Little Ones Learning: Fall Unit

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It's that time of year when the air is cool and the leaves start changing colors.  My favorite!  At my house we are going to be learning about fall and its changing leaves.  I took my crew to a local park with lots of woods for some good fall observation.

Collect fall objects

Of course, no study of fall can be done without actually touching real-life items that can be found in fall.  Go for a fall item hunt.  I gave each of my little friends a bucket and we went for a nice, leisurely walk at the park.  On our search we found a variety of leaves, acorns, pine cones, sticks, and bark. 

Grace was really engaged in the hunt, and she was excited each time she found something new or a leaf that was a different type. We talked about how God created all of these natural objects, and that He created them all for a purpose.  We talked about the different types of trees that the leaves come from, how acorns grow new oak trees and are food for animals, and why different leaves are different colors.  

Explore and sort

After collecting our fall items, we started analyzing them with our senses.  I made sure to talk a lot about what we notice because that helps build their vocabularies.  The more you talk to them, the better!

  • How do they lookWhat colors are they?  What sizes are they?  What parts do you notice?
  • How do they feel?  Are they rough or smooth?  Hard or soft?  
  • Do they make a sound when you move or squish them?  What sounds do they make?
  • How do they smell?

After examining the fall items, sort them.  There are many ways you can sort them, and how you do it might depend on the age of your child.  Let them lead.  Learning how to sort with their own ideas will help build critical thinking skills.   Here are a few ways your child could try sorting:

  1. Item-type:  a pile of leaves, acorns, sticks, flowers, berries, etc.
  2. Size: Sort the items into piles of small, medium, and large or short, medium, long.  You can sort across items (ie. including leaves, acorns, etc in the sorting) or sort by specific items (ie. sort just leaves)
  3. Colors: Sort the items into color piles (ie. red, brown, green, yellow, orange)
  4. Hardness: Sort items into piles by how hard they are or sort them into a continuum from softest to hardest.
  5. Origin:  Discuss where the different items come from and sort them into piles accordingly.  (ie. things from trees, from plants, from the ground).  It might be interesting for your child to note that many fall items come from trees.

Read fall books!

There are so many great fall/autumn books.  Here is a collection others have put together of great fall books for kids:

Fall Books for Kids from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas

Listen to fall music


Classical music is a great way to teach kids music appreciation, and it has many benefits for both yourself and your kids.  Did you read the ones about reducing stress and calming babies?  I'll take it!

"Autumn" by Vivaldi

"Autumn" by Vivaldi is a great fall-inspired classical piece.  You could play just the music or show your kids the video with the music accompanied by autumn scenes.  

Songs for kids

My very talented and awesome brother-in-law Bryan created two songs just for us.  The first is called Autumn Leaves!  

Here is Leaves and Pinecones!  It's catchy and has a positive message.

Check out Bryan's page on Sound Cloud!

The kids always enjoy simple sing along songs (wow, say that 3 times fast).  Here are a few that have videos to go with!

"Autumn Leaves Song" by Silly Bus 

"All the Leaves are Falling Down" by Appuseries

And that trippy toddler-favorite, Yo Gabba Gabba.

"The Leaves are Falling Down" by  by Yo Gabba Gabba

Make connections

If you have read some books about fall, watched videos, or listened to autumn songs, try making some connections to real life and your family's fall collection.  They might notice their leaf looks just like one in a book.  Or maybe your child notices that the leaves he/she collected are the orange, yellow, green, and brown, like in the "All the Leaves are Falling Down" song by Appuseries.  The connections they make will help them build a better understanding of autumn.

Autumn sensory jar

Fall sensory jar from Fun Things To Do With Ur Kidz

Fall sensory bin

For our sensory bin, I used the items that the kiddos collected at the park and the yard, like leaves, acorns, sticks, and pine cones.  I also put in some fake leaves, felt leaves, brown pipe cleaners, pom poms, and the same green and white Easter grass that we used for the farm sensory bin.  Just like last time, we also had measuring cups and spoons in the bin.

 After about 20 minutes, Grace decided that they should try crunching up all the leaves, so they started gathering leaves from the bin and the deck for a leaf crushing party.

Good times!  Here are some other ideas for fall sensory bins:

from Mama Bee From the Hive

from Finding the Teachable Moments

from Stir the Wonder

from Happy Hooligans

sensory activities for kids
from Blog Me Mom

Fall play-dough playtime

To make some homemade play-dough, follow this recipe, and for fall-themed play dough, you can add food coloring (orange, red, yellow, or brown) and a spice, like cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg.  

