Updated: Jun 8, 2020
While getting ready for our halloween party this year, Jaya spotted some tiny pumpkins at the local grocery store that were the perfect size for him and his friends! When we saw them we both eagerly plotted what we would use them for and put them in our cart with much excitement! Being that Halloween is our favorite holiday, I am pretty sure there was a squeal or two of delight during that grocery trip because we had every intention of painting them during the party! However, with all of the excitement and business of hosting, the little pumpkins were forgotten...until today!
I try to include as many sensory activities in our homeschool lessons as I possibly can.
As an occupational therapist, I know that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain's pathways and that it leads to language development, assists with fine motor and gross motor abilities, allows for cognitive growth and helps with problem solving skills. So, instead of tossing the little pumpkins that were beginning to rot, we decided to open them up and explore!
I began by asking Jaya what he thought was inside the little pumpkin. His huge smile and raised eyebrows told me that he was excited to find out. Some shaking and a whole lot of giggling later, I cut open the pumpkin and handed Jaya a spoon. His only direction was to “dig in” and search for seeds. Jaya wasted no time! He pushed and pulled and poked until the pumpkin was seedless. His curiosity led him to put down the spoon, use his hands and declare that things were getting sticky. During the activity, I asked him some questions...
What does the pumpkin feel like? Is it hot or cold? How does it smell? Do you think you can eat those seeds?
These questions encouraged him to think and ask some questions too. The beauty of homeschooling is that every moment is a teachable moment and questions are like rabbit holes...you can spend hours, sometimes even days, trying to answer a simple one! When he had enough of removing the seeds and feeling them with his hands, I gave him a small container of water and asked him to wash the seeds.
What is it about water that children love so much? Introducing water to the activity was like sprinkling magic fairy dust in the air! All of a sudden, he was turning a simple activity into creative play! With much excitement he announced that he would be making a soup but before he even found “ingredients” to throw in his pot, he began to quote lines from a book we love, “Room on the Broom” (Affiliate Link) by Julia Donaldson! This book has become a favorite of ours to read during October. It is the story of a sweet witch who invites several animals to join her on her broomstick. We highly recommend it!
With a mischievous grin, he turned to me and said, “Find something, everyone, throw something in!” just as the kind hearted witch states in this beloved book! Here he was, quoting lines from a book and having the time of his life all because a rotting little pumpkin got a second chance!
Once he was done “casting a spell” and asking me to search for pinecones and lilies (as in the story) we took this sensory activity one step further and brought out some non-toxic washable paint (Affiliate Link). After removing the pumpkin seeds from the water and letting them dry in the sun, he began to paint each seed with different colors. This was a good time for us to go over color recognition and to explore what happens when you mix different colors together.
Our activity ended by placing our beautiful colored seeds in a sunny spot to dry and with promises of making an art piece with them in the days to come! It also ended with Jaya painting himself and saying that he had lots of fun!
So, if you have an old pumpkin, don't throw it out just yet! Cut it open and hand it over to your little one! Let them get messy, explore and pretend play! I promise you, their brain and bodies will thank you for it!
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