package; a plastic or real plant in a pot.  Have children act out "Tom the Tomato."
Art Center Copies of the following black-and-white illustrations: Tom the Tomato, Illustrations 1, 2, 3, and 4, located in the Coloring Activities section.  Children color the pictures.

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