Play with a Pumpkin!
Learning Fun for the Whole Family
Fall is a time for pumpkins. Big ones or little ones, this bright orange fruit puts us in mind of pumpkin pies, harvest and falling leaves. This year, why not use pumpkins as a starting point for learning? Play some pumpkin games, read a few books, do some pumpkin science and have fun learning together. Here are some activities to get you started.
Pumpkin Ring Toss
Take a few pumpkins, varying in size, and line them up. Give them some sort of ring that will fit over each pumpkin; such as a hula-hoop. If you are using very small pumpkins, you can use an embroidery hoop, or the metal rings you can find in varying sizes at the craft store. Then mark the line where they are to stand, and have the child try to toss the hoop over the pumpkins. It doesn’t matter if they get it or not; you can reward them with small prizes or stickers.
Pin the Nose on Mr. Pumpkin
Cut a large pumpkin shape out of orange bulletin board paper. Draw only the eyes and mouth on the pumpkin, you can add a stem and lines if needed. Laminate the piece. Attach it to the wall at the child’s level. Give each child a triangle cut out of black construction paper, and label with the child’s name. Attach a piece of rolled up tape to the back. Have each child close his/her eyes and place the nose on the pumpkin. You can give awards such as stickers for the one who was the closest, making sure each child gets a sticker. Optional: You can also make a body and laminate and attach it to the head, making sure that it can be at the child’s level.
Make a Treasure Box
Save your pumpkin seeds and let them dry. Take anything you can use for a treasure box. An old cigar box or make one out of Popsicle sticks. Paint it orange. Glue your seeds on the box in a flower or geometric shapes. Spray with shellac to finish.
Mr. Pumpkin Head
Place a pumpkin on a table, surrounded by washable markers, a damp sponge, and accessories such as hats, eyeglasses, sunglasses, scarves, wigs, etc. Have the children draw faces and dress up Mr. Pumpkin Head, and have them use the damp sponge to erase their work after it’s done.
Get several pumpkins and predict which one you think will be the heaviest or lightest. Weigh them and see. Use a pumpkin to teach circumference. For little ones sing Ten Little Pumpkins . Predict which will have the most seeds. After you roast the seeds divide them up among your kids using division.
Pumpkin Reading & Writing
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, Had a wife and couldn’t keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell And there he kept her very well.
Pretend you are Peter, the Pumpkin Eater’s wife. Write a story telling how you feel about living inside a pumpkin. You can find holiday-themed writing paper to print at www.learningtreasures.com/index.htm.
Read some books about pumpkins, such as The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara, Little Boo by Stephen Wunderli, and Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell.
Have a large pumpkin put in a large bowl or pan. Cut off the top, and enough area to allow arms and hands to reach in. Let each child reach in and feel all the different textures, let them pull out the seeds and feel the pulp. Discuss the different colors and textures they are feeling, smell the pumpkin. Talk about what senses they are using such as touch, smell, sight.
Next, have them wash their hands, then give each child a large piece of paper with a pumpkin drawn on one side. Have them draw in the things that they saw or felt and have them color the pumpkin. On the other side of the paper have the kids write a few sentences about what they thought about the pumpkin. Was it squishy? Cool? Did it smell good?
Pumpkin Snacks --Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Don’t waste the seeds after cooking your pie or making jack-o-lanterns. Instead, roast and salt the seeds for a delicious and nutritious snack. Let the children slosh through the fibers in pursuit of the slippery seeds, it is so much fun.
What you’ll need:
- 1 quart water
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 2 cups pumpkin seeds
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 250°F.
Pick through seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry. Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan.
Place pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Cool the seeds, then shell and eat or pack in airtight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat. Yield 2 cups
Belinda J. Mooney is a freelance writer.