Tag Archives: Fall

Fall Leaves and Gingersnaps! (Recipe at Bottom!)

We went on one of my favorite fall outings today!  Armed with a great book, some craft supplies, and a pile of snacks, we headed up the canyon near our house to explore fall in one of its best displays!

After throwing rocks and leaves in the river for a while (an activity you simply can’t skip over with my boys)  we gathered with some friends to read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  I really enjoy sharing this book with children!  The illustrations are all made up of photocopied leaves.  It’s a fantastic creative collage approach that really gets kids thinking outside of the box.  After the story, we went for a little hike to gather some of our favorite leaves and bring them back to our picnic spot to create our own leaf pictures. 

Leaf Man (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))

Using black cardstock as a background, similar to the dark background in the book, the children arranged their collections of leaves.  Some made people, others created monsters, while some simply arranged their colorful collections.  Once they were all in place, we sealed them down with a layer of contact paper.  The black background really makes those fall colors pop!  And as long as the leaves are dry, the contact paper seals them in, preserving them for years!  (You can read more about what I wrote on this activity here.  Apologies for the sub-par photo!)

And of course, we had to cap the activity off with some fall treats!  There are some snacks I just have to make every time the fall season rolls around, and gingersnaps are one of them!  Try a batch for yourself (the recipe’s at the bottom), and serve them up with some apple cider.  If you could taste fall, it would taste like this!

What are your favorite fall treats?

Soft Gingersnaps

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cup oil

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cloves

3 tsp. ginger

3 tsp. cinnamon

3 tsp. soda

6 cups flour

Mix the sugar, eggs, molasses, and oil.  Then add in the salt, soda, and spices and mix well.  (Or for you Martha Stewarts out there, go ahead and sift the salt, soda, and spices with your flour.  I’m just not that ambitious!)  Gradually add the flour and mix until a consistent dough forms.  Form into  balls and roll in sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a glass.  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.  Makes about 4 dozen large cookies.

Top photo by silgluck.

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Filed under Create, Field Trips, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, Uncategorized

Weekend Reads 9/25/10 – More Fall Fun!

I’ve mentioned before how much I love fall!  It may be my favorite season!(My condolences to those of you living in less seasonal areas.  Though you can remind me how nice 70 degrees feels when I’m buried in snow for three months.)  I’ve linked before to some of my favorite fall activities, but I’ve come across some new favorites over the last little while, and wanted to share them all here!

Part of what makes fall so magical is that you know it won’t last forever!  This article at Life as Mom reminds us to take advantage of those fabulous fall traditions before it’s too late!

Getting outside is really what fall is about!  You have to experience it!  I wrote a post a while back about getting kids in nature, which you could read here.  Vanessa Brown recently put together a great one on the need for unstructured playtime in nature for Simple Kids here.  We both mention Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods – a must read!  And while you’re out and about, collect treasures for a great fall nature mobile like this one from Made by Joel.

I love fall baking!  This year I’m hoping to try these apple pie muffins from The Motherload, as well as some of these fall tasties from Good Cheap Eats.

Even if you’re surrounded by palm trees, you can still enjoy the traditional fall color with this vibrant Autumn Window Display,  or this falling leaves craft from No Time for Flashcards.  And if you’re feeling extra crafty, try these cool fall fairies with Pink and Green Mama.  (While you’re there, check out her Halloween craft ideas too!)

Well, that should keep us both busy for a while!  Enjoy your weekend!

 Top photo by Nossirom.
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Preschool Themes: A Few Favorites for Fall

Even though our air conditioner is still running, I know fall has nearly arrived.  I really think it is my favorite season (in spite of the fact that two of my pregnancies began in the fall and I still associate that first brisk day with a hint of nauseousness). 

Fall is full of wonder and magic!  There are so many amazing things going on in nature as well as in the lives of the children.  I’ve linked to some of my favorite unit themes to explore during this fascinating time of year!

Welcome Weeks

These are some of my favorite activities for starting off the school year.  Some of the best “staples of preschool” as well as activities for getting to know each other and getting into a groove!

Fall Favorites

These are fall’s “greatest hits”.  A conglomeration of topics such as trees, leaves, apples, pumpkins, and the changing seasons.

