Where did our Pumpkin go?

Around the time of Hallowe’en, the children were captivated by a book we read called Pumpkin Jack. In the story, a boy could not bear to throw away his carved jack o’lantern so he placed it in his garden, on the ground among the autumn leaves and forgot about it. The story follows the pumpkin as it rots away and in the spring, a new shoot is found from one of the pumpkin’s seeds and eventually the boy is rewarded with a bumper crop of pumpkins, which he shares among his friends.


The children were intrigued by this story and it was read many times. We decided to find out what would happen to our pumpkin if we left it outside, although I explained to them that we had already scooped all the seeds out so there would be no regrowth. Here is the story of our own Pumpkin Jack.


  11 November

  2 December

  8 December

  19 December

  29 December

  13 January

  3 February

  24 February

  16 March

The children have loved watching the pumpkin “disappear”. In the early stages, there was surprise at each visit, accompanied by lots of “yuk” noises. As the weeks progressed, we talked about what had caused the pumpkin to rot; what might have eaten it; how the weather might have affected it. They still go over to the patch of soil now and point to where the pumpkin “used to be”.

Happy Mother’s Day!

We wanted to make something special for Mother’s Day so we began with a visit to our local garden centre so that the children could choose their own plants.

Then we set to work painting our plant pots. (But first, I attached masking tape around the pots to read “M U M M Y”.)

The following day, when our paint had dried and the masking tape had been peeled off, we planted our bulbs – a mixture of various dwarf narcissi and hyacinths.

Our mummies were AMAZED at home time when we presented them with their gifts – and we felt SO proud of ourselves!!! Happy Mother’s Day!

Halloween Saltdough Creations

First we made some saltdough. This should be incredibly easy to make: 1 cup flour, 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup water. Unfortunately, the first attempt was incredibly runny and I soon realised that I had given the boys 1 cup of water each. After some frantic rummaging in the cupboard for a new bag of salt, we ended up with twice the intended amount!!!

The boys know the drill by now: roll it out, cut it out, put it in the oven.


Nathan enjoyed cutting the dough with his knife.

He cut out a lovely window for his haunted house.

The saltdough needs to bake on a low heat (100c) for a good few hours. You can tell it is ready because it goes rock hard, which is the idea. If you want to hang your finished masterpiece up with ribbon later on, you need to make holes in it before it goes in the oven (the wrong end of a pencil is ideal for this).


The following day, we painted our masterpieces.

Check out J’s precision pumpkin painting.

J also did a great job with this bat/snake combination. He started to paint the snake green and I encouraged him to only paint the snake and not get any on the bat in the middle. He did a really good job, carrying on to paint the bat black just as perfectly. His concentration with this was admirable. (He then went on to paint over the snake again in black, just for good measure.)

Here are N and J’s finished masterpieces. I love the spooky ghosts at the top that we made from the boys’ footprints.

Painting with Conkers

We have been playing with conkers and pine cones recently. The children have spent time scooping them and putting them into pots, baking them in the toy oven, stirring them in cups of tea, sharing them out and transporting them around in vehicles.


Today we decided to use conkers in our craft activity. We put a piece of paper in the bottom of a washing up bowl and squeezed some paint on. This was very liberating as the boys do not often get their hands on the full bottles of paint!


Next, they dropped half a dozen conkers each into their bowls.

N positioned his conkers carefully on top of his splodges of paint, not sure what was going to happen next.

Much rolling and shaking followed. J was a bit under the weather and did not have much energy for this but loved the results when given a helping hand.

J got stuck straight in and soon decided that more paint was needed. He then dashed off into the lounge for more conkers too!

We got through many sheets of paper. (If you fancy trying this, make sure you have plenty of space to put the finished masterpieces.)

N then decided to take his conkers out of his bowl and roll them on a piece of paper by hand. (He then tried to pick the paper up, conkers and all, and they rolled all over the kitchen floor!)

Great fun!

Frozen Paint Jack-o-Lanterns

Today we painted with frozen paint and it was er… cool?! (Sorry – I know that was poor!) The night before I squirted some paint into an old ice-cube tray, stuck a lolly stick in the middle of each one and popped it in the freezer. To release the paint, I put an inch of hot water in the bottom of the sink and floated the ice-cube tray on it for a few seconds.


One of our recent library books is “Five Little Pumpkins” so, using this for inspiration, we set about painting our own jack-o-lanterns. I provided the boys with some white paper templates, green frozen paint “for the stem” and yellow and red to see what colour they would create for the pumpkin itself.


As you can see, “for the stem” was interpreted by N (27m) as “apply liberally all over”:


J (23m) is better at following instructions/less of a maverick and managed a lovely green stem on his right-hand pumpkin:

When you first use the frozen paint, the effect looks similar to using a wax crayon but as it begins to melt, you get more and more paint transferring to the paper. N found this very intriguing. He is very tactile with his artwork and decided to see what the paint felt like. “Cold,” he commented and realised that he couldn’t hold it with his hand for too long. He then decided that he wanted the blob of frozen paint off the lolly stick and started to rub the two sticks together to try to achieve this.


Here you can see that N has managed to break off a fair bit of the yellow paint. Interestingly, the red paint was a different brand to the other two colours and melted far more slowly.

J meanwhile was happy holding the lolly sticks and moving the paint from side to side. The holes cut into the paper for the face posed quite a challenge for him because he is very precise and did his best not to get any paint on the table. (N on the other hand got stuck in – his motto could be “the most paint in the most places”.)

After the boys had been painting the pumpkins for a while, I gave them some black paper and we put the white templates onto it. I reminded them of the page in the book where it is dark and you can see the glowing jack-o-lanterns and encouraged them to use the pumpkins as stencils and paint “the black bits”.


