Exploring Pumpkin Guts

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Pumpkin carving is an obvious Halloween activity, but don’t neglect what a fantastic sensory experience the whole process is, even before you get to that spooky carved face. And that goes not just for toddlers, but for big kids, too!

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First, I set out our biggest pumpkins, along with newspaper underneath, a tray to catch all those insides, and a few zip-top bags. The kids had eagerly awaited this moment, as we’ve decorated smaller pumpkins here and there in anticipation. I invited them to explore the giant pumpkin first: the texture, the color, the smell, etc.

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Then we cut off the top (grown-up step!). Now, the lid is like a puzzle piece that kids could take off and fit on over and over again.

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Time to scoop! Pumpkins are fascinating inside, starting with those stringy guts and slippery seeds, and then scraping down to the firmer flesh. I spooned some of the insides onto a tray for Veronika to explore with bare hands.

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She also wanted to smell it!

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I also sealed some in a zip-top bag in case the goop made her squeamish, but she actually preferred the stuff on the tray!

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She also loved stirring through the mixture with our pumpkin scoop, which we could also tap against the pumpkin to play it like a drum!

Exploring Pumpkin Guts (9)At last it was time to carve. We shifted a bit from sensory mode to learning mode, because as I popped out the first eye, Veronika said, “A triangle! I want a square.”

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So now I was on the spot to carve a square nose!

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The final sense to explore in a pumpkin is taste of course. We rinsed the seeds (which easily separate from the stringy stuff). Pat dry, then toss with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (Note: We had one cup seeds, so use more or less oil and salt depending how many seeds your pumpkin yields).

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Roast at 400 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes, then enjoy!

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A Sweet and Safe Halloween

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Halloween is here! After the anticipation of a month-long countdown, I had to make sure our safely socially distanced trick-or-treating didn’t disappoint. To wit, there were three ways the kids got candy tonight.

First up, instead of knocking on neighbors’ doors, consider every door in your house as a new spot for candy. Bathrooms and closet doorways count! The kids knocked on each one and a bag of candy was waiting inside.

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Bonus points if you can rig up a way to make each door eerily open on its own. I’m going to ponder that for next year…

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Second, hide treats in the backyard. So that kids can spot them in the dark, add a glow stick to each one. The glow sticks were arguably more exciting than the candy!

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Finally, our neighborhood held a costume parade, which was a great way to let kids see each other’s get-ups but stay six feet apart.

Halloween (8)My little trick-or-treaters came home with quite the haul. So it’s safe to say, Halloween did not disappoint.

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Halloween Countdown Day 30: Reverse Trick or Treat

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We’ve reached the penultimate day in our month-long countdown to Halloween! That meant it was time to teach the kids about giving back this year, not just taking all the treats for themselves.

This is a project we actually started two weeks ago. Since Travis loves animals, we decided to host a cat food donation drive (get it, for black cats in honor of Halloween?), but truly you can pick any charity or cause and start collecting donations toward it.

We printed up a flyer and distributed it in Travis’s grade at school.

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Within one day, the donations started pouring in. His teacher even made a donation bin decorated to look like a black cat!

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We were overwhelmed by his schoolmates’ generosity. In ten days, Travis collected 172 cans of cat food (plus one huge jar of treats!).

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Now all we needed to do was deliver. We bagged the cat food (while listening to our favorite spooky tunes of course), turning it into a whole family affair.

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The next afternoon, we drove over to make the delivery. The sign on each bag read Happy Halloween to the cats!

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This activity was so purr-fectly rewarding that we might just make it an annual event.

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Which organization would you reverse trick-or-treat? Please share in the comments!

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Halloween Countdown Day 29: Do the Monster Mash

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If you need to pump up the volume in the final stretch before Halloween, then simply queue up the Halloween tunes! It doesn’t matter what spooky song your crew listens to, as long as everyone does the boogie(man) boogie!

Veronika was soon obsessed with the Ghostbuster’s theme song and paraded around singing “ghost busters!” at the top of her lungs. Monster Mash was also a fast toddler favorite.

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Travis wanted super spooky, which meant we had to dig deeper into the Halloween vault. Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the overture from Phantom of the Opera upped the ante!

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We soon decided we needed ghost dancing partners, so put together classic ghosts: wrap a cotton ball in a tissue and secure with yarn. Add marker eyes and an 0 mouth to each, and then break out the spookiest dance moves you know!

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Halloween Countdown Day 28: Watch a (Sorta) Spooky Movie

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No matter what your kids’ favorite cartoon or show is, chances are there’s a Halloween special to go along with it. These seasonal episodes are fantastic for kids because they tend to be a little bit spooky, but tame enough for even toddlers to handle. That means the whole family can enjoy the fun!

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Here’s a roundup of what Travis and Veronika have watched this month:

Wild Kratt’s: Creepy Creatures

If you Give a Mouse a Pumpkin

Daniel Tiger: Dress Up Day

Ready Jet Go: Jet’s First Halloween

Word Girl: Tricks and Treats

Peg + Cat: The Halloween Problem

The grand finale was the most classic of all, cuddled up on the couch for It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

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Other ideas, though we didn’t watch them, include a spooky Paw Patrol (try Pups and the Ghost Pirate) or Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat.

Meamwhile, if you need the perfect snack during all those scary episodes, it turns out that October is (no surprise) National Popcorn Poppin’ Month!

