Halloween Scavenger Hunt {Little Ones Learning}

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Our neighborhood has a lot of festive Halloween decorations up, so I thought I could add a little fun to our daily walk by creating a scavenger hunt.  

For Grace (4), I made a simple scavenger hunt with words and pictures.  Because we have done a scavenger hunt before, Grace was very excited and knew just what to do.  Normally, she needs some push to keep up during our walks.  Today, hunting for Halloween items, she was our little leader.  Ada and Lucas (both 1.5) were also interested in searching for certain things, especially pumpkins and ghosts.  All the talking helps build their vocabulary because, of course, every kid needs to know words like witch, monster, and tombstone!  It did help keep them occupied too.  

Below is the Halloween scavenger hunt that we used.  We were able to find all of these items on our walk around the neighborhood.  It could also be used for a Halloween Party or  other special Halloween-related event.

Click here to open and print
If you or your child want to create your own Halloween scavenger hunt, you can print one of the formats below and fill them out any way you like. 

Click here to open and print

Click here to open and print
I hope your family has a safe and happy Halloween!  

- Jessica

Pumpkin Craft Time! {Little Ones Learning}

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A pumpkin unit wouldn't be complete without some fun pumpkin crafts.  I am very practical when it comes to crafts.  I like things that can be used for something, so I love that all of the pumpkin crafts in this post can be put to good use as decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  

Stained glass pumpkin

I adapted this craft from some other examples I've seen for different holidays.  It is a simple craft, but it is probably best for kids ages 3 and up.  If you use contact paper instead of glue and wax paper, it could work for some younger children, as well.

You will need:

  • wax paper
  • tape
  • Elmer's glue
  • scissors
  • paint brush
  • permanent marker
  • orange tissue paper cut into squares

    *I used two different colors of orange tissue paper.  When I cut them, I first cut them into 1-inch long strips.  I didn't want the shapes to be all perfect squares, so I cut them a little sloppy to make different sized squares and rectangles.

    Here is how to make your stained glass pumpkin:

    1.  Tape a sheet of wax paper to the table.

    2.  Using the permanent marker, draw a pumpkin shape. Grace (4) was doing this project, and she had a little trouble sticking with it long enough to finish this large pumpkin.  For some children, a smaller pumpkin or a few smaller pumpkins might be best.

    3.  Put some Elmer's glue in a dish and mix in a small amount of water.  You want it a little runnier than normal, but not watery.

    4.  Using the paint brush, brush some glue onto your pumpkin shape.  It will bead up, but that is ok.

    5.  Place the tissue paper shapes onto the glue.  Continue covering the rest of the shape.  You can go over the line of your pumpkin with your tissue paper because it will be cut off later.  

    6.  As you go, brush glue over your tissue paper pieces to flatten them down.  The glue acts as a finish and will dry clear.

    7.  Let the glue dry.  Then cut out the pumpkin shape, and put up to a window to catch the sun.

    Here is Grace's finished pumpkin.  She was very proud of it, and I think it makes for a cute little decoration.

    Below are some other fun pumpkin crafts that I found in my searches that would be great for toddlers and preschoolers.  

    Paper Plate Pumpkin 
    Muffin Tin Mom
    Pumpkin Craft for Kids
    Cardboard Tube Pumpkin 
    Lifetime Moms

    Pumpkin Mache 
    Loving My Nest
    Knuckle Print Pumpkins 
    Mom Trusted
    Pumpkin Garland
    Right Start Blog
    I hope you found something that you little kiddos will enjoy!  Have fun crafting!
    - Jessica

    Pumpkin Decorating {Little Ones Learning}

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    It's about that time to start decorating pumpkins for Halloween!  Our pumpkins have been a part of our fall front porch decor for the last couple of weeks, and as we near Halloween, I've been trying to figure out what we are going to do with them!  My 4 year old is eager to carve her first pumpkin, which we will, but I also wanted to come up with something hands-on for her and my 1 1/2 year old.  In previous years, Grace has decorated pumpkins with permanent markers, which is relatively clean and easy, but I wanted to try something new this year.  So here are a few cool ideas I found:


    Dot Stickers Pumpkins
    Dot Sticker Pumpkins
    Putti's World
    I can't believe I hadn't thought of this myself!  It is so simple, and what parent doesn't have stickers laying around?  Using stickers would be a good fine motor activity for toddlers and preschoolers, and is about as clean as it gets.  Foam stickers would work great too!

