Fall Harvest Unit for Preschool
I don't know about you, but I LOVE fall! It is my favorite season. The changing of the leaves, the pumpkins, the cooler weather, it just feels so cozy. It also makes a great theme for our home preschool. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram then you may have seen that we visited a farm recently for their harvest festival. It was a great way to introduce our fall harvest theme.
We went on a train ride, had a picnic lunch, picked Indian corn and popping corn, ate homemade pumpkin spice ice cream, saw some animals and even picked a few pumpkins. Emerson was really into the corn picking and loved opening the husks to see what all the brightly colored corn. Emmett loved seeing all of the farm animals and couldn't get enough of the pumpkins. I love that we can drive a little ways away and feel totally surrounded by nature even if only for a day.
When planning for our Fall Harvest Unit I knew that I could incorporate a lot of what we saw and did at the farm. Here is a look at all the fun we had.
Corn Painting- We made good use of our Indian Corn by using it to paint. I squeezed some red and yellow paint onto a cookie sheet and have each kid an ear of corn. They rolled it in the paint and then rolled it all across a large piece of paper. It was neat to see the pattern that the corn kernels made on the paper. Their hands were covered in paint by the end, but they had a great time.
Fall Squish Bag- This is a super easy activity that is great for developing fine motor skills. I had Emerson help me make it and then both kids enjoyed playing with it. We used a gallon sized ziplock bag and filled it with clear hair gel. We used a whole bottle from the dollar store. We added a few drops of red and yellow food coloring, faux leaves, pom-poms, corn kernels and glitter. I sealed the bag and put some clear packing tape across the top to make sure we didn't have any leaks. As they played with the squish bag the food coloring mixed and turned orange which they thought was magical. We used this bag throughout the week as a transitional activity if they had to wait a bit for me to get things ready.
Leaf and Nature Hunt- Here in the Bay it doesn't really start getting cold until November so we've had some pretty warm weather even though it is fall. So don't be alarmed that my kids are in flip flops and shorts! When learning about fall you have to get out there and experience it! We went for a walk around the neighborhood and searched high and low for signs of fall. We collected leaves of all colors and sizes, pinecones, acorns and even some fun looking sticks. Each of the kids had their own paper bag and they were both overflowing by the time we made it home. They loved playing with all their treasures throughout the week and we even used some of the pinecones and leave for other activities.
Leaf People- Emerson loved this project. We read the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert and then used some of the leaves we gathered on our nature hunt to create our own leaf people. I was really impressed with how well Emerson was able to create a person out of the leaves. She didn't need any help at all. Emmett mostly enjoyed squeezing the glue bottle and added a few leaves here and there.
Pumpkin Dissection- One of my favorite activities for fall preschool units is to dissect a pumpkin. It covers so many learning areas; sensory, math, fine motor, science and critical thinking. I cut the top of our pumpkin and then let the kids explore the inside without any direction. Emerson was not a fan of the pumpkin guts because they were so squishy, but Emmett loved sticking his hand inside and getting all of the seeds. We talked about how pumpkins grown and estimated how many seeds were inside. Emerson helped me wash all the seeds and then we laid them out to dry. The next day we counted them together and we had 481 seeds! It was a great way to work on counting past twenty. We ended up cooking our pumpkin and making homemade pumpkin puree that we can use later for pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie.
I found a pumpkin ice cube tray at the dollar store and we used that to help us count out all of the seeds. I was really impressed when Emerson started putting one seed in the first slot, two seeds in the next, three in the next and so on until she got to ten. I had planned to do that later in the week by writing the numbers inside the pumpkin slots, but she went ahead and did it on her own! Emmett had fun working on his fine motor skills by picking up the seeds and placing them inside the pumpkin slots.
Alphabet Leaves- I found packages of faux leaves at the dollar store and knew they would be great for an alphabet hunt. I wrote both upper and lowercase letters on the leaves and then threw them around the living room with some of the unmarked leaves. Emerson and Emmett then had to find all the leaves with letters on them. Once we found them we decided to put them in alphabetical order. This is a great activity for working on letter recognition.
Writing in Applesauce- I love to use a variety of material for writing practice and what better material than applesauce to go with our fall harvest theme. I loved this one because it was taste safe for Emmett. Emerson got started right away making letters that she knew. Then I would tell her a letter and she would practice writing it in the applesauce. Emmett got some sensory play in and then it turned into more of a snack for him!
Sprouting Pumpkin Seeds- We used a few of the pumpkin seeds from our pumpkin dissection and decided to see if we could get them to sprout. We took a damp flour sack towel and wrapped them up inside. We then put the towel in a large ziplock bag and placed it in a dark cabinet. We let them sit for a few days and then when we took them out a bunch of them had sprouted! They had grown so much that the roots had gone all the way through the towel, so when we took them off we broke a few of the roots. We planted them in a pot on our patio and are hoping that they will grow into pumpkins by next fall. This is a great science activity and can be done with many different kinds of seeds or beans. Emerson was so excited when we found that they seeds had sprouted.
Foil Tree Painting- I had seen this art project on pinterest here and wanted to try it for ourselves. First we painted with brown paint and made our tree trunks. Once the trunks were dry I gave them each a ball of foil and laid out some red and yellow paint. They dipped the foil ball in the paint and then made leaves for their trees. It looked really cool and was a unique way to paint. Our paintings don't look exactly like trees, but for us it's more about the process than the product.
Leaf Paintings- We taped some leaves onto paper and then painted on top of them. Originally I was going to then take the leaves off to leave some "leaf prints" where they had been, but Emerson worked really hard to paint an American Flag on her leaf and Emmett was a bit aggressive with his painting so some of his leaves fell off on their own, so I just left the leaves in place. It was a fun way to incorporate nature into our art.
Pumpkin Volcano- The kids loved this foamy science experiment. Really, what kid doesn't love watching the reaction between baking soda and vinegar? We cut the top off of a small pumpkin and scooped out the insides. Then we added a bit of baking soda, a pump of liquid dish soap and then vinegar. Then we watching it bubble and fizz and overflow out of the pumpkin. I kept adding a bit of vinegar and watched it bubble over and over again. They both wanted to touch it and had some fun with the soapy foam.
Pumpkin Boats- I used our volcano pumpkin and one other pumpkin to create boats for the kids to play with in our sensory table. Emmett played with it for a little bit and it was cool to watch the pumpkins float around, but honestly they weren't that into this activity. When my kids don't show a lot of interest in an activity I don't push it. I left the pumpkins out for them the rest of the week and they played with them for a bit here and there, but overall they just weren't that interested.
Corn Sensory Play- We had some leftover corn kernels from last year's harvest festival and we used some of the corn we gathered this year to create a corn sensory bin. All you have to do is pick off all the kernels from some ears of Indian Corn or buy a bag of popping corn. I added shovels and some of our farm animals to make it extra fun. Both kids enjoyed this activity, but Emmett especially loved it. I did catch him with a few kernels in his mouth a few times so if you try this will toddlers make sure to keep a close eye on them. I kept this sensory bin up for a few days and would let them play with it whenever we had some free time or in between activities.
Our Fall Harvest theme was a whole lot of fun. If you try any of these activities at home let me know or use #meghanmakesdo on social media. I'd love to see your take on these projects.