15 Ways to Play and Learn with a Pumpkin

15 ways to play and learn with a pumpkin

We love autumn. We especially love Halloween. Our family does more to celebrate Halloween than any other day of the year, including birthdays and even including Christmas. It is not uncommon for us to have our costumes planned in June nor is it uncommon for us to have carved a dozen pumpkins before Halloween.
That said, we bought our first pumpkin of the year on Friday.  We had errands and chores on Saturday, but Sunday, our first free day, we jumped at the opportunity to have a whole day to explore our pumpkin.

We started by measuring it.
15 Ways to Play and Learn with a Pumpkin from Suzy Homeschooler (1)Circumference with a sewing tape.15 Ways to Play and Learn with a Pumpkin from Suzy Homeschooler (4)
Height with LEGO bricks.

We observed its appearance, made notes in a little blank book.

Then it was time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
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I supplied LittleMan with an awl from our carving kit and a wooden mallet.
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This was LittleMan’s first experience hammering. It went swimmingly!

Once he had finished hammering an outline for the lid, I cut the top off.
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LittleMan didn’t have quite enough strength to lift the top by himself, though he tried hard.
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After I removed the top, I encouraged the children to make further observations which we continued to record in our book.
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Playing with pumpkin guts can be such a wonderful sensory experience, however neither of my children are comfortable with the texture on their skin.
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For that reason, I always seem to get stuck separating the seeds from the pulp while they happily watch.

We put the seeds aside to soak in some water while we explored the pulp a little further.
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My children may not be comfortable touching the pulp but they certainly loved using spoons to mix various liquids and powders into it!
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I am not sure what caused the bubbling. I didn’t include baking soda and vinegar in their supplies. There certainly was some sort of acid/base bubbly reaction going on.
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The end result was truly disgusting- and they LOVED IT!

When they had their fill of bubbly mixes, we went back to the seeds.
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The average pumpkin has 500 seeds. LittleMan predicted ours would have more. We separated the seeds into piles of ten.
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When all the seeds had been separated, we counted by 10s to find out our pumpkin had 494 seeds.

After all that math, we needed a brain break, it was time to drag out the paint.
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While LittleMan and Sunny Girl painted the pumpkin, I cut out a door and windows.
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We then concocted a story about how there was a zombie outbreak, and the zombies had all been lured into this pumpkin
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These tiny plastic zombies are meant to be pieces for a game but they have been so fun for small world play!

Of course, once all the zombies had been lured into the pumpkin (there was a stray that kept breaking free from the pack and had be herded back!), it was time to destroy them. There aren’t too many ways to kill zombies short of shooting each of them in the head. LittleMan agreed, blowing them up would be sufficient enough.
Seeing as how I wasn’t comfortable giving my 4 year old a cherry bomb nor some firecrackers, we opted to make elephant toothpaste instead. Traditional elephant toothpaste calls for 30% hydrogen peroxide, which is not recommended for small kids. We followed a kid-friendly recipe.
We mixed 1/2 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup Dawn dish soap, and a bit of food dye (LittleMan requested purple but it turned out more pink. He didn’t seem to mind.) Instead of using a bottle as the tutorial recommends, we used a small bowl that could fit in our pumpkin.
Then, in a separate container, we mixed a table spoon of yeast with 2 tablespoons of warm water. Poured the second mixture into the first and put the lid on the pumpkin.
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The fizz lasted a lot longer than I expected.
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LittleMan really loved this so we’re going to have to do it again soon.
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Most of the zombies were destroyed.
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Unfortunately some remained in tact. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board on this matter.

Next we planted some of our pumpkin seeds.
I would have liked to get a small pumpkin, just throw some dirt inside it, and let it sprout with the original pumpkin acting as a planter and fertilizer for the new seeds BUT that just isn’t an option in an apartment. Maybe next year for that project. In the mean time, we had this old $0.80 candy bucket left over from a sensory play project last year.
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We filled the bottom with pine cones for drainage, then added our dirt.
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LittleMan preferred to handle the dirt rather than using the shovel.
I don’t expect to actually grow any pumpkins from these seeds, but I thought it would be nice just to see them sprout a bit. A good conversation starter for our family, and LittleMan does enjoy gardening.

494 seeds of course aren’t all going to fit into a tiny plastic pumpkin so we had to find other ways of using them all. The obvious choice would be as math manipulatives, since they’ve already proved how useful they are for counting.
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But if you write some letters onto them, pumpkin seeds can also be useful for letter recognition and spelling!

We baked some of our seeds.
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Although LittleMan was happy to help me in the kitchen, I am the only one in the family who eats baked pumpkin seeds so we only made a small batch.

With the rest of our seeds, I thought an art project might be nice.
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We started by dividing our seeds into plastic baggies and adding a few drops of food dye. Shake up the bag to coat the seeds, then lay them out on a towel to dry. Only took about two hours for ours to be ready for use.
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I am normally all about process oriented art, not product, BUT I feel that the occasional cookie-cutter, step-by-step art projects are good for his development.
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For LittleMan, this was one of those few and far between times I provided direction to his art. We did talk about it before hand and his only request was that I draw an angry jack-o-lantern face for him to glue seeds onto, so that it would be a proper scary pumpkin for Halloween.
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Of course SunnyGirl had to get in on it as soon as she saw the glue bottle.
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She is still too young for product centered art so I kinda just stood back and let her do her thing.

There is another experiment that I’ve wanted to do since last year, a rotting pumpkin experiment. Again, it just isn’t feasible in an apartment setting. So LittleMan and I talked it over, and we modified the idea for our situation.
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We came up with this: 8 small chunks of pumpkin in 8 individual bags. Two bags go in the shed outside, two bags go in the cabinet inside, two bags go in the fridge, two bags go in the freezer. Each pair of bags has one that is just plain pumpkin and one with vinegar. I had suggested Vaseline or bleach but LittleMan predicted vinegar would help preserve the pumpkins longer. We labelled the bags, wrote down our starting observations as well as our predictions, and we will be checking in on each baggie daily.

So there is the story of our first pumpkin of 2013, also known as 15 ways to play and learn with a pumpkin. You can rest assured, there will be more pumpkin, autumn, and Halloween related posts in the coming weeks.

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9 Comments to 15 Ways to Play and Learn with a Pumpkin

  1. pisforpreschooler says:

    Wow, I guess I never realized how many ways you could use a pumpkin! lol. I love the measuring it but I’m sure my 4-year-old will LOVE playing with the pumpkin guts. And that whole zombie thing was just awesome!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I wanted to invite you to the Friday Flash Blog Party, the best linky in town! I hope you’ll join us and link up. Who knows. You may just get highlighted!

    The party goes on through Monday.

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution
    http://www.thejennyevolution.com

  3. So much fun and learning here!?!? I cannot wait to try a few of your ideas next month. I’ve done a few of them, but I haven’t tried letters on pumpkin seeds. Love it! Thanks for linking up with Share It Saturday. I’m featuring you this week.

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