Monday, October 17, 2016

Weekly Learning Theme: Fall/Pumpkins

The last few years we did a fall learning theme and a pumpkin learning theme. They are two of my favorites and we enjoy them so much but between both of those themes and Halloween there's not much room for anything else in October. This year I decided to combine pumpkins and fall because they go well together and it would free up a week to do fire safety before Carter dresses as a firefighter for Halloween. It worked out great because when I got Carter's class schedule for October I saw he would be doing lots of fall and pumpkin-themed activities that would fit perfectly into our learning theme. Read last year's fall learning theme here and 2014's fall learning theme here. Read last year's pumpkin learning theme here and 2014's pumpkin learning theme here.

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have revised our objectives to really hone in and focus on specific skills Carter will need to master before kindergarten and are appropriate to his age and development right now. I plan to continue to implement activities to practice and reinforce our previous objectives while putting more emphasis on our new objectives.  Some of them won't necessarily be targeted with specific activities during our weeks, but I wanted to list them to help me remember to practice them continually. I have added working on his name as his teachers at school have asked us to work on it at home and I want to remember to include working on it in some form during each of our learning themes. I'm also adding in a section for Elise now that she is a year old. I don't considers her bullet points objectives, they are experiences I want to make sure to expose her to frequently. Her experiences are listed below Carter as bullet points rather than numbers. 

The highlighted objectives below are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:
  1. Begin to organize and focus on writing. (Dictate stories, plan out a story, draw pictures and scribbles to create a book).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors.  (I'm moving on to looking for a thumb and forefinger grasp with writing tools and holding scissors appropriately)
  5. Develop a better understanding of time (for example, be able to describe when things happen using morning, afternoon, night)
  6. Group objects based on a category (sort by defining feature).
  7. Count with one-to-one correspondence, begin to identify numerals, being to use ordinal numbers (first, second, last). 
  8. Recognize the letters in name, arrange them to spell name, begin to write name.
Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  • Pretend play/Imitate the behaviors of others.
  • Begin to identify and point at body parts. (Right now I just want to say body parts aloud to her frequently and point them out on myself)
  • Group based on simple characteristics. (This is something I will do while talking aloud and allowing her to feel objects)
  • Fill and empty containers.
  • Begin to hold writing tools and scribble spontaneously.
  • Identify sounds around her. (Point out sounds and ask her what is making the sound).
  • I wrote the words fall and pumpkins on sentence strips. I had Carter point out the letters he recognized and then I had him point to the word he thought said pumpkin and the word he thought said fall. When he was done I segmented and blended the words for him. We talked about some words that rhyme with fall. Then I told him we would be learning about fall and pumpkins before hanging the words on our learning theme board.
  • One of the blogs I like to check on frequently for fun ideas had an awesome activity for making your name with pumpkins that included a free printable here. I cut out the entire alphabet and showed Carter a few letters at a time, having him point to and tell me the names and sounds of the letters he recognized. The letters were all lowercase so there were quite a few he wasn't familiar with. When we were done with that I arranged all of the pumpkins in alphabetical order and we sang the ABC's. Then we went on to the name spelling activity. I had him cut a strip of green paper and showed him how to cut little strips down to make blades of grass. He glued his grass down to blue paper to make a pumpkin patch. I did the cutting for Elise and then let her put some glue on the green piece before I placed it on the blue. I drew Carter's name out along the bottom of his paper and gave him a few letters to sort through and find the letters of his name. I pulled the letters for Elise's name out for her and gave them to her one at a time to glue. I was going to let her place them but once she got the glue that was all she was interested in so I placed them for her. Elise finished before Carter so she colored a little on the sky while he finished. Carter was enjoying working with letters and the glue and wanted to make more words. He came up with the idea of me writing a word on paper for him to write over with glue. It was really neat because we could run our fingers over the letters and feel them once they dried.
  • I put together the same sensory bin as last year. I had taken last year's materials and bagged them up to be reused. All I had to do was dump them into the tub and we were good to go. The bin consisted of acorns, gumballs from our tree in the front yard, a few small sticks, and lots of cups and measuring cups to play with them. I later threw in some pumpkin containers and a pumpkin ice cube tray since we are also talking about pumpkins.
  • One beautiful afternoon we went outside to check out our tree in the front yard and see if many leaves were falling from it. We looked at the leaves, talked about their color and shape, and played with them. Then I raked a pile of leaves for the kids to play in. Carter wanted to help rake so he took the rake and I got a broom to sweep up the leaves on the sidewalk. Elise decided she wanted to sweep so I gave her my broom and got another one for myself. It was cute to watch them help with the leaves.
  • I'm going to add a couple of activities Carter did at school that went with our theme. He got to roll a die, count the dots, and then stamp the numeral that corresponded with the number of dots on his die. He was pretty proud of this page and it sounded like a great way to practice with counting and recognition of numerals.
  • One afternoon Elise woke from her nap before Carter. I took it as an opportunity to play with her one-on-one. She had a blast stacking and knocking down pumpkins. She was more interested in knocking them down than stacking them so I could never get her to stack more than 2. We also played peek-a-boo with a pumpkin. I would cover it with a blanket and ask her where it was, she'd giggle as she pulled the blanket off and I yelled boo! I also hid it in different places for her to find and I'd say boo when she found it.
    Knocking down pumpkins I had stacked for her.

