Fall means pumpkins and, usually, a visit to a pumpkin patch. Here in Humboldt County, the most popular pumpkin patch is located in Blue Lake at Christie's Ranch. Aside from taking the kids to the pumpkin patch to find their very own orange colored squash, there are other sensory experiences that parents and caregivers can provide with even small sugar pie pumpkins. (Can you imagine trying to hack into a 1500 pound pumpkin like the one in the video? A dozen preschoolers could fit in that thing!)
After bringing the pumpkins home, let your child wash off any remaining dirt with a little water. Using an outside house and their hands is usually sufficient for removing any soil still clinging to the squash. Next you will want to set up an area where your child can work at a comfortable level and a safe environment. Again, the Preschools Examiner has found working outside provides the ideal situation for experiencing pumpkins. Less mess means less clean up later!
Gather your supplies and get started with finding out about pumpkins. Newspaper to cover the work surface, 2 bowls (one for seeds and the other for pumpkin pieces), 2 knives (one for the adults and a child-safe one for the kids) and an ice cream scoop. Depending on the age of the child and their skill level, they may be doing very little actual cutting of the pumpkin, but you want them to be able to know what it feels like to try and cut into the flesh of a hard rind pumpkin.
Cut either the top or bottom off the pumpkin, making sure to cut a large enough hole that a child can get the ice cream scoop inside to remove all the innards. As the child's hands touch the smooth outer shell of the pumpkin and then the slimy and stringy insides, ask them to describe the differences. Ask them which they like touching more, as well. Questions about the colors, the scents and the textures could also be asked.
Once the pumpkins have all of their seeds removed, your child can help you cut the pumpkins into smaller pieces. This will allow for a quicker cooking time whether it is going to be steamed, baked or sauteed. Talk about how difficult or easy it is to cut certain parts of the pumpkin and what they think will happen to the pumpkin after it has been cooked.
While the pumpkin is cooking, allow them to work their hands through the bowl with pumpkin seeds and strings. Have them describe the experience to you and see if they can extract some of the seeds from their entanglements. Wash the seeds and spread to dry on a towel.
The pumpkin seeds can be roasted for a later snack and you can show your child how the texture of the pumpkin changed after baking or steaming. The color has also changed, so make sure you call their attention to that as well. A few pumpkin seed can be saved for using in an art project where your child either just glues them onto a pumpkin shape or one in which they use the seeds to outline a number or letter.
Here are a few recipe suggestions for using that cooked pumpkin!
- Almond Butter & Pumpkin Pudding from Vitacost
- Pumpkin Soup from Soil Association
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies from An Organic Wife