Toddlers are amazing. They love learning about the world and everything they see. They want to help and be involved in even the smallest everyday tasks and seeing them immersed in what they are doing at the moment is one of my favorite things to observe. Knowing that my child wants to be involved and wants to learn about everything makes everything we do a fun activity to develop lessons through the experience. Here are four practical ways that we taught lessons about life, opposites, and perspectives using pumpkins:
What’s inside a pumpkin?
Toddlers love having a job to do. Making a jack-o-lantern is a great way to teach your child scooping and transferring as well as to play a game called What’s Inside a Pumpkin? We made the lid of the pumpkin on the side so that our child could reach in more easily and be a part of the experience. He loved seeing the seeds, skin, and pulp come out as he created a cavity in the pumpkin. With a lot of assistance and a soft pumpkin, a toddler can also help cut parts of the pumpkin into shapes as well. Giving part of the work to your toddler lets them feel independent and helps build fine motor skills.
A Lesson in Perspective
What size are these?
One of my toddler’s favorite books is Am I Small?, a delightful book about perspective. When we went to the pumpkin patch, we applied the same concept of perspective to the pumpkins to teach relative sizes. In this example, we learned small, medium, large, and huge! In another pass, we were able to learn extra-small, small, medium, and large. Toddlers are eager to figure out new ways to describe things and using the variation of pumpkins to teach sizing is a fun way to help teach your tot new words and ways of describing the world around them.
Lessons in Color and Texture
What color is that pumpkin and how does this feel?
Finding opportunities to see several pumpkin varieties at once creates the perfect environment to teach color and texture. At the Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Patch in Morgan Hill, we found a goldmine of pumpkin variety. We played a game where I asked my toddler to touch the pumpkins to see how they feel. Some were “soft” some were “bumpy” and some had “lots of warts!” We played this game section by section within the rows of pumpkins which were conveniently arranged by color. We played a game asking, “What color are the pumpkins now?” There were green, white, orange, and even blue pumpkins. As we described the pumpkins I would help form mini-sentences for my toddler such as, “The green pumpkin is bumpy!” to teach him how to string different descriptions together in sentences.
Lessons in Weight
How heavy is it?
To go along with the lessons in size and perspectives we also used the pumpkins to teach relative weight and the opposite spectrums of heavy and light. My toddler enjoys trying to pick up the pumpkins. By doing so, he is already teaching himself that the larger pumpkins are heavier than the smaller pumpkins. But, it’s important that he learns the words for what he is experiencing so that he can describe similar things in his own way. We played a game where we told each other which pumpkins were heavier, which were too heavy, and which ones were light so they were easier to carry.
These lessons seem simple, and they are. The point is that no matter where you are, no matter what season it is, there are lessons everywhere. Sometimes it can be really hard to slow down, spend a few hours feeling pumpkins at a pumpkin patch, and get down on your toddlers level to help them find words for the experiences around them. But, helping them find ways to communicate things with you like “it’s too heavy” or “I want my orange cup” will help them tell you more about what they are experiencing in the world. Actively seeking out ways to involve them in the experience and give them a job to do builds their confidence and helps make experiences more enjoyable as they have a place to funnel their inquisitive energy.
I’d love to hear if you have any pumpkin lessons of your own. Comment below your ideas, and I always love to hear if you try these lessons with your family.
Editor’s Note: This article originally published in October, 2018.