  • Carter picked out a pumpkin at the store and helped me pick one out for Elise. Before they painted their pumpkins I had Carter compare them and measure them. First we talked about how they looked alike and then we talked about how they looked different. I had him guess which pumpkin was bigger. Then I helped him use a tape measure to find out which pumpkin was actually bigger. I talked out each step of measuring as we worked and had him identify what number it measured closest to. He's getting really good at telling me two-digit numbers by identifying both single digit numbers used to make them, for example telling me it's a 3 and a 5 for 35. I like that he reads the numbers from left to right and can identify both numbers. That will help later as he starts to understand place value.
    Comparing the pumpkins.
    Measuring the pumpkins. I held while he identified the number.
  • After we had collected some leaves I put them in a container and let the kids explore with them. They observed them and discussed them while playing with them. I talked to Elise about how they felt when I touched them and had her really pay attention to the noises they made as we worked with them. Carter sorted the leaves by the number of veins that ran from the root out to the sections of the leaf. He loved connecting that leaves have veins to the fact that we have veins. We talked about how veins in leaves carry nutrients from the roots to the leaf while our veins carry blood from our heart to the rest of our body.
    Carter working on sorting the leaves.
  • I cut leaf shapes out of different colored paper and then wrote each letter of Carter's name on a leaf. I mixed the leaves up and had him put them in order to spell his name. I had written his letters down on colors to make a pattern and had him determine what would come next in the pattern.
  • For some more name practice I also had Carter make his name using acorns. I wrote his name on a piece of paper and then he used acorns to cover the letters. He did the letter C and then was done so I just had him trace his finger over the other letters while saying them. Then we sang the song I made up that is more of a chant. It goes, "C-A-R-T-E-R... That spells Carter!" 
He started on the a and then lost interest.
  • We had a blast playing with Play Doh. I made a little mat with a picture of a squirrel on it where Carter could make a certain number of acorns for the squirrel. I used our bath numbers to fill in the blank for how many nuts to make. Then Carter would make the nuts. He also enjoyed grabbing the numbers and then making the nuts on his own. He is so my child because when he started doing it on his own, he started with 1 and worked his way up doing the numbers in order. When he was done playing with the Play Doh mat we used pumpkin cookie cutters to make some pumpkins and then just played with the Play Doh.
Making acorns for the squirrel.
Making a pumpkin out of Play Doh.
  • We read a Scholastic News called Eat Up Animals. The news had a diagram of a chipmunk's home on the back. Carter really enjoyed looking at the picture and describing it to me. He even told me the chipmunk had saved up nuts for the winter. Then we followed the directions on the page to analyze the squirrel's home and mark certain aspects of its home.
  • We also looked at a Scholastic News poster with a pumpkin diagram on one side and information about leaves changing color on the other side. When we looked at the pumpkin diagram I had Carter point out parts of the pumpkin he recognized. Then we talked about what different parts of a pumpkin are used for and what we see when we open up a pumpkin to carve it. Carter really liked reading about leaves changing color and discovering what makes a leaf green. He also liked the little snippet about coniferous trees and made a connection to a tree we had been talking about previously.
  • Another Scholastic News that went with this theme was one entitled The Kinds of Leaves. On the back of the news there was a graph that showed how many acorns different squirrels had found. We talked about each aspect of the graph and then read the questions that went with it and answered them. I'm always impressed with how easily Carter is able to read a graph!