    Glitter and gems

    Sparkly Pumpkins
    The Imagination Tree
    So this one is a little higher on the messy index, but it sure is adorable!  This example uses glitter and sequence, but you could also just use glue and tissue paper, shapes, or Halloween pictures (or pictures of anything, really).


    Leaf Covered Pumpkins
    Positive Parenting Connection
    I think this one is my favorite, and I will definitely be doing this to one of the many pumpkins we've collected this year.  Simply glue leaves that you've collected onto your pumpkin and coat with Mod Podge.  How cute would this be as a Thanksgiving decoration or centerpiece?!

    Pins and Buttons

    easy halloween craft
    Pin and Pound Pumpkins
    No Time for Flashcards
    Pounding pins (or nails) and buttons into a pumpkin is a clever way of creating a unique pumpkin decoration with some good old-fashioned gross motor skills practice.  This would probably be best for preschoolers, as they won't be as tempted to eat the pins, nails, or buttons or smack someone with the hammer.  If not for decorating, hammering in some pins and buttons sure would be fun before you throw out your pumpkin.


    Painted Pumpkins
    Young House Love

    This is such a cute take on your typical pumpkin painting.  Use painter's tape to create a face, shapes, or designs on a pumpkin.  Then, let your little one paint away.  When dry, simply take off the painter's tape, and your design will be revealed.  So cute!

    I hope you find these inspiring, like I do!  Happy pumpkin decorating!
    - Jessica

    Pumpkin Science {Little Ones Learning}

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    A pumpkin-themed study is a great opportunity to learn some of the science of pumpkins.  My 4 year old Grace just loves learning new things.  She is the constant asker (I'm sure that's a word) of questions, especially "why?" and "how?"; often challenging my own understanding of the world.  There are many very basic activities that we can do with our young children to promote curiosity about the world and fulfill their desire to learn.  

    Before you start a hands-on experience with pumpkins, you probably want to go out and get a pumpkin.  Maybe even a few different varieties and sizes, if possible.  When we went to a local pumpkin patch, Grace was awed at the different kinds of pumpkins.  I wish we could have gotten one of each!  If you live in Maryland, here is my post about pumpkin patches in your area.

    Learn about the life cycle of a pumpkin.  

    As a teacher, I've taught about many different life cycles: butterflies, pumpkins, frogs, trees, humans.  Once kids learn about one, they can apply that knowledge to help them understand other life cycles, and they really do love learning about them.  First, learn about the pumpkin life cycle in a book, like Gail Gibbons' The Pumpkin Book, the DLTK Pumpkins mini-book, or watch a video about it.  Then, you could print out the life cycle sheet and have your child color it.  Cut out each section, string in order on a piece of yarn, and tape them closed.  You could even make it a necklace.  I like to emphasize with my little ones how amazing God's creation of our world is, and life cycles are a perfect example of this.

    Pumpkin Life Cycle Sequencing
    A to Z Teacher Stuff

    Learn pumpkin parts

    Exploring and talking about the parts of a pumpkin can be done with children of any age.  Start with a real pumpkin if you can, and look at it carefully.  Talk about the stem and it's purpose.  If you were able to venture out to a field with pumpkins, make connections to what you saw:  vines, dead flowers, rotting pumpkins, etc.  Children 3 and up might be interested in doing this little Parts of a Pumpkin labeling sheet.  You could also label the parts of a real pumpkin.

