Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

May the Great Pumpkin find you this Halloween night!
Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 27} Pumpkin Carving!

A couple of weekends ago, we made a trip to the pumpkin patch and finally over this past weekend we made good on our promise to the tot and carved the gorgeous pumpkin she had picked. I have to say, outside of the actual trip to the patch itself, this is the single most fun thing we've done all autumn. Just as I suspected, the tot brought her usual curiosity and enthusiasm to this project, and we all had a ton of fun as a result!

No sense in wasting any time! We promptly got the top off that pumpkin and went to work emptying the inside. The tot got the hang of that job in about two seconds flat!

Even Zephyr the Long Dog got in on the action! The tot did a great job scooping out the seeds with her hands, and even with a spoon. The pumpkin guts are a sensory lover's dream!

After the inside of the pumpkin was as clean as we were going to get it, I presented the tot with two options for her pumpkin's face. I wanted to give her a choice, while at the same time keeping things fun and not overwhelming her with too many choices.  Before I even showed her the two choices, I knew what she would pick - but what kind of mommy/early educator would I be if I didn't at least give her the option?

The tot declared she wanted a "Boo!" face on her pumpkin, so Mommy got to work drawing it on the pumpkin, and Daddy lent his mad carving skills to finish off our masterpiece.

When all was said and done, the tot squealed with delight...then promptly moved on to the next thing (which just so happened to be chasing the dog around the living room). I was impressed by how long she stayed engaged, and how much she talked (and is STILL talking) about our pumpkin carving adventure. We can't wait to do it again next year!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 26} Painted Pumpkins

There are so many ways to play with pumpkins - rolling them, stacking them, carving them, of course! - but did you know there are also so many ways to get creative with them? We recently painted some miniature pumpkins and gourds with purple paint - it was a blast and I was excited to see where the tot would take things. As usual, she blew me away with her level of engagement. And very unusual for us, she didn't even make that big of a mess!

I actually didn't have any purple paint on hand, so I mixed together blue and red until I got a nice deep shade of purple. It was quick and easy and gave us a nice fall hue to glaze over the orange of the pumpkins.

The tot got right to work and loved every minute of it! Pretty soon she had those gourds covered in purple paint and we had a lovely addition to our autumn decor!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 25} Leaf Collecting & Pressing

We're going on a leaf hunt! We're gonna find some yellow ones! And boy...did we ever! I have been looking forward to collecting leaves with the tot since last autumn, and this year we really hit the jackpot!

We headed out to our favorite park on a perfect, sunny fall day. I have to brag on my kid just a little bit - she is a pro at finding gorgeous fall leaves! Pretty soon our bag was filling right up!

Once our bag was filled to the brim, we headed home to check out our findings. We had quite the stash!

Next, we laid out a huge piece of contact paper, sticky side up, for pressing our leaves. 

Helpful hint: Determine how much contact paper you want and cut it from the roll. Then, fold it in half and only take the backing from one half of the paper. Tape down the whole thing and go to town with the leaves. When you're finished, remove the backing from the other side and fold it over. This makes it so much easier to line up, and it helps to ensure a good seal. 

We had collected so many leaves that we ended up doing two huge sheets of contact paper and having enough left over to get a nice little sensory basket going. The tot was so proud of her creation that she showed it off to anyone who would look. I thought it was so beautiful that I ended up hanging it up in the living room of our house, where it can properly be admired by all who come to call.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 24} Indian Corn Prints

If you have read this blog even just a little bit, you've undoubtedly picked up on the fact that I adore doing art projects with toddlers - the messier the better! I also love incorporating unconventional tools into everyday art experiences, and luckily I have a kid who shares my enthusiasm. We recently had a blast painting with Indian corn - a little touch of autumn incorporated into an experience we have quite often. Needless to say, we made a huge mess - and had a ton of fun in the process!

I started off by hacking a large piece of decorative Indian corn into two pieces, which turned out to be a lot more difficult than I'd imagined. Duly noted for the next go around! Then I used those handy little corn holder thingies that you use for eating corn on the cob to create handles for L to hold onto while she was painting. Add some autumn colored paint to a pie tin and we were ready to rock and roll!