N finally got the blobs of frozen paint off the lolly sticks and decided that the most effective method was to smear it with both hands!

NB. I discovered that frozen paint is a great way for young children to use stencils effectively: give them a paintbrush and it inevitably goes all the way under the stencil – this does not.


Seed Window Art

Do you remember backing your school exercise books with sticky backed plastic? Well here’s another use for it. We used it to catch all the seeds from the seed heads that we gathered in the garden the other week.


First of all, I taped the sticky backed plastic to the table (sticky side up and with a piece of white A4 underneath as our tablecloth is too colourful for this activity). A quick reminder of how to get the seeds out and they were off. We had:


Vigorous shaking…

Careful pulling apart…

General tipping out…

Careful selection of individual larger seeds…


This is one of my favourite pictures. N (2y) was actually giggling in anticipation of the goodies inside as he concentrated on opening the sweet pea pod .

By this point, the sticky backed plastic was laden with seeds (and seed heads) and I wished I had left the same amount again with the backing paper still on so that we could have simply folded it over and stuck it together… Instead, we used some red cellophane from the craft cupboard and patted it down hard.

J (23m) discovered that it made a pleasing rustling noise and explored this further.

Ta daa! This one is actually N’s after he had “encouraged” a lot of the larger bits to drop out of the bottom! (He had as much fun doing this as he did creating his masterpiece, to be honest.)


Exploring Seeds

I always try to draw the children’s attention to things going on in the garden and this time of year is full of change as summer moves into autumn. The sunflowers that we planted a few months ago have all bloomed and withered but there is still fun to be had with them – and plenty to learn about.

I cut three of the sunflowers down and presented the boys with one each. They explored the textures of the different parts and waved them about. A few of the seeds fell to the ground and we talked about what they were and examined the seed heads further.


The obvious next step for our inquisitive young minds was to find out how to extract more seeds. J (23m) used a pincer grip to pull them out. A (4y) used brute force to pull the head apart and release several at once.


He then tried to help J with his sunflower. In the meantime, N (2y) was waving his sunflower about and hitting it against the table, successfully releasing seeds.

Then he dropped it on the ground and quite a few fell out. His next discovery was very effective: he decided to stamp on it! This resulted in lots of seeds to gather up and put in the table.


When the boys grew tired of the sunflowers, I showed them the seed pods on the faded sweet pea plants and they couldn’t wait to see what was inside. We examined withered brown pods and fresh green pods and discovered that the seeds inside were different colours and textures.


We talked about how we must never eat anything that we find in the garden and why, even if it resembles a familiar fruit, berry or vegetable.

After that, we wandered around the garden looking for more seeds. We found poppy seeds and listened carefully to the noise the seeds made when we shook the seed heads.

We tipped the seeds out onto our hands. They were much smaller than the large sunflower and sweet pea seeds.

We found fluffy seeds, compared them to dandelion clocks and talked about them being carried on the wind.

There were lots more seeds to be found and we carefully placed all our seed heads into a container, ready to use for next week’s craft activity. All I need to do now is think of something to do with them!


Roald Dahl Day

Today is Roald Dahl Day, in official recognition of this amazing author’s birthday. Although the little ones have yet to discover the brilliance that is Roald Dahl, we thought we would celebrate the day with some suitably messy craft activities.


Our first source of inspiration was The Twits, or more precisely Mr. Twit’s beard. Mr Twit has the most disgusting beard in history with all sorts of putrid food items stuck within it. So vile is Mr Twit that he occasionally digs into this filthy larder to eat scraps of fish, cornflakes and cheese, but for some reason he thinks that his horrible hairy beard makes him look dignified.


To begin with, we needed LOTS of glue:

We added shredded tissue paper to build it up a bit and lots of brown paint (with added glue for good measure!)


Craft is always most satisfying to N (2y) when he is not entirely sure whether he is supposed to be making such a mess!

Next we added bits of food and a few leaves and twigs from the garden!


Here’s a close-up of N’s finished beard – he really went to town!

Having set the beards aside to dry, we continued with our supposedly less messy Big Friendly Giant ears inspired by The BFG.


Very cleverly (or so I thought), I totally avoided the use of the phrase, “Paint your ears.” (You may remember that a while back, I slipped up when we had drawn outlines of the boys on the patio with chalk by instructing them, “Now colour yourselves in”…)

Then this happened:

(Phew – painted sides on the outside)

More painting:


Followed by this:


And here we have them (or at least two of them): our Big Friendly Twits!


Painting Wheels

Our boys are very interested in vehicles at the moment and particularly in tractors and trains. We spend a considerable amount of time looking at pictures of these in books – pointing to big wheels, little wheels, counting them etc. For today’s painting activity, it seemed obvious to use wheels as our inspiration so I dug out various circular objects from the junk modelling box – toilet rolls, lids, bottle tops, sticky tape rolls etc. and encouraged the boys to make pictures of wheels.

Pasta Necklaces

The boys have been quite interested in the lacing cards recently so we decided to expand on this and made necklaces by threading penne pasta onto shoe laces.


It was quite tricky getting the shoelace through the pasta and out the other end but our 1 and 2 year olds persevered.


This was a great activity for developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination through active learning.


The boys persisted with the activity even when some of the pasta fell off again.


They maintained their focus until they had threaded all the penne onto their shoelace.


And they were rightly very proud of their accomplishments.


Next came the painting. The necklaces moved about on the table as they were being painted.

F (22m) decided to paint the shoelace as well as the penne.

Everybody was hard at work.

We talked about the colours of the paint we were using and we shared the paint pots, swapping the colours back and forth.

And of course, we regularly stopped to admire our handiwork!

Ta daa!