Set the Table: A Preschool Food Study

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s natural to take some time exploring (and tasting) food!  It’s time to make learning delicious!

Don’t forget this little gem for purposefully planning your themes.

What is your favorite fall activity?

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski.

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Vivaldi’s Four Seasons- Don’t Just Listen, Get Up and Move!

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has always been one of my favorite musical works.  This program music is so beautiful and powerful, but also so descriptive, you can literally see in your mind and feel in your bones what Vivaldi is trying to describe with his music.  (And if you aren’t sure what he’s trying to describe, check out these sonnets Vivaldi wrote to correspond with his music.)  Because the music is so suggestive of movement, it’s perfect for a music and movement activity with children!

I usually start out with the children by mentioning that this music was written by a man named Antonio Vivaldi a long, long time ago, and that he wanted to write music that sounded like the different seasons.  Then I announce each season as the music begins and we move to the music, calling out new movements to go with the music.  For example, in the Spring segment, we start out marching, then as the music quiets we tiptoe, as it has quick runs we jump and talk about flowers blooming up out of the ground or birds jumping into flight.  For Summer, we usually pant and fan, or slowly walk or crawl looking for water, because the music is slow and hot.  Fall involves some hands as falling leaves, of course, and Winter is freezing and shivering, or perhaps a snowstorm, dancing with white scarves.  (Here’s a great YouTube clip of Winter.  You can find other clips online as well.)

Create the movements together, listening carefully to what you hear and considering what you and the children know about each season the music is representing.  Should you be moving quickly or slowly?  Will your body be down low or up high?  How could you show leaves falling/birds singing/sun shining?  You may even want to listen to the music without any dancing first, and talk about what you hear and the types of movements you might use before you begin the movement portion of the activity.  I’m not suggesting that everyone should be doing the same choreographed movements, but some discussion time to consider movement will make them more intentional.  I don’t usually use Vivaldi’s entire movement, but enough to keep the children involved.  I may just use the Winter movements if we’re talking about that season in particular.  If I’m doing all four seasons, I may transition by saying something like, “Oh this is just way too hot here in the summer, let’s look for someplace cooler!”

This type of music and movement activity is great for exposing children to famous works of music and increasing their understanding and appreciation of it.  More importantly, it builds in them the ability to create as they internalize the music and express it again through their unique movements.  The movements also increase muscle strength and control as well as an awareness of personal space and boundaries (something you may want to address at the beginning of this endeavor).  The activity also builds active listening skills, which are important not just to music appreciation, but to learning in general.  For more information about the importance of music activities for preschoolers read here.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top photo by Kerbi.

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity

Bubble Paint

DSCN2619

 For the truly brave preschool teacher or parent, looking for a creative art project, I present bubble painting!!  This can be a messy project, but very unique and with many opportunities for developmental growth.  Directions first, benefits later.

First, take your standard tempera paint and water it down a bit more than usual and add some dish soap.  Place it in a fairly shallow dish, such as a small pie tin, and use a straw to bubble up the mix until the bubbles pile on top.  Place a sheet of paper on top of the bubbles and press down until the paper is resting on the paint container.  Lift up the paper and you’ll see the prints left by the bursting bubbles!  You really do need to practice this yourself first, to be sure you have the right paint consistency and the right container.  Some containers just seem to spill over more easily and others never seem to build the right amount of bubbles on top.  So practice ahead of time.

As you can probably guess, this activity takes a bit more teacher involvement than say, a playdough art activity.  You need to make sure the children wear smocks, first of all.  Next, you need to make sure that each child gets a new straw, and that each straw is thrown away after use.  Particularly this time of year, and even more so this year, you do not want children sharing straws!  I’ve tried labeling them in the past so that children who leave the activity can come back again later, but it turns into too much of a headache.  I would recommend just chucking each one after use.

When the children begin the activity, remind them that they are not sucking the paint up like a drink, they are blowing bubbles, like when they bubble up their milk.  Remind them to do it gently so that it doesn’t just spray all over, but so that it bubbles.

DSCN2622Be ready for messes with plenty of rags, and keep in mind that as long as they are not being intentional or destructive in their messes, making a mess (and learning to clean it up) is just part of the learning process and not something to be scolded. 

