samendoza
Wednesday 7th , 2015
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It is fall everyone! Also known as pumpkin season in my house. Pumpkins make it feel like fall in Southern California even though it isn’t getting cold and the leaves don’t really change color. Here are some fun ideas to really enjoy this magical fruit.  

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SEEDS

Depending on how you look at it scooping out those seeds can either be the best part of pumpkin carving or the most annoying. For our little ones it is normally the best part, inside that pumpkin is both squishy and slimy but also filled with seeds to pull out.  This can be great on its own for a sensory experience but if your child is a little older you can do some fun things with those seeds other than roast them. 

Seed Activity 1: PUMPKIN SLIME!

It is no secret here at Kidspace that I love slime and can find a way to tie slime into any program. Well fall is no different, before you remove all the guts and seeds add equal parts liquid glue and liquid starch into your pumpkin. What you will end up with is a squishy, slimy and stretchy filling.  Even though glue and liquid starch are nontoxic if you want to be extra careful for little ones mix equal part water and cornstarch to make pumpkin oobleck which is just as fun. 

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Seed Activity 2: PLANT IT!

If you are able to get an heirloom pumpkin do it! These will be pumpkins that you find at more organic grocery stores and farmers’ markets and allow you to grow new pumpkins from the seeds. You can collect the seeds to plant later in spring or you can just through some dirt into your pumpkin and watch it grow right from there. The decomposing pumpkin will actually help a new pumpkin grow. If you want to save those seeds for later here is a great reference. http://www.farmflavor.com/saving-seeds/

DECORATING

Carving is the most popular way to decorate your pumpkin this time of year but it is terrifying to watch your child even use those plastic knives in the kits. Here are some other ideas you can use to decorate a pumpkin this year.

Tip #1- remember it is all about the process of decorating the pumpkin not how well the product looks in the end. Keep this in mind that not all your pumpkins have to be a masterpiece. 

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Painting

Either let your child go to town with painting the pumpkin, exploring the different bumps and groves, do the colors look different on the orange pumpkin from the white paper? How well does the paint stick to a pumpkin (vertical surface will make the paint run down)? These are all great observations your toddler will have while painting the pumpkin.

 

Older kids can put tape or stickers then paint to make some removal art, or give them some abnormal painting supplies (only recommend it for slightly older kids because it is more expensive and they are less likely to waste it. Good for toddlers too don’t worry) Have them use squirt bottles, glitter and even glow in the dark paint to make a pumpkin special to them. 

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Carving

If you want to go the more traditional route once again remember it is about the process not the product. Rather than giving them a special design that will make a beautiful pumpkin version of Anna & Elsa, remember carving is a hard task even for adults. Go for the traditional Jack-O-Lantern look by using basic shapes.

Tip #2- Instead of cutting off the stem of the pumpkin cut a circle on the bottom. This way you can light your candle then place the pumpkin on top which protects fingers!

Feeling brave? Let your older child use unconventional pumpkin tools like drills, small mallet with golf tees and even Mr. Potato head parts make some really cool pumpkins.

Tip#3- if you want to avoid leaving a fire going unattended, even a small one use either electric reusable candles or glow sticks from the dollar store. Glow stick may not be reusable but who else will have a pumpkin glowing purple!

 

COOKING

If you choose to paint and just decorate your pumpkin rather than carving it you can also use your pumpkin to make a healthy snack.  Needless to say pumpkins are normally big and bulky so the idea of cooking them seems like a huge ordeal but it doesn’t have to be. Try out 

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these easy pumpkin cooking techniques to complete your fall bucket list and use it to make pies, breads or even baby food.

  • Step 1. Wash the outside of the pumpkin with warm water taking care to scrub off any dirt, paint, glue or stickers if necessary. Remove the stem and cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds (you can save them to roast) and the stringy parts of the inside of the pumpkin with a spoon or an ice cream scoop.
  • Step 2. Place the pumpkin halves skin side up in your slow cooker and cook on high for 2-3 hours or until a fork pierces through the skin of the pumpkin easily. Allow the pumpkin to cool enough to handle and then scrape the flesh from the shell with a spoon.
  • Step 3. Use the fresh pumpkin as you would canned pumpkin. Mash the insides with a fork to remove lumps or you may choose to puree it in a food processor or blender before using to get a very smooth texture.

Tip #4- Store pumpkin flesh in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

As you can see there is more than one way to play with a pumpkin and we barely even scratched the surface! I encourage you to use pumpkins as painting tools or do some science by testing out if something that big sinks or floats. Have you ever worked on your math skills by figuring out how many pumpkins you are tall? This fall season explore the world of the pumpkin by thinking outside the box!

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Blog by:

Samantha Mendoza, Outdoor Education Specialist, has been with Kidspace since 2011. Her previous experience includes teaching at the Los Angeles Zoo and St. Louis Zoo.