  • I also had a Scholastic News poster called Squirrel's Journal. It was like a Mad Gab where you ask someone for certain kinds of word to fill in the blanks. I was impressed with Carter's ability to come up with specific kinds of words when asked, it showed me his understanding of words and language. He thought the story was hilarious and was so excited to have me read it to Ty when he got home from work.
    Carter's story.
  • Just like last year I pulled out our materials for pumpkin lacing. Carter is now a pro at it and likes to lace in different ways rather than just following along the outside. He likes skipping around and making the lace criss cross along the front of the pumpkin. It is neat to watch him do it and see how he has improved from the last time we did it!
  • Carter loves the Five Little Pumpkins story. I pulled out the pumpkin cut outs for him to use to retell the story. He was so proud to retell the story to Jake when he was at our house. He also made up his own version which Jake thought was hilarious. We also used the pumpkin cut outs to make patterns. I would make a pattern and then Carter would put a pumpkin at the end to show what would come next in the pattern. He still doesn't understand patterns enough to create them on his own but he can look at a pattern and determine what would come next which is a great start.
Carter retelling Five Little Pumpkins for Jake.
Talking about patterns.
  • I made another mat to go with our sensory bin that was just like our Play Doh mat. Carter would count out and give a certain number of acorns to the squirrel. He loved then setting them in a pile and pretending he was saving them for the squirrel for the winter. He also enjoyed adding extra nuts and asking me if he had the right number of nuts, then laughing when I checked him.
Counting out 9 nuts for the squirrel.
  • Carter had such a blast with the "What's in the Pumpkin?" game that I made up last year that I decided to play it again this year. He still enjoyed it but not like he had last year. I was impressed when I put a zero in the pumpkin and described that it meant you had nothing and Carter got it right away! He loved putting things in the pumpkin and having me guess but still doesn't really understand how to give clues.
  • Something else we did last year that Carter really enjoyed was I added different fall-themed items into a paper bag, had him close his eyes, reach in, feel them, and guess what was in the bag without looking. He wanted to do it for me after he had guessed a few items and thought it was hilarious to put a bunch of different items in the bag in an attempt to throw me off. He's always a joker! We tried playing with Elise and Carter thought it was hysterical that she just reached right in and grabbed the object without even closing her eyes. We were both cracking up over it, even though I had anticipated she'd do it, it was still funny!
Carter feeling to guess what was in the bag.
  • Elise had a couple of Hello, Highlights magazines, with fall-themed poems and Find It pages. I helped Elise find the objects on the Find It pages and then I let Carter do them later. We read the poems together and discussed the pictures, counting the number of certain objects in the picture and discussing what was happening. 
Carter looking at the pictures that went with a poem about fall.
Elise searching for objects in the picture.
  • When I was making the squirrel nut counting pages for Carter I had printed a couple different sizes of squirrels to determine what size of squirrel I wanted. I decided why not use them so I had Carter make up a story about a squirrel and we glued the pictures to each page to help him illustrate the story. He just added the background to the picture. He got tired of drawing toward the end so we saved the book to finish later, but I still wanted to add the pages here because they were so funny. I loved that he named his squirrel Scaredykeet!
Carter illustrating his book about Scaredykeet the Squirrel!