After a quick tutorial on dipping the corn and rolling it on the paper, L was set to go. It didn't take her long to figure out how to roll the corn across the paper, all the while telling me about the fact that the corn was now orange. Clever girl!

The girl has mad skills! The technique was so much easier with the corn handle thingies than in the past when I've tried to have students do it by holding onto the ends of the cob. It was very satisfying listening to the clunk of the corn and the splatter of the paint on the paper - a feast for the senses!

The finished masterpiece was absolutely gorgeous! And don't let the photos fool the time we were finished, L's shirt was completely covered in paint! I've never been one to let a little mess scare me away from an awesome art experience, which is a good thing, because the paint also seeped through her shirt and turned her belly orange and brown! How festive!

Are you incorporating seasonal items into your kiddo's play experiences? What have been some favorite activities?

Monday, October 22, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 23} Acorn Math

After an unexpected hiatus (filled with illness, long hours at work, and transitioning L into a new bed), our family has finally been able to get back into the swing of things and focus on some fun! It has been a rough couple of weeks in our house, but I am so excited that L and I were able to get back to doing what we do best: playing! In keeping with our Playing Through Autumn series, I recently presented L with a simple bowl of acorns. I wasn't sure exactly what she would make of them, but as usual, she found a way to make the simplest materials engaging.

The first thing she wanted to do was count the acorns. She's been really into counting lately, so it was fun for her to have such a big number of items to count. Pausing only briefly to discuss the fact that squirrels eat acorns, she counted them for quite some time.

Our next phase of acorn-y goodness brought us to talking about the size of the acorns. L noticed that some were "teeny tiny" while other were "big, big, big." She took to holding one in each hand to check which one was the "littlest."

After that, we got out a cookie sheet and lined them up in a row. L loved scattering the acorns across the sheet and listening to the sound they made. Very musical!

I have to admit I was pretty impressed with what a simple bowl of acorns could do for my kid. Having never been much of a math enthusiast myself, I really strive to get L excited about mathematical concepts. All on her own she was counting, patterning, and comparing sizes, with very little prompting from me. Plus, since we have been reading so many books concerning autumn, she already had a pretty good knowledge base about the acorns. I love autumn for so many reasons, and now I have another to add to the list!

How have you been incorporating the season of autumn into playtime? Are your kids interested in any particular aspect of the season?

Friday, October 12, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 22} Books We Love: Halloween Round-Up Part 1

With Halloween rapidly approaching, it's only fitting that this edition of Books We Love be devoted to all of the wonderful picture books surrounding the holiday. L has become OBSESSED with all things Halloween in the past few days, and of course books are no exception! Here are just a few of the titles we've been voraciously devouring this week - I'm betting they'll make your little ones howl too!

Room on the Broom
Written by Julia Donaldson 
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Five Little Pumpkins
Illustrated by Iris Van Rynbach

It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse!
Written by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

Pumpkin Eye
Written & Illustrated by Denise Fleming

The Night Before Halloween
Written by Natasha Wing
Illustrated by Cynthia Fisher

We can't get enough of these books! They are silly, not-so-scary, and perfect for little ears! Tune in next week for Part 2 of our Halloween Book Round-Up! Until then, happy reading...and happy haunting!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 21} Pumpkin Patch Adventures!

All autumn long I look forward to visiting the pumpkin patch, and this year it was especially meaningful, as I got to share it with a wonderfully curious, stop-and-smell-the-flowers kind of kid. Though we did visit a pumpkin patch last year, L was not yet walking and so her ability to follow adventure wherever it led was a bit limited. This year, however, we had been talking about our trip for over a week, reading books about pumpkins and pointing them out everywhere we went. I was so excited to share this experience with her, in fact, that I woke up at six a.m. on the morning of the trip - and we didn't even venture out until after her afternoon nap!

Upon arrival at the patch, L did pause just long enough for an obligatory photo op before trundling off to check out all of the farm animals and kiddie attractions. For a moment there, I thought we might have to remind her of why we went there in the first place - the pumpkins, of course!

We hopped onto one of the tractors heading out to the pumpkin fields - finally, we were going to search for our pumpkin!

