All Hallows Eve is just around the corner! Here are some fun activities for your toddlers, preschoolers and big kids, to help get your family in the spooky spirit – without the sugar and sweets!
Pumpkin carving (or other winter vegetables)
A classic! Let your little one choose their pumpkin (from a local pumpkin patch, your own garden or the supermarket), then set to work on a design. This will help encourage their critical thinking skills. Younger children may need assistance with the cutting but do try to let them get involved where possible. Scooping innards, picking out seeds and carving (depending on the age of your child) is a great opportunity for sensory learning and developing fine motor skills.
Today, carving pumpkins into Jack-O’-Lanterns is famously linked with Halloween, however, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was Celtic tradition to carve swedes or turnips. The cut-out, unwanted pieces of the vegetables make a brilliant, gut-healthy Welsh cawl. You can find the recipe here.
Roasting pumpkin seeds
If you’re planning on taking part in activity number 1, don’t forget to save the edible seeds inside! Pumpkin seeds may be small, but they’re packed full of valuable nutrients and have many health benefits including lowering blood sugar levels.1https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21106396/ They’re high in antioxidants,2https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejlt.200390055 magnesium,3https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium#seeds and are a great source of dietary fibre4https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3066/2 – good news for your gut bugs!
Here’s how we roast pumpkin seeds here on the farm –
Tip the seeds into a colander and wash under cold running water, pulling away any pumpkin pulp. Dry the seeds thoroughly with a clean tea towel. Toss with olive oil and sea salt before spreading in a single layer onto a baking tray. Roast the seasoned seeds at 180c for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally to encourage even crispiness. Enjoy!
This is a good alternative for younger children that aren’t able to cut and carve independently. Using chalk paints, or good quality acrylic, little ones can create their own piece of artwork onto the skins. Painting is a way for children to explore colour, express their emotions, convey ideas5https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/early-care/tip-pages/all/painting-with-young-children and – especially so in this case – enjoy different textures.
A simple collection of old kitchen pans, empty bottles and jars, water, soil, picked grass, leaves and sprigs of herbs can make the perfect potion! Let them use their imagination to create messy ‘potions’ of their choice with different magic powers. This open-ended nature of play encourages creativity, curiosity and experimentation, not to mention the benefits of immune-boosting dirt!6https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-your-kids-microbiome-can-be-affected-when-they-play-outside
Halloween sensory bin
Sensory bins are one of my favourite play resources – they’re quick, easy and can be ‘themed’ to suit the season or occasion.
Here’s what you’ll need to create a Halloween sensory bin –
- Large storage box/container
- Dry black beans
- Dry red lentils
- Tongs and other utensils
- Containers, cups and bottles
- Dry leaves
- Pine cones
- Halloween/Autumnal-themed toys/small parts
Fill the container with dry black beans and red lentils to create a base. Bury Halloween and autumnal-themed toys and small parts such as plastic spiders, bats, acorns, pine cones and dry leaves in and around the beans and lentils. Place the utensils, cups and bottles etc. on top and watch your little one enjoy digging, filling and pouring. Filling and pouring activities help develop fine motor skills and provide opportunities to explore simple math concepts such as ‘less’ and ‘more’.
The great thing about a sensory bin is that almost all materials are free or inexpensive, and can be used again!
Apple picking – and baking!
Enjoy the last couple of weeks of apple season and go apple picking at your local farm, or even your back garden, if you’re green-fingered enough to have your own orchard. Popular varieties such as Pink Lady and Granny Smith ripen in mid to late October.
If you’re tempted by number 6 and have leftover apples, try apple bobbing! The game is played by filling a tub with water and putting apples to float in the water. Players then try to catch one with their teeth/mouth only. Use of arms is not allowed, and hands are placed behind the back to prevent cheating. This has proven brilliant fun for our whole family in previous years, from the youngest grandkid to great-grandmother!
Looking for more activities that help support your little one’s sensory and physical well-being? Check out 5 Outdoor Activities For Your Kids – suitable all year round! “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” ☔☀️❄️☁️