For our fall play-dough fun, we used the apple cinnamon play dough from our apple unit.  I just don't quite have it together enough to make a variety of fall play dough.  Maybe someday!  I set out leaves, pine cones, pipe cleaners, leaf-shaped cookie cutters, and some other fun play dough tools.  The kids had a ball!  They made mini-trees, cookies, and just smashed and poked.  I'd say it was a success!

There are so many fun fall-themed arts and crafts that I actually had trouble narrowing down my list!  Take a look at some of the crafts I've compiled, and see what works best for you and your little one.  There are ideas for all ages and varying degrees of effort. :)

Baggy painting

I saw this one from Toddler Approved and had to give it a try.  Painting in a baggy is such a good idea, especially for toddlers!  This is great for painting fall-themed pictures, like leaves or acorns, but it can be used for lots of different themes or for no theme at all!  It's simple and mess-free, but still allows for exploration and artistic expression.  Love it!  

Here are the materials we used:

To prep, I cut out a few different types of leaves from card stock   I also traced the outline in permanent black marker and drew some veins.  

Then, I put a few drops of each color paint in the zip lock bag with the paper leaf and made sure to zip it closed tight.

The kids smashed and spread the paint around the bag, painting their leaves.  It was a little hard for the toddlers to get it to all the edges, so Grace and I helped a little.

Here are the finished products.  I love how colorful they turned out,and they make fun fall decorations!

Fall tree crafts

On one of my recent trips to the Dollar Tree, I found this bag of little foam leaf stickers.

Grace and I decided to use them to make some fun fall tree pictures.    

For this one, she used brown paint to create a tree, and then stuck the leaves onto her tree.

We had so many leaf stickers left that she wanted to make another one.  For this one, I drew a scene with two trees, and she colored it and added the leaves.

I think they both turned out pretty cute!

 Here are some other fun fall crafts that we haven't tried yet:

Leaf rubbings from Land of Once Upon a Time

A classic that I've done many times as a teacher and mother is leaf rubbing.  This is so simple but turns out so pretty.  I also love that it shows the details of the leaf, which can lead to some scientific discussion about the veins.  

Yarn Trees
How cute are these yarn trees from 3 Dinosaurs?  Such a simple idea and best for kids ages 3 and older.

Fall Tree Cork Painting Craft
Fall tree cork painting from Formula Mom

homemade maracas from Blog Me Mom
Fall Maracas from Blog Me Mom
This fall maraca is simple and is great for toddlers and preschoolers who love to explore sound.

autumn leaf suncatchers
Autumn Leaf Suncatchers

These awesome sun catchers could be made in the shape of leaves or acorns too!

Leaf Glitter
Leaf glitter from Parents
I think this one might be my favorite!  Leaf glitter?! That just sounds awesome, and it looks less messy than actual glitter.  Fantastic.

Leaf people from Playing With Words 365   

This great little craft was created by Katie at Playing with Words 365 to go along with the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  She gives some great ideas for speech development to go with the activity.

Fall leaf foods!

No study of fall would be complete without some fun snacks and foods!  In my searches, I looked for foods that would be fun for preschoolers to make and eat.  So, here they are!

Painted fall leaf toast from Having Fun at Home

This toast is so cute, and great for breakfast or a snack!  The post from Having Fun at Home suggests just painting the toast with food coloring, but I've also read that using a tiny bit of milk with the food coloring works too.  

I found this photo from Pinterest, but it didn't link to a website.  (If anyone knows where it came from, let me know!) Cut out leaf-shaped toast and set out edible items for the kiddies to decorate it with.  Caramel, peanut butter, Nutella, apple chunks, sprinkles, raisins, and pretzels would all work well.  Sounds fun!

Fall leaf pancakes from I Am Baker
Now the idea of making a variety of colors for the pancakes seems like a lot of work, but how cute!  

Leaf piles from Mamas Like Me
These leaf piles are so easy, and they look delicious!  I like that my 4 year old, Grace, could easily help make them.  The recipe calls for Karo syrup, which is just corn syrup.  I was thinking of dropping in a little food coloring to see what happens!

These last two are more for the kiddos to eat than make, They could still help, but the recipes are a bit more complicated.

Leaf Cookies (8)-2
Autumn spiced fall leaf cookies from No Empty Chairs
I've made cookies like these before, and they are a little labor intensive.  The recipe is for brown sugar cookie dough.  Yum.

swirl effect fall leaf cookies
Fall leaf sugar cookies from Raising a Healthy Family

These fall leaf cookies are similar to the ones above, but you get to do a fun tie dye-like icing.  These too require a good bit of time and energy, but they look great!

I hope your little one enjoys all this fall fun as much as mine!
- Jessica

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