    Parts of a Pumpkin
    Ship Shape First Grade

    Explore pumpkin characteristics

    With little ones, this could range from seeing if they sink or float to throwing them against concrete to see what happens.  Both sound fun!  Toddlers love water play, so putting some pumpkins in water, especially if you have varying sizes and types, to see what happens will be fun and a start to the scientific process.  When you're "done" with your pumpkins, after Halloween or Thanksgiving, let your little ones destroy them, all in the name of learning!

    Pumpkins sink or float?
    Preschool Powol Packs

    Explore pumpkin innards

    Cut open a pumpkin or two and let the kiddos check it out.  Some will just want to look, while others will love sticking their hands in and feeling around.  It might get a little messy, so a smock or old t-shirt is probably a good idea.  Practice counting the seeds you find.  You modeling  how to count will help your little one, especially for numbers that are hard for him.  Save the seeds, and bake them, string them in a necklace or garland, or plant them.  Build vocabulary by using describing words like squishy, stringy, soft, and spongy.  Talk about the parts that they notice inside the pumpkin.  Discuss what those parts might do.  You could also see if the pumpkin floats or sinks when cut in half, or salvage the pumpkin for an experiment on rotting (see below).

    Explore pumpkin insides
    Cute & Peculiar

    Study decaying pumpkin

    Preschoolers may find it fascinating to watch the end of a pumpkin's life as it rots.  I have had many discussions with Grace about what happens when various foods rot or "go bad".  I know I tend to keep my pumpkins into the rotting stage by accident, so this year, I'm going to do it on purpose!  Observe the pumpkin after it's made it's jack-o-lantern debut on Halloween.  Talk with your child about what he notices each day or whenever you check on it.  Make connections to the life cycle of a pumpkin and the purpose behind a pumpkin returning to the earth.  Below is a link to an experiment from PBS with a short video from Sid the Science Kid.

    Decaying Pumpkin Experiment & Video
    PBS Parents

    Plant a pumpkin

    If you saved those seeds from your pumpkin, try planting them to grow a new pumpkin.  This completes the life cycle and will be a great opportunity for your child to see it firsthand.  Now, planting a pumpkin outside in the fall will probably not work out so well, unless you live in a warm climate.  But, you could start it indoors or try a greenhouse.  Or you could do as we did at school when we had to release newly developed butterflies in November, and let nature takes its course with your pumpkin plant.  It's a good lesson!

    Growing Pumpkins in Pumpkins
    Life With Moore Babies

    I'm excited to try some more of these out with the kiddos!  Hope your little ones enjoy learning about pumpkins.
    - Jessica

    Little Ones Learning: Pumpkin Poems

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    A great way to help kids express their ideas about a topic is through poetry.  I remember being very intimated by poetry until I became a teacher.  I enjoyed it much more once I realized that poetry can be written anyway you want.  It's kind of liberating!  

    To help my daughter Grace express her ideas about pumpkins, we wrote a poem.  This type of activity can also help your child build vocabulary by using adjectives, sensory words, and content specific words (words having to do with pumpkins).  With young children and those new to writing poetry, having some structure can be helpful.  I came up with a little pumpkin poem template that looks like this:

    Pumpkin Poem  Click the link to open and print.

    For this template, simply write a word or phrase on each line.  

    • 2 words that tell how a pumpkin feels.  This could be the inside or outside of the pumpkin.  
    • 3 words that tell how a pumpkin looks.  
    • 2 ways that pumpkins are used.
    • 1 word to describe a pumpkin.
    Before writing your poem, brainstorm ideas with your child.  You may want to have a pumpkin with you to help your little one come up with ideas.  

    If you'd rather not have the directions on your poem template, use this one:

    Pumpkin Poem Template
    Click the link above to open and print.
    Get creative if you want, and use the pumpkin template any way you'd like.  

