Learning About Oats
Food literacy for young children is all about understanding where our food comes from and how it is grown and eaten around the world. Oats are mostly grown in North America and Europe, and Canada is one of the world’s top producers. Oats grow year-round in farmer’s fields and they especially like cooler summer temperatures and lots of rain.
What are oats?
Oats are whole grains. After they are harvested, the outer hull is removed and the oat groat inside remains and is what we eat. The hulls are often fed to animals. The oat groats can be eaten whole but they take a longer time to cook and soften. The oat groats can also be cut into smaller pieces called steel cut oats which take less time to cook. The groats can also be flattened with rollers and these are called rolled oats.
They cook much faster into a porridge or can even be eaten just from soaking like in Overnight Oats. Rolled oats can also be ground into oat flour which can be used for baking (this can even be done at home in a blender or food processor). Even oat flour is considered a whole grain as all the parts of the grain are included, just ground up. It’s important to eat mostly whole not refined (‘white’) grains for optimum health and as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide.
Here are some activity ideas to learn about oats:
- Visit a grain farm. If you have a farm that grows a type of grain in your area, consider taking children to see it or perhaps have a visit from a local farmer. If that’s not possible in your area, show pictures of oats growing in fields.
- Eat oats! Try different kinds like steel cut porridge, overnight oats or granola and show children the dry grains before cooking and discuss the processing described above. Ask them about the different textures they notice. Childcare facilities with 8+ children should check with their Licensing Officer about what is needed to serve food.
- Cook with oats. Get children involved in making overnight oats or granola—they can have fun adding and mixing the ingredients. Or use oat flour to bake bread, muffins or cookies. You can even eat oats in savoury recipes like Steel Cut Oat Risotto.
- Use oats for art. Make collages using different forms of oats or create your own farm scene with oats growing.
- Read a book about oats. The Oatmeal Boy by Jeanette Foster is a story about a boy learning to like oatmeal.
For more ideas and resources
Learn more about different whole grains like oats: Canada's Food Guide_Choosing Whole Grains FAQ