Friday, October 9, 2009

Pumpkins Galore!

Today I'm sharing a few fun ideas I have accumulated about pumpkins. I only wish that we could get to a pumpkin patch this year to see some in real life. I guess pictures and projects will have to do for now.

Let's begin with some of my favorite pumpkin book picks.

It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall

This book has bold and bright collaged illustrations with an easy to understand explanation of the pumpkin life cycle.

Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

This book is suited for the youngest children, with a simple telling of the pumpkin's life cycle in words and beautiful, lifelike, feathery-like, colored pencil drawings.

Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell

This book is another pumpkin life cycle, but it starts at the end of a pumpkin's life, as it begins to decay through the seasons. The delightful surprise in the end is that, while Pumpkin Jack is decayed and no longer visible, his seeds regrow and we watch as several new pumpkins grow in his place, and Jack is back!

The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

If you have not already discovered Gail Gibbons, she is one of the best non-fiction writers for younger children. This book is filled with facts about pumpkins and lots of illustrations. It is a longer read, and you may want to skip some of the history that goes over young children's heads, but it is worth picking up.

The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis

This sing-songy, rhyming book tells the story of what happens when the curious Baxter boys cut a giant pumpkin off the vine on top of a hill. All the Baxters begin to think of the wonderful pumpkin goodies that could be made with this runaway pumpkin. See what happens as the pumpkins and the Baxters come down the hill.

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman

A fun Halloween story about a witch's big pumpkin and the creatures that try to help her pick it. It has a fun, repetitious rhyme and a cute message about the importance of working together.

Five Little Pumpkins, pictures by Dan Yaccarino

This is the classic Halloween poem, illustated with bright, simple images that bring the poem to life.

Pumpkin Tear Art

I drew a pumpkin outline on regular copy paper, then cut 2 inch strips of orange construction paper. They colored the pumpkin stem and I cut out the outline. I had the kiddos tear the strips and make squares (or something close to it...) and glue them down one at a time, overlapping and making sure none of the white peeked through. (Tearing is a great fine motor strengthening exercise.) I gave them a black mouth and then let them choose what shapes they wanted for the eyes and nose, and cut those out for them to glue on. This was something I loved doing for my bulletin board when I taught, and I was a little unsure how difficult it would be for preschoolers. I was pleasantly surprised that they really needed little help layering the paper and filling up the pumpkin, or placing the face on their finished pumpkin.

Pumpkin Life Cycle

This came out of a book from Creative Teaching Press from the Celebrate the Months series (October, grades K-3 edition). I tried to find this series on the publishers website, but it looks like it is out of print (again, sigh...). This series has some great ideas, although you will need to simplify and adapt them for preschool. I loved that this life cycle went in a paper sack and you could make the pumpkin grow. If you don't have this book, you can easily make outlines of the pumpkin life cycle stages and make one of your own. I hot glued a real pumpkin seed (you can find roasted ones all over stores now for very little money) on a length of green yarn. Then the kids color the flower yellow, the little pumpkin green and the large pumpkin orange. Tape the shapes onto the string in order and let them pull them out of the bag, seed first, and watch the pumpkin grow.

Pom Pom Pumpkin Pick-up

I have these cute little pumpkins and bunches of pom poms. I let the kids use tweezers and tongs to pick them up one at a time and put in the containers. Even the babies liked this activity (my 22 month old loved picking them up with his fingers and putting them in the pumpkin). Then they could shake them out and try again. You could even give the pumpkins to one child and let them sort the pom poms by color, or practice counting them as they are picked up.


Instead of bingo, we played Jack-o, with a pumpkin patch on the top of the bingo card. You could really put anything on the cards, pictures to practice beginning sounds, numbers, shapes, whatever you are working on to reinforce your learning. Let them use pumpkin seeds or candy corns to cover their spaces. This was an old copy that was passed on to me from other teachers.

Pumpkin Seed Count

I made up this game as a way to practice number recognition and counting. I had two or three sets of laminated pumpkin seeds with numbers 1 through 10 printed on them. I placed those in one jack-o-lantern basket.

I put real pumpkin seeds (more from the roasted ones I bought for the life cycle) in the second basket.

Each family member got a little jack-o-lantern container to hold their seeds. We took turns drawing a numbered seed, and counting that many real seeds into our little containers. We played three or four rounds and then dumped our seeds and counted to see who was the winner. If your child is too young to count that high, you could line up the seeds, making a graph on the floor so they could see who had the most. In another variation, you could reduce the numbers you put in the basket (only use 1 through 3 for example instead of 1 through 10). Both of my boys really enjoyed this little game.

Five Little Pumpkins

I happen to love this little poem, so I had my kindergarteners make this little art project and we printed the poem on the back.

If you don't know it, here are the words:
"Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late."
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."
The third one said, "But we don't care."
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run."
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun."
"O-ooooooo," went the wind and out went the lights,
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight."

For the picture, we glued popsicle sticks on the bottom for the gate.
I then gave the kids five orange squares or rectangles. They clipped the corners to make a pumpkin shape. If this is too difficult, you could draw pumpkin shapes (circles and ovals) for the kids to cut out. Glue the pumpkins on the gate and make faces with a black crayon. Color the night sky with a white crayon (this shows up better than mine that used yellow and blue...), or give them some sticker stars. Glue the poem on the back.

Pumpkin Cookies

And now, for my favorite pumpkin activity. Decorating pumpkin cookies. This is a family tradition of mine from childhood. It just didn't feel like fall until we had baked and decorated at least one batch. This is an old recipe and different from the one that is on the site for Libby's canned pumpkin, so that is why I am retyping it here.

Libby's Great Pumpkin Cookie

4 cups all purpose flour

2 cups quick or old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked

2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (16 oz) Libby's solid pack pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, oats, soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Cream butter, gradually add sugars beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition. For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet; spread into pumpkin shape. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes until cookies are firm and lightly browned. Remove and cool on metal racks. Decorate with frosting and candies.

Makes 32 large cookies.

Variation, add 1 cup chocolate chips or raisins to dough and enjoy
unfrosted. (We never do this, frosting is much too fun!)

A few notes: This is definitely a cookie that you want cooked well. If you are a gooey cookie lover like me, don't under cook this type. They really will seem firm and slightly browned when they are done.
We always use cream cheese frosting (you can tint it orange to look more pumpkin-y) and usually use the following candies to decorate the pumpkin faces: Smarties, M&M's, Reese's Pieces, Candy Corns.

My kids loved decorating the faces and of course, enjoying a sample or two of their handiwork...

All of this pumpkin talk is making me hungry for a cookie!


  1. What a great pumpkin unit! We read some of the books we have mentioned, but I had to admit to myself at some point that both of us are getting too tired of pumpkins, pumpkins and more pumpkins. Now, I am still game for some pumpkin crafts and we plan to do 5 pumpkins on the gate too this week. Thanks for sharing all those resources!

  2. So many great pumpkin activities! I think that we will try the pumpkin bingo this week. Thanks for sharing.