  • Of course we had to do our annual pumpkin painting, Elise's 2nd year and Carter's 4th year of painting pumpkins. It was so much fun to see how they have grown and changed over the years. This year was the easiest and most relaxed year of painting for me. Read more about our pumpkin painting here. When we were finished painting I threw all our clothes in the wash and let the kids clean off in a special pumpkin bath. I had the idea as I was dumping all our clothes into the washer and quickly pulled all the materials together. I had Carter tell me what colors to mix to make orange bath water and I put in our bath tablets to make orange water. Then I threw in some pumpkin toys from the sensory bin for them to play with. They thought it was the coolest thing ever! I'm thinking we'll have to make it part of our annual tradition.
  • Aldi had a special on pumpkins so we picked up another pumpkin for Ty to carve with Carter. Last year Ty let Carter pick what he wanted and then carved him Elmo. They haven't had a chance to carve it yet but Carter was already discussing possibilities. As a reminder of how to carve pumpkins, we read Carter's book he wrote last year, How to Carve a Pumpkin.
  • Last year I cut out a pumpkins to decorate during a Halloween-themed playdate. I had extras so I used them again this year. Carter decorated his pumpkin by ripping and cutting orange construction paper and gluing it to his pumpkin. Elise decorated hers by ripping construction paper, putting glue on her pumpkin, and then having me place the construction paper bits for her. After the first piece when she got glue on her finger she didn't want to put pieces on her pumpkin anymore. This activity wasn't as big of a hit with Carter as it had been last year and Elise wasn't very into it, so I abandoned the paper ripping when they lost interest. Elise finished her pumpkin by coloring it with markers and Carter finished his by drawing pumpkins inside his pumpkin.
    Elise coloring inside her pumpkin.
Carter practicing drawing a pumpkin.
  • Another activity that Carter did at school that fit into our learning theme was decorating a coffee filter leaf at school. They colored on them with marker and then sprayed them with water to watch the colors run.
  • At the end of our theme I decided to make a large Fall is... mural to combine some different craft activities I wanted to do and to show what Carter had learned about fall. I taped some leaves on the table and then taped a large piece of paper over the top. We made leaf prints and we also crinkled up leaves and glued them to the paper. As Carter decorated the poster I asked him what he knew about fall and added what he said on the poster. He drew lots of pumpkins on our paper and Elise drew a little bit on one of the corners.
Special Snack:
  • We picked up a can of pumpkin at the store and then I asked Carter what pumpkin-flavored treat he would like to make. He picked waffles and he and Elise both loved them. I used the same recipe I used last year, find it here. I like this recipe because it is healthier than others I have seen. Instead of sugar, it calls for honey and it also calls for whole wheat flour. I know waffles aren't a healthy breakfast food but with this recipe, I don't feel as bad about feeding them to my kids. Plus it's just a treat! They ate them every day for breakfast until they were gone and I served them with whipped cream on top instead of syrup to cut out some sugar. Carter always loves cooking with me and enjoyed helping me whip them up! Elise was cracking me up, eating the pumpkin puree as Carter and I mixed ingredients!
Make Believe:
  • We enjoyed pretending to be squirrels. I found a cute poem called Furry Squirrel that we acted out and then played. Carter liked collecting nuts and then we placed them on different parts of our body which was great practice for Elise. The poem was from a book I read, but I just wrote down the poem and not the book title. It goes like this and we acted each part out:
I'm a fur, fur, furry squirrel
With a bush, bush, bushy tail.
And I scamper here and there,
Scamper everywhere,
Looking for some nuts.
I've got nuts on my nose,
Nuts on my toes,
Nuts on my head,
Nuts in my bed,
Nuts in my paws,
Nuts in my jaws.
Crack, crack, pop!
  • Putting an acorn on Elise's head as we acted out Furry Squirrel.
  • One of the great things about sensory bins is they always bring out awesome imaginative play for Carter. He loved filling pumpkins with nuts and pretending he had made me certain foods. He would bring them to me and we would count to see how many nuts he had inside his pumpkin and I would pretend to eat his foods, mostly muffins and nut pies. Elise's favorite was putting nuts in the pumpkins and then dumping them back out.
  • Last year I made up a song for Elise as we played with acorns. I sang her the same 10 Little Acorns song this year and this time she enjoyed putting the acorns in the ice cube tray as I sang. The song goes like this:
1 little, 2 little, 3 little acorns.
4 little, 5 little, 6 little acorns.
7 little, 8 little, 9 little acorns.
10 little acorns by the tree.
Elise adding acorns to our pumpkin ice cube tray as I sang.
  • Last year I made up a 5 Little Acorns song to the tune of 5 Little Ducks. When Carter heard me singing to Elise he asked me to sing him this song. He loved acting it out as I sang. He would drop the acorns out of his hand and then show them roll away. When they came back he'd make sure to leave one over by me. It was cute to watch him act out the song.
5 little acorns fell from a tree and they laid there happily.
Mother tree said, "Hey, hey, roll back."
But only 4 little acorns rolled back.
4 little acorns fell from a tree and they laid there happily.
Mother tree said, "Hey, hey, roll back."
But only 3 little acorns rolled back.
3 little acorns fell from a tree and they laid there happily.
Mother tree said, "Hey, hey, roll back."
But only 2 little acorns rolled back.
2 little acorns fell from a tree and they laid there happily.
Mother tree said, "Hey, hey, roll back."
But only 1 little acorn rolled back.
1 little acorn fell from a tree and she laid there happily.
Mother tree said, "Hey, hey, roll back."
But none of her 5 little acorns rolled back.
Mother tree said, "Wah, wah, wah, wah. How could my little acorns leave me?"
Then mother tree, she realized, it is fall and that's what they do.

