Halloween is an exciting time for children: pumpkin decorations, the beginning of fall, the drama of costumes, the adventure of trick-or-treating, and the sweetness of candy. For the littlest children, however, it can also get a bit overwhelming. For some children, costumes can be confusing and scary and Halloween candy can be very stimulating! What are some developmentally appropriate ways you can enjoy this season with your baby or toddler?
Here are some simple pumpkin activities for you and your little one
Remember that your child’s attention span may be very short. It is important to follow their interest and stamina for each activity, and don’t assume you will be able to do all of this in one day. They may only have the capacity for one of these activities per day. These may be spread out over the course of the entire month!
Visit a pumpkin patch with your toddler
Before you head off on this expedition, research local pumpkin patches. Find one that focuses more on farm-related activities and less on consumer culture and the fantasy of Halloween.
Opportunities to look for:
- Observing the natural activities of a working farm or garden.
- Seeing real animals, growing fruits and vegetables
- Witnessing the massive spectacle of cornfields
- Riding in a truck or tractor for a hayride
Keep it simple, and don’t try to experience absolutely everything. Explore the farm at your child’s pace, and share the language of what they are seeing, giving the names of the animals, produce, and farm machines they encounter.
An actual pumpkin patch is a wonder for a small person! Let them feel the pumpkins with their hands and play with the vines. Let them crawl, walk, or run down the rows of pumpkins.
When it comes time to choose a pumpkin, let them be a major part of picking one. A pumpkin is a very impressive piece of produce! They will be excited to choose one for your family and bring it home, and being a part of the decision-making process will build their confidence.
At-home Montessori activities with pumpkins
Clean the pumpkin
Let your little one be a part of preparing the pumpkin for your home. Even a baby can join in the washing the pumpkin. If they can sit at a table, put the pumpkin in a low basin with a small amount of water. Give your little one a soft scrub brush and show them how to brush the pumpkin gently to get the dirt and debris off. Let them scrub for as long as they want. You can show them how to turn the pumpkin so they can clean all the skin, but they may simply want to vigorously scrub one small area and that is okay! Let them roll the pumpkin from side to side and clean it as thoroughly (or not thoroughly) as they want.
When their interest wanes, you can take the pumpkin out of the basin and show them how to dry it gently with a soft towel. Again, follow their interest. If they only want to dry for three seconds, then that is okay. They may try again another day, or you may finish the job yourself.
Use the pumpkin for a maximum effort activity
The youngest toddlers are eager to carry heavy objects around. Maria Montessori identified this impulse as “Maximum Effort”. You may observe that providing your little one with maximum effort opportunities is fulfilling. Watch the embedded Instagram video below to see what @OurMontessoriView came up with.
Scoop out the seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a glorious experience for a young child! After you open the top, let them put their hands inside and feel the seeds and pumpkin goop. It is a fascinating sensorial experience. Let them get messy! When they are finished feeling the seeds, show them how to use a broad spoon to scoop the seeds into a bowl. Let them scoop as many as they can, taking turns if necessary. They may want to feel the seeds again once they have been moved to the bowl. Now they will be able to examine them and see what they look like too.
Clean the seeds
Move the scooped seeds to a colander and then let your little child help rinse them. A learning tower will allow them to stand safely and independently at the sink. They can put their hands in the seeds with the water running over them–another chance to feel those slimy seeds! Show them how to pull the strands of pumpkin pulp out of the bowl. They will need help removing the clumps so that only the seeds remain. Once they are rinsed, move the seeds to a towel opened on the counter to dry them. Your little one can help spread the seeds out on the towel and dab them with another small towel.
Roast the seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious autumn treat. Only toddlers with molars may be able to eat them, but even younger children can be involved in making them. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Move the cleaned and dried pumpkin seeds to a clean bowl, and add 1-2 tablespoons of the oil of your choice and about ½ a teaspoon of salt. Your little one can use their hands or a spoon to coat the pumpkin seeds. Pour the seeds on a tray and roast for about 30 minutes or until golden brown, tossing every 10 minutes for even roasting. If your toddler has enough teeth to chew them, enjoy as a snack after they cool!
Paint the pumpkin
Once the pumpkin is clean and dry, set it on newspaper on a table where your little one can comfortably sit. Keep the decorating options simple so they aren’t overwhelmed and they can make careful decisions. Give them 3-5 options of thick craft paint with brushes in each tub, or a dish of water if they understand the concept of cleaning the brush between colors. Then, let them paint their pumpkin however they want. When they are finished, let the pumpkin dry, and then display proudly! Keep in mind that the paint will not withstand the rain and should be kept inside if it is humid or rainy.
Creative Instagrammer @sonnysmontessori posted this pumpkin decorating activity she set up for her little one. Simple stickers are ready for him to place on the pumpkin. No mess!
Use a tool with your pumpkins
Introducing tools, whether they are for writing, cooking, or manipulating materials (think using a broom to sweep dirt) invites your child to coordinate their fine motor skills and strengthen their wrist muscles. We love this activity shared by @BringingUpBabe who placed golf tees into the pumpkin before inviting her little one to drive them in further using a hammer.
For a final pumpkin activity, you can show your child how to do a gluing activity with pumpkin-shaped crafts. Prepare ahead of time by using orange construction paper to cut out a few large pumpkin shapes (about 6-8 inches across). Give them one pumpkin at a time with their Monti Kids Gluing Set. Then they can choose between the small shapes in the gluing set to decorate the pumpkin you have cut out. (Find pre-cut paper pumpkins on Amazon.) They can put as many or as few pieces on the pumpkin as they wish. After the glue dries, let them be a part of deciding where to display their craft for the Halloween season.
Halloween is an exciting season for children, and these activities will allow the tiniest trick-or-treaters to participate in this time of year in a way that feels fun and constructive.