The abundance of natural items in the fall makes it the perfect time to extend children’s learning, both indoors and out. In fact, learning will abound as you collect and explore fall items, and extend activities into different areas of the curriculum.
Collecting Fall Items
As children go on nature walks and visit farm markets, plan for a variety of ways to bring fall items (leaves, acorns, apples, pumpkins, pine cones, etc.) back to the classroom.
- Egg Carton Collection: In pairs or alone, children can collect small items. One item for each egg carton section.
- Number Bags: Write a number on each bag given to the children. Then let them collect only that many items. This causes children to look carefully and make choices.
- Color Matching: Using construction paper scraps, fabric swatches, or paint chips, you can put each child “in charge” of a certain color. In this way, each child will be more focused in his or her observations.
- Measure It: Use pieces of yarn or ribbon or a line drawn on a paper bag as a measuring tool. Challenge each child to find an item “as long as” the measuring tool.
- Partner Explorations: Give each pair of children a list they can “read” with visual cues and a bag for collecting. On the list could be: one red leaf (visual of leaf), two small rocks, etc.
Exploring Fall Items
Now explore the fall items collected as you help children develop many basic thinking skills. Some of the key skills and related questions include:
- Matching: Can you find another one like this? Which one is the same?
- Sorting: How could we sort these into groups? Can you find ones that are the same in size? Color? Shape?
- Counting and Comparing: How many red ones are there? Are there more yellow or red ones? How many long and short altogether?
- Patterns: Can you copy this pattern? Red apple-green apple-red apple… Can you extend this pattern: acorn, leaf, acorn, acorn, leaf?
- Graphing: Begin by using the real objects to complete a graph on a large sheet of paper. Another time, use a colored square of paper to represent each object on a small sheet of paper. Compare the results: Which column has more, less, or an equal amount?
- Line Up: Place five or six fall items in a row and describe one without naming it. Can the children guess what it is? Can they give clues about another object without naming it? Play a memory game by removing one object from the line-up and having children guess what is missing.
When learning about fall objects is extended into other areas of your program, children’s experiences and thinking are broadened. Art, science, cooking, and musical games are natural avenues for expansion.
- Pine Cone Painting: Roll pine cones in paint and then onto paper and observe the interesting textures produced.
- Acorn Roll: Place leaf-shaped paper into gift boxes. Using spoons, dip acorns into paint and then place in the box. Roll acorns around to create designs on the leaf paper.
- Leaf Wreath: Cut the center from a paper plate for each child. Spread glue over plate ring and press leaves onto it for a natural wreath. Punch a hole and tie with yarn for hanging.
- Nature Mask: Cut eye holes out of a paper plate and let children glue on natural items to make a mask.
- Natural Mural: Cut a three- to four-foot section of clear adhesive-backed paper. Peel off paper and lay on table, sticky side up. Encourage children to press natural items onto paper. Hang in a window by punching holes and using yarn. There is no need to cover with another sheet of sticky paper.
- Pound a Leaf: Place a sheet of muslin over a leaf outdoors on a sidewalk, pound with a mallet or rock, and watch the leaf color and print appear.
- Drying Apples: Peel a whole apple and cut in eyes, nose, and mouth. Hang by stem or place on paper plate and allow to dry. Compare to the size and color of the whole apple.
- Same/Different: Slice and simmer apple slices in a pan or microwave and compare to raw apples. What is the same? What is different?
· Blender Applesauce: Peel and core six apples and have children cut into chunks. Place in blender with ¼ cup honey and a few drops of water. Blend and eat.
- Harvest Time Game: Prepare an assortment of paper apples of different types and colors (Macintosh, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, etc.) and tie a piece of yarn on each. Invite half of the children to wear an apple and stand in the “Apple Orchard.” Let the other half circle round, singing (to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”):
We see an apple orchard, we see an apple orchard,
Hi! Ho! It’s harvest time. We see an apple orchard.
Choose one child to “pick” an apple from the “orchard” and sing:
She’ll pick a Granny Smith, she’ll pick a Granny Smith.
Hi! Ho! It’s harvest time. She’ll pick a Granny Smith.
Then the child and the “apple” join the circle. The game is repeated until everyone has a turn. Vary the game by visiting a pumpkin patch singing, “We see a pumpkin patch” or by pretending to be leaves singing, “We see some colorful leaves.”
- Fall Mix-up Game: All of the children wear a colorful leaf around their necks and stand by color on a matching carpet mat or picture. Play some instrumental music and encourage the “leaves” to fly around. When the music stops, each color goes back to its designated spot. Vary the game by using the apple or pumpkin props from the Harvest Time Game above.