Fall is family pumpkin, fun time

Since family time is often short, how do we make this precious time effective, efficient, fun, and relaxing for all? Any activity like playing with pumpkins can be spiced up with a little learning. Activities can be enhanced by a little science, math, and reading. Talking together increases vocabulary needed to learn reading.

Be mindful of young children’s characteristics like short attention spans and easy frustration. When they are finished with an activity in their minds, they are ready to move on even if adults are not.

They function better if there is a variety of a quiet activity followed by an active time and another quiet time with a snack.

For more family leaning activities to take the pressure off raising children and tips, see grandparentsteachtoo.org, wnmufm “Learning Through the Seasons” pod casts and live on WNMU-FM Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays 8:35 a.m.

Jack-O-Lantern learning

Measure the circumferences and weigh your pumpkins. Place them in order from smallest to largest. Plan together on paper first before carving your pumpkins. Decide what kind of face your pumpkin should show. For weeks children can draw practice pumpkin faces with markers and wash them off.

Help little ones with eyes, nose, mouth, and ear placement on the pumpkin. Talk about the shapes you will use. Usually, adults cut off the top and carve the features with a sharp knife, but everyone can reach inside and pull out the slimy strings and seeds. Do children know some other fruits that have seeds inside? Save some seeds for planting later.

Using the cleaned and dry pumpkin seeds from the carved pumpkin, predict of how many seeds are inside. Then for preschoolers, count them out, making piles of 10 seeds each. Older children can count the piles by 10’s or rearrange the piles and count by 5’s. Some children will be ready to count every seed up to 100 or more. Was the guess correct? Were there more or less than what you guessed? Were all your pumpkins the same?

Pumpkin seed snack recipes

Rinse seeds under water and pull off clumps of pulp. Dry, then toss in a bowl with oil or butter and seasoning of your choice like salt, parmesan cheese, garlic, curry, or a cinnamon. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 300 for about 45 minutes or less. Check them often.

Seeds can also be cooked in a microwave oven. Prepare as above and cook in a microwave safe dish at high heat for 2 minutes. Stir seeds and continue cooking in one-minute increments until seeds are crisp and golden. Sprinkle toasted seeds with seasonings. Always cool before serving.

Editor’s note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It’s supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book “Learning Through the Seasons” is available at area stores and www.grandparentsteachtoo.org. Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.