Pumpkins provide so many fun opportunities to learn and practice important skills. Plus, who doesn’t feel festive when surrounded by bright orange pumpkins? We have already visited at least one apple orchard and pumpkin patch this year, so I was inspired to find lots of ways to use them in our learning. I was also thrilled to find a book that ties math and other lessons into the fun that pumpkins provide.
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How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? was written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This book follows the kids in Mr. Tiffin’s class as they explore pumpkins, learn about estimating, and practice skip counting. They also learn an important lesson about not judging people or items by what they see. When Charlie and his classmates get to the classroom one morning, they are surprised to find 3 pumpkins on Mr. Tiffin’s desk. He encourages them to guess how many seeds there are in each pumpkin, and leads them on a lesson to find the answer. They not only practice important skills while trying to solve the puzzle, but also learn that initial reactions don’t always tell the whole story. .
Pumpkin Addition – If you have the ability to visit a local pumpkin farm, or even a grocery store or Farmer’s market that sells them, use the opportunity to help kids practice addition by adding the prices of different sized pumpkins. For young kids, you could have them count up the pumpkins you are purchasing as you add them to the cart. You could also have kids estimate the total you will have to pay when you purchase them.
Estimation – Ask kids the same question that Mr. Tiffin asks his class. Take a look at the size of the pumpkin, the color and the amount of lines on the outside of it. All of these play a part in guessing the amount of seeds on the inside. Write down your estimates so you can see who was closest.
Engage the Senses
Cut a Pumpkin – Carefully cut into the pumpkin and remove the stem so you can see the inside. Have kids scoop out the seeds and innards and place them into a large bowl. Make sure you have lots of towels or newspaper surrounding your work area since this part can get messy! Encourage kids to use their senses to describe how the pumpkin smells, feels and looks (tell them they can try the seeds after they’re roasted if they are stubborn about using ALL the senses!).
Roasting Pumpkin Seeds – Use a colander to rinse the seeds and separate them from the rest of the pumpkin bits. Fill a pot with lightly salted water and boil the seeds for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds and toss with olive oil. Lay them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Roast them at 400 degrees until they are browned. Timing can range depending on your oven and the size of the seeds – from 15 to 40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.
Find the Seed – This is a spin on the pumpkin sensory bag. I filled a Ziploc bag with the insides of the pumpkin, but left one seed in. She had so much fun pushing the stuff in the bag around trying to find the one seed! This is a great sensory experience for young kids who aren’t old enough to trace letters into the bag, as we did last week.
Finding the Answer
Skip Counting Printable – I created a fun printable to help kids sort their seeds into groups to practice skip counting. (Click the photo below to access your free printable). Have them decide how they want to group the seeds (twos, fives, tens, etc), then carefully sort the seeds. When all of the seeds are placed into a group, have kids count the groups. You can use a hundreds chart or number line to help them if they get stuck. Check your answer against your estimations from earlier. If you have multiple kids and you purchased different pumpkins for this project, maybe the child with the closest estimation gets to have the first choice for which pumpkin they want to carve for a jack-o-lantern.
Snack Time – Enjoy the fruits of your labor by snacking on your pumpkin seeds! Talk about the lessons you learned from the book and make your plans for carving Jack-o-lanterns. You could also practice skip counting in different groupings with your snack.
Pumpkins provide so many learning opportunities and sensory activities! What are your favorite pumpkin activities to do with your kids? Share in the comments below!