Pouting Pumpkins, Grinning Gourds, Smirking Squash

Yes, Costco now has 5 aisles of Christmas décor, but it is still pumpkin season for at least a month!  Do you have a pumpkin at home yet? 

Incorporating seasonal themes into your child’s therapy sessions is an easy and fun way to generalize learned concepts to new materials while introducing the changing seasons.  Varying therapy materials also increases your child’s flexibility and may make therapy sessions more engaging.

Google or search Pinterest for “preschool pumpkin play” or “pumpkins classroom” and you will be inundated with ideas…  Rolling a pumpkin or pulling it in a wagon to strengthen gross motor muscles, painting a pumpkin or pounding golf tees into a pumpkin to develop fine motor skills, smearing shaving cream on a pumpkin for a novel tactile experience, teaching shapes with jack-o-lanterns, counting pumpkins, writing sight words on pumpkins, etc. etc. etc.

Today I want to share three simple pumpkin play ideas for teaching or generalizing skills from the Body Parts lesson, the Emotions lesson, the Physical States lesson, and the Body Language and Facial Expressions lesson in Skills.

Each of these activities is quick and simple with minimal prep and clean-up.

The first activity is coloring faces on a pumpkin.  All you need is one or more pumpkins, washable pens, and a damp sponge.  Simply draw a facial expression on the pumpkin.  When you’re ready for a new face, wipe the first one off and start over.

The second activity is making felt jack-o-lanterns.  You will need orange and black felt and scissors.  Cut out one or more large pumpkin shapes (or let your child do this, if appropriate) and then cut out different shapes for eyes, nose, and mouth (and ears, eyebrows, hair, mustache, etc. if you are focusing on body parts).  You can use stiffer felt for the pumpkin, or mount the pumpkin on cardboard to make it more resilient.  Once all the pieces are cut, use the black facial features to create different faces on the pumpkin.  If you plan to work on matching or comparing emotional expressions, make at least two pumpkin shapes and two sets of all facial features.

The last activity is a more permanent version of the felt pumpkins.  You will need orange and black construction paper, scissors, and a glue stick or white glue and a cut up sponge (pour a little glue on a plate and dip the sponge in the glue and then apply to the paper.)  You or your child can draw and then cut out pumpkin shapes from the orange paper and cut shapes and facial features from the black paper.  Once cut, your child can glue the facial features onto the pumpkin to create different faces.  (This activity also provides a review of shapes and if your child does the coloring, cutting and gluing it is a great way to maintain motor skills, and task completion skills.)

Once your materials are prepared, get ready to play!  I’ve listed a few options below.  Refer to your child’s Skills curriculum or speak with your child’s therapists or supervisor for specific ways to generalize mastered skills or practice skills on acquisition using these activities.

–          Matching Body Parts, Emotions, or Physical States (You will need two sets to do any matching activity.)

–          Receptive Identification of Body Parts, Emotions, Physical States, or Facial Expressions

–          Naming, Manding or Tacting Body Parts (Mr. Potato Head Pieces can also be used with a pumpkin for this or any other Body Parts activity.)

–          Demonstrating emotions/physical states/facial expression

–          Naming Emotions, Physical states or Facial Expressions out and in context.

–          Prediction of emotions and physical states

–          Causal Identification of emotions and physical states

Note: Coloring on the pumpkin provides the most opportunity for detailed facial expression and possibly body language.  For more complex and contextual emotions, physical states, facial expressions and body language, place the pumpkin in different locations in the home and in different scenarios.  For example, place a “hungry” pumpkin in front of the fridge, a “frustrated” pumpkin next to a pile of blocks, or a “bored” pumpkin at the child’s desk with homework.  Older children may be able to create their own scenarios.  Take pictures of the pumpkin in different locations to create a silly scrapbook that captures the concepts learned during the activity and use the scrap book to hit the concepts further.

For more Halloween Ideas, see our posts from last year: http://blog.centerforautism.com/2012/10/30/boo-ks/ and http://blog.centerforautism.com/2012/10/24/trick-or-treat/