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Learning with Pumpkins & Autumn Leaves!

Fall is such a fun time to explore the world with little kids! You can teach them so much just by commenting out loud about the changes taking place in nature and in your neighborhood. Here are a few ideas for enjoying the season with your little ones while boosting their knowledge of the world!

Learn with Pumpkins!
Pumpkins are a big part of the landscape at this time of year and will remain so through the Thanksgiving holiday. Point them out to your little ones when you see them used as fall decorations in front of neighborhood homes or displayed in the produce section of the grocery store.

  • Describe a pumpkin. Purchase a pumpkin at a grocery store or a u- pick pumpkin farm. What color is it? What does it smell like? Rap on the pumpkin, what does it sound like? Is the pumpkin smooth or rough? Is there a stem? Which part is the top? The bottom? Is it light or heavy? How much does your pumpkin weigh? (Put it on a scale to find out.) What shape is it? Is it square or round? Does it look like a circle? There are no right answers – simply questions to spark thought and maybe a little discussion depending on the age of your child.
  • Do pumpkins sink or float in water? Test it out in a large tub of water to find out. (The bathtub will work.) If they float, do they float stem up (right-side up), stem down (upside down), or sideways? If your pumpkin floats, can you guess why? (Pumpkins should float because they are hollow inside and filled with air making them buoyant.)
  • How big is your pumpkin? Measure the distance around your pumpkin – be sure to explain you are measuring the “circumference” or the distance around a circle. Next, measure the distance around your preschooler’s waist. Was the pumpkin’s circumference bigger or smaller than your child’s waist? Use words like “circumference” when talking to your child – it will increase his/her vocabulary and lay a foundation for understanding math concepts.
  • What’s inside the pumpkin? Cut off the top of a pumpkin and let your little one look inside. Is the pumpkin mostly full or empty? What does it smell like? What do they see inside? How many seeds do you think are inside the pumpkin? Write down your child’s guess.

    Next, scoop out the seeds and pulp with your hands. What do the seeds and pulp feel like? Are the seeds hard or soft? Is the pulp gooey, slimy, and squishy? Use lots of words to describe the sensation and textures. Be sure to point out where the “meat” of the pumpkin is – the part we eat. Wash the seeds and dry them with paper towels. Spread the seeds out on the table. Are all of the seeds the same size? Count the seeds. How many are there? Compare it to the number they originally guessed.

Cooking delicious pumpkin recipes reinforces math and science skills. You’ll find a recipe for The Keith Kids’ Favorite Pumpkin Bread, along with more pumpkin math ideas as well as pumpkin history, language arts, science, and art in our Pumpkin Fun article.

Go On A Leaf Walk!
Take a walk on a crisp fall day to see all of the wondrous colors of the season captured in fall foliage. Use this opportunity to introduce words and terms your children may have never heard before – like “fall foliage,” “autumn,” and the names of various trees you see – like elm, maple, birch, oak, etc. Here are some activities you can do with autumn leaves:

  • Match leaves you find on the ground to the trees they came from.
  • Step on leaves that have fallen to the ground and listen to their crunchy sound.
  • Scoop leaves into a pile and jump in them.
  • Toss a bunch of leaves in the air and try to catch them as they float to the ground.
  • Take along a bag to collect fallen leaves. When you get home, sort the leaves according to shape, size, kind, and color and talk about the differences you see. Count the leaves.
  • Talk about the colors you see. Leaves contain a pallet of color at this time of year including gold, yellow, orange, red, burgundy, brown, and green in all kinds of combinations and patterns. Your children may ask why the leaves turn color. You’ll find a very simple explanation along with suggestions for leaf-themed arts and crafts activities in our Fun with Fall Leaves article.

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