Thursday, October 7, 2010

Patches of Pumpkin Fun (& learning!)

We grew pumpkins in our backyard garden this year. It was our first attempt, and it was surprisingly successful! We've had over a dozen perfect pumpkins from August to October. The kids have had so much fun watching them grow, ripening from green to orange and carving them into jack-o-lanterns! I usually let my husband do the pumpkin-gut scooping with the kids (outside, whenever possible!) because half the fun for the kids is making a huge mess with the core. Plus, my husband enjoys toasting the pumpkin seeds, so he doesn't mind the mess. He separates the seeds into a bowl, rinses them and lets them dry on dish towels overnight. Then coat with melted butter, salt them on cookie sheets and bake for a half hour at 350-degrees, flipping them half-way. They're nice and crunchy and the kids love them, too.
For more educational exploration, let your kids use various "science tools" while they "dissect" the pumpkin. They can examine the stringy core, seeds and hollow pumpkin shell with magnifying glasses, measuring cups and more.
Don't want to hassle with the guts? Having kids (even young ones) paint the pumpkins is great fun, too! One year we had a small Harvest party and I got a big giant bowl of small pumpkins, squash and gourds, lined the table with butcher paper and set up small paint cups with brushes for the kids to decorate. (Make sure you have some place to dry them before guests leave.)
Here's a fun activity involving a variety of squash and gourds:
Squash Sorting
Line up an assorted collection of squash and gourds (acorn squash, spaghetti squash, Hubbard squash, etc.) for your kids to classify according to color, size, shape, weight, etc. After they've classified them, get out the paper and crayons to draw pictures of them, allowing them to move from concrete to semi-concrete items.

Exploring pumpkins is also a great opportunity to introduce the sphere shape with your kids, if you haven't already.

The book, "From Seed to Pumpkin" by Wendy Pfeffer (Link) is wonderful. My family has enjoyed many volumes from this series of "Lets-Read-and-find-out" science books. You can find & request them from your library for free. (We've also enjoyed "Why do the leaves change color?" and "From Seed to Plant" from this series... and I'm sure others that I can't think of at the moment.)

Here's a fun pumpkin coloring page:

And, if your family enjoys Halloween, even if only select portions of the holiday, you'll find nearly 100 different lesson plans and related educational activities at this great site: Halloween Lesson Plans.

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