    Here is an example of what a pumpkin poem might look like:

    Enjoy writing your pumpkin poems!  
    - Jessica

    Pumpkin Turkey Chili

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    As you may have noticed, I'm obsessed with fall and anything pumpkin.  One of my favorite meals for autumn is pumpkin turkey chili.  I'm not the best photographer, so it may not look that great but it is delicious!  This is a regular in my house, and I make it about once a week throughout the cooler months.  It's super easy, healthy, makes a lot of servings, and reheats well.  It takes about 30 minutes to make from start to finish, and should make enough for 2 dinners for a family of 4.  The other great thing is that I usually have most of the ingredients in my pantry or fridge.  And don't be scared, most people can't even tell it has pumpkin in it.  So here is the recipe:

    • 2 squash (yellow or green) diced
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 1 lb. of ground turkey (or beef)
    •  1 can diced tomatoes
    •  1 can corn, drained
    •  1 can black beans
    •  1 can pumpkin
    •  1 tbsp. chili powder
    •  water (to your liking)
    • 1 cup cheddar or Mexican cheese (optional)
    • 1 cup sour cream (optional)
    • bag of tortilla chips (optional)

    1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. 

    2.  Cook squash in the oil for a few minutes until tender, stirring occasionally.

    3.  In the same saucepan, cook the ground turkey until brown.

    4.  Lower heat to simmer.  Stir in diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, pumpkin, chili powder.  The chili will be thick.

    5.  Stir in a can filled with water.  You can add more water if you prefer your chili to be more like soup.

    6.  Cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, until the chili is heated thoroughly.

    7.  Serve chili in a bowl, topped with cheese and sour cream, and tortilla chips on the side.

    My husband and I like to eat the chili by using the tortilla chips as spoons.  So good!  

    I hope your family enjoys pumpkin turkey chili as much mine does! Let me know what you think!
    - Jessica

    Little Ones Learning: Pumpkin Sensory Play!

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    There are so many great ideas for pumpkin sensory play!  Sensory play is a great way to assist your child's development, and it's fun!  According to Danielle Steinberg, author of Developing and Cultivating Skills Through Sensory Play, children (and adults) learn best when they engage their senses.  It helps in your child's cognitive, linguistic (language), social, emotional, and physical development.   I won't go into all the details here, but take a look at the article and see for yourself!

    I am blessed to spend my days with my 4 year old daughter, Grace, 1 1/2 year old daughter, Ada, and my 1 1/2 year old nephew, Lucas.  This week we had our first exploration with cloud dough.  Cloud dough is mold-able, like wet sand, and because it's made of flour and oil, it's non-toxic.  This is key for us because Ada and Lucas try to taste everything!

     I found some great directions for pumpkin cloud dough from Growing a Jeweled Rose.  

    - 8 cups flour
    - 1 cup vegetable oil
    - pumpkin pie spice
    - orange tempera paint or crushed chalk

    The main ingredients for cloud dough are just flour and oil, in an 8:1 ratio.  That could mean 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of vegetable oil, or 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup oil.  You get the gist.  Knead it together with your hands.  Add some pumpkin pie spice for a scent, and you can use orange tempera paint or crushed chalk to color your cloud dough.  I didn't happen to have tempera paint or orange chalk, so I tried some food coloring.  That did not work, so save yourself the effort.  The kids didn't mind that it just smells like pumpkin :).  I added in some measuring cups, play utensils and bowls, and some mini pumpkins, of course!

    The kids had a great time exploring with the pumpkin cloud dough.  Grace especially loved it, and made all kinds of cupcakes and pies.  Lucas and Ada mostly wanted to carry around the mini pumpkins.  Works for me!  We will definitely be pulling this out again soon!

    Below I compiled a list of some awesome pumpkin-themed sensory play ideas.  Hopefully you'll find an activity you and your little one can enjoy!