My curious little adventure seeker headed out into the fields right away. She of course wanted the first pumpkin she touched, which would have been fine except for the gaping hole on the underside. We convinced her to move on and sure enough, after that lesson, no one pumpkin was a good as the next one!

Finally we managed to narrow it down to just one perfect pumpkin. We hopped back on the tractor and got ready to head home - but not before a quick photo op with the big winner for the day. Victory!

Of course, getting the glorious pumpkin out to the car was only the beginning. We had to make sure our find made it home safely, of course!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 20} Ziploc Bag Painting

We absolutely ADORE painting activities in our house, and more often than not painting activities turn into sensory activities, with L slathering paint on every available surface of skin she can find. Generally this isn't a problem, but when I'm trying out ideas for my classroom on my beloved tot, I have to be a bit more clever in the mess department. Recently I tried a color mixing/painting activity with my kiddos at school (originally designed for a child with some sensory issues, who loves art but hates to be messy) inside a Ziploc bag. They turned out so great that I decided to give it a try at home with L. I wasn't sure how she'd like this one, sans mess and all, but she really enjoyed the whole process and the paintings turned out really cool.

I slid a piece of paper into a Ziploc bag and squeezed in a bit of red and a bit of yellow. Autumn colors, yes, and also primary colors that ended up mixing to create another lovely autumn hue - orange!

At first, L wasn't really sure what to make of this sandwich bag glob of paint in front of her. Once she touched that amazing squishy texture, however, she was won over in an instant!

She had us laughing so hard, as she kept looking at her hands for the mess! She definitely missed the opportunity to cover her body in paint, but she enjoyed herself all the same.

It was such fun to watch the yellow and red blend together to create orange. The leaves are finally starting to change in our area, so these colors have been a hot topic of conversation for us lately. Once she was finished, I very gently peeled the bag away from the paper and laid it out to dry. As a delightful bonus, the inside of the bag was a lovely work of art in itself, and it will look fantastic hanging in our front room window! Two for the price of one and nothing to clean up besides!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 19} Spider Sorting

L has been all about counting lately. She just mastered counting to ten by rote, and she's well on her way to counting with one-to-one correspondence. I wanted to capitalize on this interest of hers, so we recently did a little sorting and counting with a Halloween twist.

I found this irresistibly cute silicon baking tray while out and about the other day. Who could resist all that Halloween fun? To this I added those cheap little plastic spider rings (I had a bunch left over from our Halloween rainbow rice sensory bin). Voila! Instant Halloween counting activity.

L quickly got busy sorting those spiders into the baking cups. We placed one spider in each section, counting as we went. Once we hit six, we dumped it out and started all over. It was great fun!

After a few rounds, counting to six lost a bit of its luster, so L went to her rice table and retrieved several more spiders. We lined them up in rows and counted them again and again. There is nothing like engaging a child with something that interests her - we've been at this spider counting thing for several days now!

Monday, October 8, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 18} Autumn Discovery Basket

Discovery baskets (or bins) are fantastic for open-ended play: just fill up a basket with any number of materials and present them to a child - she'll take it from there! I have been having a lot of fun presenting L with various discovery bins over the past several months, and of course I couldn't let autumn pass me by without letting her get her hands on some of the best things the season has to offer: in this case, miniature pumpkins, gourds, and fabulous red Indian corn.

I decided to put the items in a wicker basket rather than a plastic bin (which I typically use) to carry on the natural feel of the gourds and corn. Actually, L had helped me pick these things out at the market a couple of days before we did this activity, and she was so surprised and happy to see everything again!

She especially loved the corn - we talked about the bumpy texture and the crinkly stalk. She even tickled my nose with it!

After the initial exploration, L took emptying and refilling the basket with all of the items. She has been very into counting lately, so I used the opportunity to work on counting with her, using one-to-one correspondence.

As the activity began to wind down, we also learned something new about gourds: if you drop them, they bounce!

We both loved this activity! It was so simple and yet presented us with so many opportunities for language, math concepts, and sensory experiences. 

Have your kiddos had a chance to experience some of these fall items? What else would you add to your own discovery basket?