We set off on a double nature study these past few weeks all about pumpkins and falling leaves. Fall is one of our favorite times of the year. Here’s all the fun we had exploring autumn’s blessings.
We used several books from our home collection for our study on pumpkins and fallen leaves. Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills and One Leaf, Two Leaves Count With Me by John Micklos Jr. have been used for a few years in our home now, and we love these two titles just as much still. We also read a page from Outside Your Window A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies, and used Usborne’s Lift-the-flap Nature book, specifically the leaf identification page.
We listened to and watched several songs and clips about falling leaves and pumpkins via YouTube. A long time favorite we’ve used in the past, was episode 9 from Super Simple’s Treetop Family: Falling Leaves. You can see all the songs and clips we enjoyed for this theme by clicking the photo above.
One afternoon, we collected our favorite fallen leaves from around the yard. We talked about the different colors on each leaf, and Grace narrowed down her absolute favorite. I had planned for us to make a simple leaf mobile to hang in a window, one activity of many that’s featured in our Autumn Booklet available in our Etsy Shop. However, after seeing several posts about preserving leaves in wax, and having some leftover beeswax pellets from a previous project, we decided to preserve our leaves first.
I grabbed a cookie sheet and lined it with wax paper and set it aside the burner we would be using. Using a small pot and a glass bowl* to make a simple double boiler, we dumped our 4oz container of beeswax pellets into the glass bowl and placed it on top of the pot of water. As the water heated to a boil, the beeswax began to melt. We stirred the wax occasionally until it was all liquid, then I turned the burner off. Using a pair of silicone tongs, Grace picked up each leaf by its stem and dipped it into the wax, coating both sides. I did have to help her making sure the whole leaf was covered, and she did drop a few in the wax, but all in all she did a great job of using the tongs and dipping the leaves. After each leaf was dipped, we placed them on our wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry.
*I thought it was important to note, that beeswax can be difficult to remove from the bowl you are using for melting. You can either dedicate a bowl for melting wax, or try placing the bowl in the freezer after it’s cooled down. In my experience, leftover wax will come out of bowls much easier, once frozen.
It took us a few days to finally hang our preserved leaves, and while they did continue to darken in color after we preserved them, I think our fall leaf mobile still turned out quite sweet. We found a stick from our yard and I just hot glued the stem of each leaf to the stick, and added a simple piece of yarn to hang. Unfortunately, I dropped our mobile (mom fail), which resulted in several broken leaves and a stick in pieces, so we don’t know how long our preserved leaves would have lasted. Still, Grace had a wonderful time during the whole process, and it’s something we plan to do again.
We picked up a pack of Jack-o-Lantern eggs from Target, that paired perfectly with this awesome tracing printable we snagged for free from the folks at The Primary Parade. I placed alphabet erasers (also found at Target) in each egg, and placed them in a bin with shredded paper to resemble a pumpkin patch.
Grace had to pick an egg, crack it open, find the letter on the printable, name it, and using a crayon trace the uppercase letter she had discovered in the egg. Note: I only grabbed one pack (24 count) of these eggs. So after Grace picked out the first two, I placed the remaining 2 erasers in those eggs an returned them to the patch for picking. This was our first time doing a tracing activity like this one, and I think she did an awesome job! While Grace is able to identify a good amount of letters, there are still some she has a hard time identifying by sight. To my surprise, instead of asking me, “What letter is this?”, she would sing the alphabet song following the letters until she reached the one she didn’t know. It was a proud moment for this Mama, as she worked to find the answer herself.
We snagged a few pumpkins from a local church one Sunday afternoon, including a small one perfect for us to cut in two to explore the different parts of a pumpkin. I had previously purchased some awesome pumpkin resources from Stephanie Hathaway Designs via Etsy during a sale, and we put several of her printables to good use one beautiful fall afternoon.
First, we looked at the Parts of a Pumpkin printable. After naming each part on the page, Grace was able to look at our halved pumpkin and point out the various parts listed on the printable. I encouraged her to touch the different parts. Once she got to the inside though, she was not having any part in touching the pumpkin’s guts. I had wanted her to help me scoop out all the seeds for another activity, but ultimately I was the one to dig them all out after looking at the Life Cycle of a Pumpkin printable, also by Stephanie Hathaway Designs.
After going over the various stages of a pumpkin’s lifestyle, Grace was able to work with a glue stick to glue the stages in order from 1 to 6. She did a great job naming the pumpkin’s stages from seed to full sized pumpkin, and picked the stages out correctly to glue down on the activity. Once finished and after I had saved the pumpkin seeds, we placed the halves behind our fence for a tasty Autumn treat for any backyard creatures to enjoy.
Those pumpkin seeds I collected were washed and dried so they could be used for our next activity. We snagged this printable from Glitter and Glue and Pre K Too to use with our Jack-O-Lantern eggs again. This time, I placed different quantities of pumpkin seeds (1-12) in 12 eggs and added them back into our “patch”.
Grace had to pick an egg, crack it open and count the seeds that were inside. She then had to find the matching number on the printable, and paint the corresponding pumpkin with watercolor paint. She choose to make rainbow pumpkins, and did an awesome job of counting the seeds in each egg. There were only a couple of times she counted too fast, but once I asked her to count them again slowly, she would get the right number.
We talked about the leaves changing colors a lot during the past few weeks. Grace has loved watching all the colors appear in the trees, sometimes seemingly overnight. Anywhere we would go in the car, Grace was constantly saying “Look at that tree, it’s red.” or “Mommy, that tree is yellow and orange.” One evening, I told Grace we could paint a fall tree, and asked what colors she thought the leaves should be. She choose red, orange, and yellow. I grabbed those paint colors and placed a dollop of each together on a plate. I took several Q-Tips and bound them together with hair ties to create three different bunches for her to dip into the paint and stamp the leaves. I gave her a a piece of card stock with a tree I had drawn with a brown marker, and showed her how to dip one of the bunches into all three of the paint colors and then stamp it onto the tree.
Grace enjoyed this activity, and was mesmerized by our new “paint brushes”. She even invited me to join her, and this process of painting was really neat to see and experience. Without me even mentioning it, Grace wanted to put leaves on the ground of her fall tree picture as well. I think it turned out great!
We brought out our previous year’s fall Target find—a leaf identification puzzle, that stayed out in our living room with our other fall decorations. Grace played with this puzzle almost daily. On one of our numerous leaf hunts in our backyard, we tried to find some leaves that might match some of the leaves on our puzzle.
We had no issue finding tons of maple, oak, and tulip poplar leaves. In addition to trying to match each leaf’s shape to the puzzle, Grace also wanted to match by color. Unfortunately there are no blue leaves in our yard, HA!
We had a lot of fun exploring nature, observing the leaves changing, and learning about pumpkins these past few weeks!