    Pumpkin Moon Sand Recipe from Growing a Jeweled Rose- amazing Fall activity for kids
    Pumpkin Moon Sand from
    Growing a Jeweled Rose
    Pumpkin Oobleck from
    Inspiration Laboratories

    pumpkin pie play dough for fall
    Pumpkin Pie Play Dough from Childhood Beckons

    Or for an edible play dough:
    fall sensory bin {with homemade pumpkin play dough!}
    Pumpkin Play Dough from Wildflower Ramblings

    How to make pumpkin spice & orange colored sensory rice
    Pumpkin Spice Sensory Rice from
    Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

    SILLY Pumpkin Putty- this ooey gooey slime is perfect for Fall & smells just like pumpkin pie. Kids can make fun pretend pumpkin treats as they stretch, pull, squish, & giggle!
    Silly Pumpkin Putty Slime from Growing a Jeweled Rose
    Pumpkin GOOP for amazing Fall sensory play. Kids love this oozing cross between a liquid and a solid, and you only need a few common ingredients to make it. Smells just like pumpkin pie, too!
    Pumpkin Goop from Growing a Jeweled Rose
    Pumpkin Spice Clean Mud- Fall Sensory Table
    Pumpkin Spice Clean Mud from
    Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

    Don't those look like so much fun!  I can't wait to try out a few more.

    Thanks for visiting and God Bless!
    - Jessica

    Little Ones Learning: Pumpkins!

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    It's that time of year when everyone is heading to the pumpkin patch to collect the gourd that will decorate their porch and light up Halloween Eve.  Before you head out to the pumpkin patch (or after if you've already gone), let your kiddo learn a few things about this favorite fall symbol.

    Pumpkin introduction

    Pumpkin guess box

    For older preschoolers (age 4 and up), you could start off your study of pumpkins with a guess box!  You can either put a real pumpkin, mini pumpkin, fake pumpkin, or a picture of a pumpkin in your guess box.  Then you're ready to start the critical thinking fun!  You can find the directions on how to do a guess box here.  These are a few ideas for clues to start off your pumpkin guess box.  

    • It comes from a plant
    • It is used at Halloween
    • It is orange

    You want to start off with just one clue, and the clue you use will depend on your child's development.  You will probably want to start with a more vague clue, and then work towards more concrete if your child needs.

    Pumpkin wordsplash

    A wordsplash could be done with any child that is old enough to talk.  Simply print out the pumpkin wordsplash page.  Then, ask your kiddos what they knows about pumpkins.  Simply record what they say.  It's called a wordSPLASH because you can just kind of splash the words around on the page.  This one has all Grace's ideas:

    Doing a wordsplash in the beginning of a unit will help you determine your child's prior knowledge on the topic.  If you save it, you can come back to it later and add things that you have learned.

    Read pumpkin books

    Pumpkin Books for Kids
    12 Perfect Pumpkin Books from KC Edventures
    I was able to find several pumpkin books at the library, but some of the good nonfiction ones, like The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons, can be harder to find.  You will probably want to put them on hold in advance or go purchase a copy for your at-home library.  With this collection, Jacquie from KC Edventures, does a good job of breaking down the types of pumpkin books.

    I like to start off by reading a simple nonfiction text to learn a little of information about pumpkins.  Plus, I always learn something too!

    Printable Books

    These two FREE printable books are great for any age.  You can print them in color or black and white.  I like to make them in black and white, and then the kids can color the illustrations themselves.

    Pumpkins Mini Book
    Pumpkins from DLTK
    This Pumpkins book gives basic information about the life cycle of a pumpkin.

    printable book for children
    Five Little Pumpkins from DLTK
    This book illustrates the poem Five Little Pumpkins.  Find the song below!

    Pumpkin videos

    How to Grow Pumpkins posted by Very Best Baking
    This is a nonfiction video put out by Libby's that explains the process of growing pumpkins.  It's great for kids 3 and older.

    Pumpkin Feels Lonely posted by The Foodies Books
    Pumpkin Feels Lonely is a book read aloud.  It is very cute.

    That's How a Pumpkin Grows posted by Brian Vogan
    That's How a Pumpkin Grows is a catchy little song and the video has unique graphics.
    Five Little Pumpkins Sitting On a Gate posted by The Happy Ape
    Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate is a short song that is a fun little sing along for any age.

    I hope this gets your pumpkin study off to a good start!  Check back soon for pumpkin play, exploration, and foods :)

    - Jessica