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In celebration, we tested out 5 new popcorn toppings over the course of our viewings:

Melted Chocolate

Ranch Dressing

Vegan Parmesan sprinkles

Taco Seasoning

Cinnamon-Sugar

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The verdict: Taco seasoning was too spicy for everyone; Veronika liked melted chocolate best; and Travis preferred plain old melted (vegan!) butter.

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Spooky Treat Holders

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These easy treat containers are a great way to hand out Halloween candy this year without kids reaching into a communal bowl. Make a few or a lot, and leave on a patio or table where kids can easily take a single serving. They’re a fun alternative to a standard treat bag.

To assemble, first wrap empty toilet paper tubes in crepe paper or ribbon. I made one version with orange ribbon and another with white crepe paper. Other fun ideas include: green (for Frankenstein!), blue (for silly monsters!), black (for bats!) or even tricolor white-orange-yellow for candy corn.

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As you wrap, you’ll need to work carefully, wrapping one side of the paper or ribbon and then applying glue before wrapping the next section. Wrap, glue, wrap, glue, repeat until the tube is completely covered.

Now add details with pieces of cut construction paper or marker. For example, add wiggle eyes to the blue monster, if you’ve used blue crepe paper or ribbon. Our orange ones became pumpkins and white became ghosts.

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You can then use either cellophane treat bags or regular zip-top bags to stuff candy inside. I filled baggies with a few treats (make sure the stuffed bag is narrow enough to fit inside the tube), and insert into your spooky creations.

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We’re ready for contact-free trick-or-treaters!

Halloween Countdown Day 27: Doll Trick-or-Treat

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The kids won’t actually be knocking on doors and shouting out “trick-or-treat!” this year, so I wanted a way for them to at least simulate the fun. An easy alternative? Have all the dolls in your house stage a practice round before the big day!

This was a fun way to show Veronika, especially, what the holiday normally looks like since she’s too young to remember last year. We used a pack of Smarties (the perfect doll-sized treat) and sprinkled a few behind the door of her dollhouse.

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The kids were having so much fun with the charade that we set up a whole neighborhood. Soon there was a castle and a stable in town, with treats behind each door. Knock knock!

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I loved watching the kids play this simple game together as our countdown nears the grand finale.

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Halloween Countdown Day 26: Pumpkin Power

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It turns out that October 26 is Pumpkin Day, as if the gourd needs one specific day in a month that seems to be all about it! But we took the opportunity to test an unappreciated ability of pumpkins: to generate electricity!

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Much like those old potato or lemon experiments, you can hook up two pumpkins to make a clock run or an LED light turn on.

I originally tried to follow online instructions, but had to maneuver things a little differently to line up with the particular items that came in a fruit-battery kit we purchased. The set-up looks like this: lnsert a cooper strip and a zinc strip into each of 2 small pumpkins.

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Use an alligator clip wire to attach the copper strip from one pumpkin to the zinc strip from the second pumpkin.

Now, use a second wire with alligator clip to attach the zinc strip from the first pumpkin to the negative node of either a multimeter, clock, or LED light.

Use a third wire with alligator clip to attach the copper strip from the second pumpkin to the positive node of the multimeter, clock, or LED light. Hopefully the photos in this post make all that clearer!

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Your circuit should be complete.

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Travis was wowed watching our clock blink on. At one point we left it running for over an hour.

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Why does this work? Pumpkin flesh has acid (though not as much as lemons), which means the zinc strip will start to lose electron ions. Those ions travel over to copper, which generates electricity.

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Now that’s pumpkin power!

Halloween Countdown Day 25: Spider Countdown

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We’re one week away from Halloween, and it was time for a countdown-within-our-countdown! With only a few days left, I had to up the ante on the anticipation for the kids.

I had originally planned to hang plastic spiders on a large piece of black felt for this activity, adhering them with Velcro sticky dots. But I couldn’t find a large enough piece of black felt, so had to improvise a bit.

I painted a piece of poster board black, then added Velcro dots (and some hot glue for extra security) to attach white yarn in the shape of a spider web.

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o make the “spiders”, first fill plastic Easter eggs with a few small candies (we love Giggles, an organic alternative to Skittles), or other Halloween trinkets, then close tightly.

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Use hot glue to add pipe cleaner legs and a Velcro dot to the back of each spider.

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Add the other halves of the Velcro dots to your poster board (or felt, if using) and then stick on the spiders. Now mark each spider with dots in permanent black marker. The first spider gets one dot, the second gets two, and so on up to seven.

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In the morning, the kids came down and discovered this web of delights. I asked Travis to find the spider with only one dot, which he then proudly pulled off and opened up for a surprise.

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Needless to say, candy before breakfast meant happy kids.

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Tomorrow they’ll move on to spider #2. This should tide them over until the big day!

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Halloween Countdown Day 24: Hallo-Bowling

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In the summer, it was giant inflatable unicorn bowling around here. Now that it’s fall, it was time for Hallo-Bowling!

To make this spooky spin on regular bowling, first cover paper towel tubes with white crepe paper. You’ll need to work carefully, wrapping a layer of crepe paper, applying glue, wrapping again, and then repeating all the way down the tube. It was almost like making mummy wraps!

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I then added big round Os for eyes and mouths with black marker. Set up your pins in a triangle, and now here’s the extra Halloween twist: your bowling ball is a round pumpkin!

The rounder your little pumpkin, the better. Then just set up the pins and give it a roll.

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Travis, especially, loved watching those wide-eyed ghosts get knocked down.

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