5 Ways to Play with Pumpkins
Autumn has arrived! This season provides such a rich sensory environment. Everything from the colourful trees to the sound of leaves under your feet offers an exciting invitation to play.
To celebrate the season, I’ve compiled our staff team’s 5 favourite ways to play with a fall staple - pumpkins!
Pick a few pumpkins and you’ll be ready to do these activities with items found in your own home.
1. Melted Crayon Pumpkins
Grab any number of colourful crayons and a hair dryer. Simply melt the crayons with the hair dryer and splatter them onto your pumpkins. You can also try first gluing your crayons right on your pumpkin or dangling them from a string. There are so many ways to splatter crayons, so get creative. This activity works especially well with white pumpkins. Make sure to dress for a mess!
This activity is a great sensory experience that encourages children to get creative and explore basic scientific ideas involving temperature and states of matter.
2. Pumpkin Toss
Before you drop your pumpkin or toss is across your yard, make some predictions! Grab a notepad, pencil, and ask questions like where will your pumpkin land? How high will it fly? What is inside of a pumpkin? What sound will it make? Encourage children to think of their own questions, write them down, and test their ideas. You can even try this experiment with pumpkins of different shapes and sizes. Don’t forget to use your leftovers (see activities 4 and 5)!
This experiment allows children (and adults!) to practice using the scientific method. By asking questions, making predictions, and testing their theories, children are building neural and behavioral patterns necessary for critical thinking.
3. Pumpkin Volcanoes
Before you compost your Halloween jack o’ lantern, try this quick and easy experiment! Dump vinegar inside your pumpkin, add baking soda, and watch as this chemical reaction oozes out your jack o’ lanterns mouth and eyes. There is no wrong way to do this experiment. Practice with different amounts of vinegar and baking soda, or add additional water and food colouring.
This experiment is a great introduction to chemical reactions. Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. When mixed together, they produce gas!
4. Pumpkin Dissection
Pumpkin dissection is a great sensory experience. Before you dig into your pumpkin, make predictions as a family about what you will find inside. How many seeds will there be? What will it look, smell, and feel like? Once you cut into your pumpkin, separate the guts and the seeds. Crack open the seeds and talk about how pumpkins grow. Collect pumpkins and gourds of different sizes and explore their similarities and differences. Grab some magnifying glasses and other tools and conduct your own experiments!
Sensory play is especially important for early years children. It helps build motor skills, supports cognitive growth, and encourages language development. Plus, it’s fun!
5. Pumpkin Spice
Who could forget pumpkin spice season? Take your leftover pumpkin experiments and turn them into delicious edible creations. Wash your pumpkin seeds and cover them in oil and seasonings. Salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, garlic powder – there are no rules! Try baking and frying them. You can even cook the pumpkin itself and use it for pies, pasta and more.
While kitchen experiments are great for older children, even young ones can be included in the cooking process. Children are often more willing to try fruits, vegetables, and even squash when they have cooked it themselves!
- Hannah Platt, Program Facilitator at the London Children’s Museum