I like to do this activity in the fall as I talk about pumpkins because I think the end result looks a bit like a pumpkin patch.  You may also want to use it as part of an exploration of water or air, or while talking about self-care skills such as bathing.  You could also do this activity, using several different colors and making the prints one on top of the other for a really cool effect.

In addition to being a great creative activity, this project encourages scientific inquiry as the children explore the properties of bubbles.  The controlled blowing is also ideal for building oral motor strength and control which aides in articulation.

So smock up, grab some rags, and have some fun!

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Filed under Create, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Nonedible, science activity, sensory activity

Five Ways to Serve Up a Pumpkin

DSCN2666

I mentioned before that a pumpkin’s greatness is in part due to its hollowness. We’ve talked about floating pumpkins, pumpkin drums, and of course, Jack-o-lanterns, but perhaps best of all, a pumpkin can be hollowed out to create a bowl! You can use a cleaned out pumpkin to hold pre-made food, such as soups or a casserole, or you can actually cook in the pumpkin shell as well!  Here are five festive ways to turn your gourd into a gourmet dish!

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1.  Apple Crisp!  I love making this Pumpkin Apple Bake recipe in the fall, cooking it up inside the pumpkin.  The children love using the apple peeler/slicer to help out.  I give the apples a head start by cooking them on the stove before putting them in the pumpkin and cooking it all together.  The pumpkin does soften a bit, but holds its shape as long as you don’t cook longer than 1 1/2 hours or so.  Take the opportunity to talk science and compare the cooked pumpkin to the uncooked pumpkin lid!

2.  Soups, Stews, and Chiles!  Cook up your favorite fall time soup.  Place it in a hollowed out pumpkin and serve it up from there!  Try out this delicious Potato Soup recipe or this tasty one for Chicken and Rice.  You could also use smaller hollowed out pumpkins as individual soup bowls!

3.  Shepherd’s Pie!  Because Shepherd’s Pie is basically cooked already, it doesn’t take long just to melt the cheese on top.  This helps keep your pumpkin from getting too soft.  Try this tasty recipe here.  (I omit chipotle chiles when cooking for the little ones.) 

4. Dips!  Whether you’re having something sinfully savory like this one, or going the healthy route with something like this, you can easily put your favorite dip inside a pumpkin, place it on a platter, and serve chips, veggies, or bread all around the pumpkin.

5.  I Scream!  OK, a little Halloween play on words.  Use small pumpkins to hold ice cream!  Serve up your favorite flavor with cookies on the side!

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Whichever route tempts you most, start by cutting the top of your pumpkin off.  Jack-o-lantern style is usually a little too small. Don’t be afraid to cut off 1/4 to 1/3 of the pumpkin.  This gives a wider opening which makes it easier to serve food.  Hollow it out well, and then rinse.

Don’t forget to involve your children in this fun project!  Have your little ones help you hollow out your pumpkin and rinse it.  Let them help make the food to go inside as well.  (Read more about how cooking benefits the child’s development here.)  Serve it up for something truly memorable!  Don’t worry if you’ve missed Halloween.  Pumpkins are a symbol of harvest and a fun fall fixture! (Say that ten times fast!)

Enjoy a special pumpkin surprise with your little ones!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, science activity, Snack Time

Pumpkin Drum

Pile of Pumpkins SEPpics

As you and your children are exploring the properties of pumpkins, you discover that the fact that they are hollow is one of their best characteristics.  You find this out as you dig out their seeds and make Jack-o-lanterns.  You realize it’s importance as you send even enormous pumpkins floating on water.  Another great way to utilize the hollow property of a pumpkin is to use it as a drum!

I often use a pumpkin to invite the children to beat out the syllables in their names.  You could also use it in a music activity, just as you would use any drum or rhythm sticks.  In fact, if you only have one big pumpkin drum, you could give the other children rhythm sticks to follow along with until it is their turn to use the pumpkin.  Try this method out as you teach your children Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater.  It’s an easy one to beat out with a steady beat, and the beats happen to coincide with the syllables, making it a perfect prereading activity as the children hear the sounds of the words.  Just be sure to sing the song slowly so that the children can both sing and tap.  Also, remember that children’s voices are naturally higher, and this song descends fairly low, so start out just a bit higher than you normally would.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

Photo by SEPpics.

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Filed under language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity