Fall is in the air and Halloween is approaching. To be honest, it’s not my favorite holiday, but I do love the excuse to make a good pumpkin pie…and use pumpkins as a teaching tool for kids! While you are picking out your fall-themed decorations, remind your kids that pumpkins are food! They are a variety of squash and grow in low bushes or vines like zucchini and cucumbers. While we don’t tend to eat the pumpkins that we carve for Halloween, there are edible varieties of pumpkins, such as the sugar pie pumpkin, the main ingredient in the cans of pumpkin that you can find at the store. If you want a real treat, buy one of those, cut it into wedges and roast it in the oven. YUM!
Pumpkin Learning Everywhere
Learning about food can happen anywhere. When you are at the pumpkin patch, count how many pumpkins you can see. How many are green? Orange? Bumpy? Smooth? Do you see gourds too? When you go to the grocery store, do they sell canned pumpkin? If so, how many varieties are there? Some stores go bonkers for pumpkin-themed foods. Our Trader Joe’s market had over 40 different pumpkin flavored foods last year, from cookies to roasted nuts! Can you count how many different pumpkin flavored items are in your store?
If you scoop out the seeds from your pumpkin at home, rinse, dry and roast them. Before you devour the seeds, can you shape them into the letter P? Do you like sweet or savory flavors? Think of how many different flavor combinations you can use to season your seeds. Some people like them with a little cinnamon sugar. Others prefer them with taco seasoning. I like mine with salt and herbs, like rosemary.
Learning and Motor Skills
Mazes give kids the opportunity to practice tracking, which is important for reading. Before the little ones draw a line connecting the pumpkins from the farmer to the pie, have them follow along with the tip of their finger first. Hand-eye coordination is no easy task – and for young kids, these skills are new and need to be practiced. Even the simple task of holding a pencil or crayon is something that is challenging at first. As adults, it comes as second nature to us. But for the kids, activities like these provide lots of practice for a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives. Coloring in each pumpkin is also a great way for kids to work on their fine motor skills. Who cares if they stay in the lines – they have to start learning somewhere, right?!? It might be easier to color in the p-squares, since there is less detail. That could be a good place to start.
I know that it’s easy to find Playdough at the store, but if your kids are anything like mine were, all of the colors get mixed up, and you end up with 10 little tubs filled with brownish dough. It’s actually very easy to make at your own playdough at home, and you probably have most of the ingredients already. If cooking with your kids makes you anxious about mistakes or wasting food, this recipe is a great place to start. For children with sensory challenges, playdough is an excellent lure to both touch and smell something new. It also provides an opportunity to work on fine motor skills, as kids can roll, pound, shape and cut the dough.
If you’d like a free copy of all of these items to do with your kids or students, just fill out the form below for an instant download! If you love to take photographs, I would be thrilled to see photos of your kids doing these activities. Feel free to email them to me or share them on our Facebook page!
Happy Fall. I look forward to seeing your pumpkin cook and learn activities in action.
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I'm going to try this Pumpkin-themed
Cook & Learn Activity bundle with my kids or students!