Lemons have pucker-power

Learning with Lemons

By Diane Flynn Keith

The light, fresh scent of lemons is perfect on a summer day. Their bright, yellow color is uplifting too. Lemons provide the ingredient we need to make refreshing lemonade -- and they are wonderful tools for other hands-on learning activities that kids love. Here are some fun, lemony ideas to try with your little ones....

Lemony Social Studies!

If you live in an area where lemons grow (especially California and Arizona that produce 95% of the U.S. crop), try to find a tree and get permission (if needed) to pick some fresh lemons. Be sure to point out the shape of the tree, the color of the tree trunk, bark, blossoms, and branches. Notice the leaves -- what color are they, what shape? Check out these pictures of a lemon tree, lemon blossoms, and lemon fruit.

If you don't have lemons growing locally, then head to the farmer's market or grocery store to purchase some lemons. They are usually inexpensive at this time of year. Here's a directory of farmer's markets throughout the U.S.

Lemons are thought to be native to Southeast Asia -- the area next to India and China. (Be sure to point those countries out on a globe so your child can see where they are in relation to where you live.) Here's a map of Southeast Asia. Traders brought lemons to our part of the world long ago.

There are two major varieties of lemons -- Lisbon and Eureka -- that are quite similar. You may have heard of a Meyer lemon. It's actually a cross between a lemon and either an orange or a mandarin. A Meyer lemon (named after Fred Meyer who discovered it in the early 1900's) has thin skin and is less tart than the Lisbon and Eureka lemons. If you can find a Lisbon or Eureka Lemon and a Meyer Lemon you can compare them. Notice the skin, color, peel, fragrance, size, fruit pulp, seeds, taste, etc.

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Lemony Math & Science

Here are some things you can do with your lemons...

Make Invisible Pictures with Lemon Juice!

Constant Adult Supervision Required!

Kids love the idea of making invisible ink and drawing invisible pictures. It's so fun when the picture is magically revealed!

You'll need a cup of fresh lemon juice. Simply dab a Q-tip, small paintbrush, or toothpick into the cup of lemon juice and use it to draw whatever you want on a piece of plain white paper. Don't use too much lemon juice or it may spread and bleed into the paper making the picture hard to read. Let the drawing on the paper dry. To see the picture, simply hold the paper near a heat source such as a light bulb or a candle. You can also iron the paper to reveal the drawing. Even a blow dryer will work. As the paper warms up, the lemon juice picture will darken so you can see it. Parents, be careful not to overheat the paper -- it can ignite and burn! Here's a picture of what an invisible lemon ink drawing looks like.

How does it work? Lemon juice is acidic and the acid weakens the paper making it more sensitive to heat than the rest of the paper. As the paper is heated, the acidic parts of the paper burn or turn brown before the rest of the paper does. Of course, your young child may not fully understand this explanation. That's okay -- just customize it for their ability.

Lemony Language Arts!

Here are a couple of books about lemons that your child may enjoy...

Lemony Arts & Crafts

You'll find Lemon Coloring Pages at these links:

Make Lemon Boats!

Constant Adult Supervision Required!

Cut a lemon in half. Scoop out the pulp, juice and seeds forming two empty lemon halves or cups -- these will be your boats. Fill a plastic kiddie-pool with water and float the lemon boats on the water. How many ice cubes, action figures, marbles or pebbles will your lemon boat hold before it sinks? Kids may enjoy experimenting with this for quite a while.

Lemony P.E.

Lemon Roll -- Each player chooses a lemon as their "playing piece." Then, sit in a big circle, and the first player rolls their lemon into the center of the circle. The next player tries to hit the first player's lemon by rolling their lemon into it. If one player hits another player's lemon, the player whose lemon was hit, is out of the game. Each player in turn, can roll their lemon into the circle and try and hit another player's lemon to eliminate them from the game. The last player left in the game is the winner. To ease the frustration for little kids if their lemon is eliminated -- they receive a "good sport" prize such as a treat like a candy lemon drop.

Make Lemonade!

There's nothing quite as fun as making lemonade from scratch. Your children can help squeeze the lemons although they may decide it's too hard work after the novelty wears off. You have to squeeze lots of lemons to make enough juice for lemonade. If they abandon the squeezing -- let them measure the rest of the ingredients and stir them together.

Sunkist's Real Old-fashioned Lemonade Recipe

Here's A Recipe My Family Enjoyed...

Berry Honey Lemonade



Squeeze the lemons. Put the lemon juice in a pitcher, add the honey, and mix it until well combined. Add the water and berries. Taste for sweetness and adjust as needed. Refrigerate until cold. When cold, pour into glasses that have been frosted in the freezer and are half full of ice. Garnish with a lemon slice.

*To get lots of juice, press and roll a room-temperature lemon on the counter a few times before you cut and squeeze it.

Have A Lemonade Taste Test!

Purchase or make several different kinds of lemonade (fresh, powdered, concentrate, bottled, etc.) and have a taste test! Compare and contrast the color, clarity, flavor, sweetness, tartness, etc. Which kind/brand does your child like best?

Make a Lemonade Stand!

I have seen very young children operate lemonade stands under the continuous supervision of their moms, dads, and siblings. It doesn't have to be elaborate and kids learn a lot from serving customers, collecting cash, and learning to make change. If you have older children in the family, why not participate in the "Sunkist Take A Stand 2006" charity drive? Kids ages 7-12 can request a free lemonade stand kit from Sunkist as long as they promise to donate the proceeds from their stand to a worthy charity. Whether you request a free kit or not -- get some great tips for a successful lemonade stand.

Lemonade tastes great with my family's recipe for...

Very Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

You will need...

3 lemons, washed and patted dry (Use these to make 2 T. grated lemon peel and 1/2 cup lemon juice called for in recipe.)


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin pan with non-stick baking spray. Finely grate the lemon peel from the 3 lemons so that you have about 2 Tablespoons grated lemon peel. Then squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter, applesauce, and sugar with an electric mixer until well-combined. Beat in egg and egg white. Add lemon peel and poppy seeds. Stir baking soda into the yogurt (it will bubble a bit). Fold flour into lemon mixture one third at a time, alternating with the yogurt just until all ingredients are blended. Do not overmix or muffins will be tough. Scoop batter into muffin pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until just lightly browned and springy to the touch.

While muffins bake, in a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup lemon juice and 2 Tablespoons sugar until sugar is dissolved. When muffins are done, remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Then, quickly dip the top and bottom of each muffin into the lemon juice mixture. Set on rack (with plate under it to catch drippings, if any) until muffins are completely cool and ready to eat. Yum!

Have fun learning with lemons!