  • We read a couple of pumpkin poems I used to read in class along with a pumpkin song we would sing each year. The song is to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot". It was really cute to watch Carter do the actions along with me this year. He even tried to sing with me and started picking up more and more lyrics as the week went on. It goes like this:
I'm a little pumpkin, orange and round.
Here is my stem and there is the ground.
When I get all cut up, don't you shout.
Just open me up and scoop me out. 
  • We sang a couple songs I learned as a Girl Scout and at summer camp when I was a kid. I don't know if either of them have names, I just remember the lyrics.
Squirrel, squirrel, wag your bushy tail. 
Squirrel, squirrel, wag your bushy tail.
Wrinkle up your nose and stick it between your toes. 
Squirrel, squirrel wag your bushy tail. 

I'm an acorn golden brown lying on the cold, cold grown. 
Everybody steps on me, that is why I'm cracked you see. 
I'm a nut (click, click your tongue). 
I'm a nut (click, click). 
I'm a nut, I'm a nut, I'm a nut (click, click).
  • Carter enjoyed both this pumpkin carving game and this make a pumpkin game. I am loving the ABCya! website as I create my learning themes. It seems like they always have a fun age appropriate game to go with each theme I am working on. Most of their games are also compatible with a smart phone which is nice because Carter tends to have an easier time working on my phone than on the computer. He played both the games on my phone and enjoyed drawing out the pumpkin's face to be cut for a jack-o-lantern the most.
  • Carter also played Curious George Pumpkin Boo from PBS Kids on my computer. I love that he can use either the screen or the arrow keys for this game. He tends to struggle with the mouse so I like it when he has other options for moving the character in the game.
    Carter playing Pumpkin Boo although you can't tell due to the glare from the window.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • We went for a walk from our house. I planned to talk about the weather and how it felt compared to summer so we could discuss fall weather and how it's cooler. But then the day I planned to do it, the high was in the 90's. Instead of talking about the weather we went for a leaf and nut hunt, collecting our favorites for our sensory bin. We talked about the leaves as we found them, how they looked the same, and how they looked different.
  • On a different day when we had more fall-like weather we went on a hike at Turkey Mountain. As we walked we talked about how the weather felt. We compared how it felt that day to how it felt in the summer time. We also collected leaves as we walked and talked about the different leaves we found. We were collecting leaves for Carter to take to school the following day. He was really excited to show them to his teacher. Then we found an evergreen tree and he wanted to take some needles from it to show his teacher and to talk about how not all leaves change color. He was so cute saying he wanted to trick her with those leaves!
  • We tried out a different pumpkin patch than the one we've gone to the past few years and we loved it! It was the same price as our regular patch, but there was no admission fee. You just paid for an activity wristband for the kids so we saved by not paying my admission. Carter and Elise both had a blast jumping on the inflatables, looking at pumpkins, playing in corn, and running around. I also liked that this one was smaller and I didn't have to worry if Carter was in one area while Elise was in another because I could see them both at the same time. It was nice to let Elise do her own thing and not have to trail after her brother. We also went to the pumpkin patch when visiting my parents. At that one Carter got to pretend to milk a cow and ride on a wagon. Both pumpkin patches were a blast!
  • The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano
  • The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll
  • The Berenstain Bears and the Prize Pumpkin by Stan & Jan Berenstain
  • It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall
  • Fall Leaves Change Colors by Kathleen Weidner-Zoehfeld
  • Clifford's First Autumn by Norman Bridwell
  • Let It Fall by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
  • I Like Pumpkins by Jerry Smath
  • Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall
  • The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis
  • Patty's Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat
  • Perfect Pumpkins by Jeff Bauer
  • Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins by Dianne Ochiltree
  • Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Mary Peterson and Jennifer Rofe
  • Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
  • Nuts to You by Lois Ehlert
  • Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  • In November by Cynthia Rylant
  • One More Acorn by Don Freeman
  • Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
  • Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber
  • Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze by Maureen Wright
  • Let's Look at Fall by Sarah Schuette
  • Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins 
  • That Pup! by Lindsay Barrett George
  • From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer
  • Spookley the Square Pumpkin Colors/Numbers by Joe Troiano
  • Pumpkins by Ken Robbins 
  • Pete the Cat Five Little Pumpkins by James Dean 
  • Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino


  1. That was a long one! Carter using the acorns to the 5 little acorn song is cute. And of course, Elise had a medal on. The pictures were really cute. And, Elise with marker caps on her fingers. :)

    1. Isn't she hilarious! Combining the themes definitely made for lots of activities but it was fun!