Pumpkin vines on the sticky table

Whenever we explore any topic or unit, I try to provide a variety of ways for the children to explore the concept. I find that providing different ways to explore a concept helps my students look at ideas from a variety of perspectives. I also find that I learn more about my students when I observe them trying different approaches to learning. Some of my students even surprise me at what they seem to understand.  For an example of what I am saying, I want to share a little bit about the pumpkin vines we talked about last week…

We read a book about how pumpkin vines grow in the garden. I think it was called “The Mystery Vine.”  After the children in the book discovered that the mystery vine was a pumpkin vine we made our own vine too.  We took a ball of yarn and passed it around the circle to create our own pumpkin vine.  Each of us held on to the yarn and then we all grew up like pumpkins on the ground…

It was a really simple lesson on pumpkin vines and we didn’t spend a whole lot of time with it. As a follow-up to circle time, the children explored different kinds of pumpkin activities.  The sticky table was set up in one area of the room. The sticky table is simply sticky-back contact paper spread out on the table and taped in place so the sticky side of the contact paper is facing up.  I set out orange pompoms and green yarn (and a few other items) but didn’t explain what to do with any of the items…

The children amazed me at their understanding of our simple lesson during circle time. They immediately called me over to show me their pumpkin vines….

This little three year old showed me how he made pumpkins with the materials…

I had also set out craft sticks and was asked what they were for.  I asked if anyone remembered our rhyme “Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate?”  Although they remembered the rhyme, they had other plans for the craft sticks. In my mind, they could make gates with them but their ideas were far more clever..

I love the sticky table. The cups on the table stick really well so they don’t tip over and the children can explore as freely as they like.

In addition to the sticky table, I also shared this “no-rules” pumpkin vine game that I made for the children…

Every game I make is very open ended. The children can play the game any way they wish. Some chose to use the dice and count their way around the vine…

Others just like putting as many pumpkins on the vine as they could..

Again, this was just another way for the children to explore the concept of pumpkin vines. The game offered additional learning like counting and organizing and cooperating with others…

And then we made our own pumpkins in art. We worked on our cutting skills as we cut up orange and green construction paper strips…

Then the children glued the construction paper snips on their paper plates…

Each of these centers are open at the same time. The children migrate from center to center throughout the first part of our morning. There are other centers, like blocks and the library open as well that they can play in. I am just showing you the centers that went along with our pumpkin discussion…

And in case you are wondering – Later in the morning (after snack) we go outside to our outdoor classroom where we explore water, sand, play dough, easels, and other more other sensory based (or messy) centers. This allows for a different kind of experience and additional exploration of our pumpkin vine concept.

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Pumpkin playdough decorating in preschool

This is a very easy idea that I set out for my class this week in our play dough center…

I set out two large, real pumpkins and several small pumpkin (gourds) and some play dough.  The children used the play dough to decorate the pumpkins…

At first, the children didn’t quite get the idea of what to do when they came to the table. So I sat down with a few of the children and demonstrated how you can make play dough shapes and press them against the pumpkin to make them stick…

By the second day of having this center set up, the children rocked at making all kinds of pumpkin faces and other features like hats. The pumpkins progressively got more and more 3 dimensional in playdough design work…

Some children spent lots of time at this center exploring the play dough and creating on the pumpkin.  I set out a small can of green, yellow, and red play dough but by day two – most of the playdough is either brown or green. The children do not care that it is green and brown – they just keep on creating…

An interesting observation was that the younger children tended to like decorating the small pumpkins. They just wanted to cover the pumpkin with as much playdough as they could.  The fours preferred the big pumpkins and quickly advanced in their creative ideas and approach…

I wasn’t sure if the playdough would stick to the pumpkins all that well but it seems that the more the children played with the dough and pumpkins, the better the dough would stick…

Here is the playdough center all set up before the children went to work decorating pumpkins…

Links to Grow On…

No-Carve Pumpkin by Tinkerlab

Pumpkin Cups by Teach Preschool

Pumpkin Suncatcher by Happy Hooligans

Paper Pumpkins by Come Together Kids

By | October 13th, 2011|Categories: Activity Boxes, Halloween|Tags: , , |23 Comments

We made pumpkin exploration cups in preschool

Today, I am going to share with you how we made pumpkin exploration cups.  Tomorrow, I will share with you some of the other cups I made for my students just to explore…


To make exploration cups (regardless of the type of exploration cup) you need to have on hand some clear plastic cups.  I have all sizes of cups but for the pumpkin cups, I used small clear plastic cups that I purchased from Kroger (a grocery store).  I do not recommend the clear hard plastic “Crystal” cups as they tend to crack fairly easily. Instead, I recommend the softer clear plastic cups.  The clearer the cup, the better….

For the pumpkin cups, start by painting the outside of one cup with yellow and red paint (or you can just paint with orange paint).  Oh, and before painting add some glue to your paint to add a little stickiness to the paint….

Leave the “bottom” of the cup unpainted. Some of our students had to be reminded to not paint the bottom of the cup.  After the outside of the cup is painted, then stack a second clear plastic cup over the painted one…

Now twist the two stacked-together cups in opposite directions to mix the paint colors.  If you did not use two colors – then it is not necessary to do this step (the twisting part)…

After twisting and mixing the paint colors, then take the two cups back apart.   At this point, I gave each child a clean cup and then invited the children to add a few green (approximately 10 – 15) very tiny beans to the bottom of the clean cup. You can really use anything like such as rice, beans, or even green construction paper squares inside the clean cup.

Make sure you only have a single layer of beans on the bottom of each cup.  If you want the beans to shake and rattle, then don’t fill the entire bottom of the cup with the beans  – just use a few beans instead…

On the outside of the painted cup, add pumpkin eyes, nose, and mouth if you desire – or you can just leave the cup as is.  The glue in the paint will help hold the pieces together.

Now place the painted cup inside the new clean cup. (Turn the clean cup upside down with the beans inside sitting on the bottom of the cup then set the painted cup inside the clean cup).  And you have a completed pumpkin cup that shakes and rattles too.  The glue inside the paint should help the two cups stick together once the paint dries.  If not, you can add a dab of hot glue to keep them together….

I have been making Exploration Cups for my preschool class.  These cups make noise, they have color, and they can be used for exploring all kinds of seeds, beans, and other types of small materials.  I also use these cups for color mixing, sensory, music, the light table, and creative art activities. Check back tomorrow for a little more on exploration cups!

I am linking this post to: Hands On As We Grow – It’s Play Time – Spooky Halloween

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By | October 12th, 2011|Categories: Halloween|Tags: , , , |16 Comments