Tag Archives: pumpkins

Five Fun Ways to Serve Up Some Pumpkin!

If you’re looking for some ways to make this week memorable for your little ones, try serving up some pumpkin!  You may want to use pumpkin as an ingredient (as in Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread) or use the pumpkin as the dish!  Here are five ways to serve up some fun, originally published on Halloween of last year!

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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!

DSCN2647

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!

DSCN2646

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, sensory activity, Snack Time, Uncategorized

Bubble Paint

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 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!

DSCN2647

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!

DSCN2646

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!

Leave a comment

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

Book Activity: Big Pumpkin

Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman is a fantastic Halloween book!   It’s written in a pattern style with consecutive characters (a witch, a ghost, a vampire, and a mummy) each larger than the first, approaching the same problem – a giant pumpkin, stuck on the vine- in the same way.  There is repetitive text and a definite pattern, which preschoolers really respond to, and which also builds pre-literacy skills.  In the end, it is not the larger characters, but a tiny bat who, through cooperation, comes up with a solution.  A great social skills lesson!
 
Most recently, after reading this story, I talked with the children about what they love to do with pumpkins.  The characters in this story wanted pumpkin pie, and having read The Runaway Pumpkin  a few days earlier, the children had several other food suggestions for pumpkins.  (Making a pie would be a great extension!)  I mentioned that I love to use pumpkins to make Jack-o-lanterns.  The children heartily agreed and we did this pumpkin face activity as our extension, building creative skills and math skills.
 
You could also do the pumpkin sink or float  afterward, paying particular attention to the different sizes of the pumpkins as this story is about one BIG pumpkin.  You may also make a point of trying to get several children to move your big pumpkin on the ground and then while floating and talk about the difference.  This incorporates great science skills.
 
With the bat as the hero in this story, you may also opt to do a bat activity.  Here is a bat outline you can use to cut bats out of construction paper, use a hole-puncher around the edges and have the children do a lacing activity using string or yarn.  (Roll the ends with masking tape to make them firm enough to push through the holes, or use these great child-friendly needles.) Lacing or sewing is great for building small motor skills!
 
You could also use the bat outline to do a black collage.  Provide the bat outline, collage glue, and a variety of black items (black beans, ripped paper, feathers, fabric, black colored salt, etc.).  You can even go on a black scavenger hunt through your collage collection or through your home to give the children the opportunity to find the color themselves.  Have the children create a black bat collage, and talk with them about the different black items and their different textures.  A great sensory, language, and creative activity!
 
For group social skills you could even play this pumpkin game as an extension activity.  It’s simple, but a sure-fire preschooler pleaser.
 
So I’ve given you a variety of extension activity ideas here, partly because I’m a bit indecisive and couldn’t pick just one, and partly because I want you to see that a literacy extension activity does not always have to be an art or craft project.  You can choose from a variety of activities, based on the developmental opportunities you want to give your children.  So now that you have eleventy-nine activities to choose from, go read Big Pumpkin and have a blast with those kiddos you love and teach!
 
For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, fine motor skills, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity, science activity, sensory activity, social skills

A Pumpkin Face Takes Shape!

 This, my friends, is a work of art.  And a fantastic display geometric/mathematical prowess.  And it’s the sweetest pumpkin face I’ve seen in a while because it was made by one of my darling boys!

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 For a great way to talk about shapes and still get all the fun of fall and Halloween in, Jack-o-lanterns are an easy choice!  I start out first of all with an attention-getter like the Five Little Pumpkins Fingerplay, or The Surprise Pumpkin, or any number of fabulous  pumpkin picture books.  We talk a bit about how pumpkins become Jack-o-lanterns when you add a face, and we explore how different those faces can look. 

I then show the children the pre-cut shapes they can use to create the Jack-o-lantern faces.  I use triangles, squares, circles, and crescents.  I hold up each shape and talk about its characteristics, what it’s called, and we brainstorm the different ways it might be used to make a pumpkin face.  Explain and explore to the appropriate level for your children.  Some may just be mastering the concept of a square.  Others will point out that a square turned on its corner becomes a diamond.  A rare child will even want to call it a rhombus!

After a little shape talk, I give each child a paper pumpkin shape.  (You can trace your own or print this color pumpkin shape or an outline  as a template for cutting construction paper.)  Each child is also supplied with a variety of shapes and either a glue stick or supplies for this gluing method.  Emphasize that the children can use the shapes however they would like to create their Jack-o-lanterns.  Talk with them as they create, using the shape names and locators like “above” and “below”.   

Be sure to invite your little ones to talk about their creative ideas.  I have to admit, when I first saw my son’s pumpkin face creation above, I thought perhaps he had not discriminated between his squares and circles (the eyes) and that he had added a mustache.  When I asked him to tell me about his pumpkin however, I was surprised at his intention and creativity.  He said that one eye was “twinkling”  (winking – hence the different shapes), there were eyebrows above the eyes, his nose was made from a diamond constructed out of two triangles (good geometry skill) and the pumpkin was talking, which was why there was an upper and lower lip – not a mustache!  So be sure to ask about their creations.  You might be surprised at how much they know when you let them do the talking!  You could even extend this math/creative activity into a language/literacy activity by asking your child to tell a story about this new pumpkin character and writing it down to be read again!

*One more bonus!  You can do this same activity, using felt for your pumpkin and shape pieces, and use it at a flannel board center.  Just sayin’.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Do Pumpkins Sink or Float?

wet pumpkin ckolezal

Sink or float is a classic preschool activity.  You gather an assortment of items and have the children guess which will sink or float, and then test their hypotheses.  (It made me laugh not too long ago when David Letterman added a gag segment called “Will it Float” with a huge pool of water and random items for the members of the audience to make predictions about.  I’m guessing he’d been to his little boy’s preschool the day he came up with that one!) 

This fall, consider adding pumpkins to your list of items to test.  What do YOU think?  Sink or float?  You may need a larger bin  for testing pumpkins (I’ve used a bath tub in the past), but it will be well worth it.  You may want to just add a pumpkin to the list of other items you usually test, or you may want to do an exclusive pumpkin test. 

Gather a variety of sizes of pumpkins.  Talk with the children about which is the biggest, smallest, etc. and even line them up in order (great math work here).  Then have the children share their hypotheses about each pumpkin.  Will it sink or float?  Why do they think that way?

Are you still wondering if they float?  They do!  In fact, I once used a huge, 25 pound pumpkin, and it still floated!  (They don’t float on top of the water, obviously, but they bob with about 1/3-1/2 of the pumpkin above water.) 

Many children will think that your mini pumpkin will float, but that the huge pumpkin they can’t even lift will not.  Talk – very briefly- about density.  Density is what makes something sink or float, not weight.  It’s about how the weight is spread out.  Sometimes I even make the connection between balloons and pumpkins, floating both in the water for the visual effect.  They are both made up mostly of air on the inside.  Having more empty spaces makes something less dense and that makes it easier to float.

Now I certainly don’t expect each child to come away knowing that an object must have a density of less than 1 gram per cubic centimeter in order to float.  But I think it doesn’t hurt to expose them to the vocabulary and concepts, to get them thinking and applying in future situations.  This activity obviously builds science  knowledge, but perhaps more importantly than building specific knowledge about floating and density, is that it gives the children experience with the scientific method.  As they ask questions, make hypotheses, test their hypotheses, and discuss their findings, they’re learning how to learn!  And that’s a skill that always keeps kids on top!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

Photo by cdolezal.

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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, science activity