Hands On Play with Pumpkins

At the beginning of October, I set out to find just the right real Pumpkins for my annual Pumpkin Party !   This year, I had a new goal, to find a variety of sizes, from very small to very large.  I was led, in part by a desire to demonstrate a growing pumpkin in the field as I read “The Biggest Pumpkin Ever” by Stephen Kroll.   And, as I, and my students, continued to explore the opportunities of playing with real pumpkins, there was so much more that we learned with these unique vegetables.

I LOVE the book, “The Biggest Pumpkin Ever” by Stephen Kroll because of the story line, AND how easy it is to make the book come alive.  I love the story of two separate characters who work hard, over time, to make their hopes come true.  It is an excellent example of the work and persistence needed to grow something in a garden.  And I LOVE how they handle the conflict when they discover that someone else is involved with the SAME pumpkin.   The book often switches between day and night, and it adds a fun visual element, when reading it, to turn the light on and off in coordination with these changes.  This year, I opted for storytelling instead of reading.   The class was divided, one half was invited to be the country mice, and the other half to be the country mice, and each side had their turn to come up to the pumpkin and pull weeds, water it, etc.   And, yes, it was fun to switch out a smaller pumpkin for a slightly larger one along with each change in the book.  The best part was watching the looks on their faces as I rolled out the BIGGEST PUMPKIN EVER  (at least the biggest pumpkin I could find in town).  WOW !

Then I brought out ALL the pumpkins, from small to large, and we had fun rolling them all around our circle of friends.  “Roll that Pumpkin round the Town”.   Pumpkins offer a variety of sizes, of texture, and of weight that is not offered with typical ball play.  The children were challenged to use their muscles differently with each size pumpkin; gently for the smaller ones, up to a LOT of effort for the BIG ones.  It was fascinating to see them tackle this challenge.  And I marveled at the science they were learning through these hands on explorations. 

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During the next three weeks of  our regular classes, we put out Ms. Debbie’s Pumpkin Patch for gathering time in each of my Kindermusik classes (ages range from infants up to 7 years old).  This basket was filled with small and medium pumpkins, as well as hand sized bells in the shape of pumpkins, and our round wooden clackers.  The bigger pumpkins were rolled out separately.   ALL could be rolled between family,  and friends, instigating some fun social interactions.  This variety gave them the opportunity to figure out which ones made sounds, and which didn’t; which ones they could pick up, which ones just had to be rolled, and which were just too heavy to move. 

It was fun to watch each child reveal their preferences, whether they enjoyed the sound makers, or the small pumpkin rolling activities, or if they liked the challenge of the BIG pumpkins.  For some, the challenge was finding a way to sit on it, some wanted to see how much they could stack on it, some just HAD to make it MOVE, or learn the easiest way to roll it to a friend.  Some just wanted to pose for pictures !  I hope you enjoy the slide show as much as I do !

My Pumpkin Patch Basket also included some pumpkin accessories, a set of pumpkin glasses, large felt pumpkins with Peek-a-Boo holes, some pumpkin shaped cookie cutters, and a pumpkin decorated popper (a round rubber toy that you set up on the ground and let it pop up.)   This offered a wider variety of explorations to meet the needs of each child where they were at that time.  Some enjoyed peek-a-boo games.  Older children had fun BEing the pumpkin !  Some just liked playing with the basket.

In the distant past, my perspective of pumpkin fun, the actual USE of pumpkins, was limited to decorating the outside of it, decorating WITH them, or enjoying the gooey pleasure of cutting it, emptying it, and carving a design in it.  (I’m not a fan of pumpkin foods.)  Making a real Jack-o-Lantern is fun, and young children can help with some aspects, but it is not really an appropriate activity for very young children.  And they can’t play with it afterwards.    


Although, I must admit, each year I am highly humored at some of the unique works created by pumpkin artists.  My favorite this year was this “pumpkin birth”.  It came across my Facebook feed, and I just had to share.  Now that’s creative !

I did not fully plan, or expect, where the unique explorations of our pumpkin patch would lead us.  Each year that I have held a musical Pumpkin Party, I have learned NEW and fun ways to explore pumpkins and the themes that surround them.   This year, the fun of playing with real pumpkins, uncut, has really burst out of the box.  I LOVE the way children help me expand my perspective.   I look forward to seeing what I will learn next year !

Please SHARE your unique brand of pumpkin fun with us !

Kindermusik and Gingerbread Art FUN

Bake, Build, Sing & Decorate !

Our Kindermusik & Gingerbread Art Event, at the Bay Street Bistro in downtown Lakeland, was Fantabulous.   An hour of fun interactive Kindermusik activities based on the music set “Bake, Build, Sing, & Scrub” was perfect preparation for the Gingerbread Art to follow.  Families came away with lots of new playful ideas for kitchen learning.  They LOVED using cottonballs as dough !

Families enjoyed playing with Ginger Play Dough – rolling, cutting shapes, and making ornaments.  THEN, each had their own house to build and decorate.  Stephen Blois, the chef at the Bay Street Bistro, designed and prepared our gingerbread houses.   Carolyn Espina, the art teacher at InTune Studios, made the Ginger Play Dough (and provided everyone a recipe), and headed up the building and decorating of the houses.  Of course, the true creativity came from within each child, with their parent supporting their ideas and efforts.  Enjoy the slide show. 

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There are still more Gingerbread Events in the near future.

Book and Art class with Carolyn Espina at InTune Studios

“I’m the Gingerbread Man” book & 3 types of Gingerbread Man art activities

Tues, Dec. 14 – 9:30 am.   and/or   Tues, Dec. 21 – 9:30 am.

Gingerbread House building & Decorating for the Big Kids ( 5 and up)  with Stephen Bloise, Bay Street Bistro Chef, AND Carolyn Espina, InTune Studios Art teacher. 

Monday, Dec. 20th  3:00 pm. at the BAY STREET BISTRO in downtown Lakeland

For information or to enroll in either event, call Carolyn Espina:  581-5282

Sleigh Rides and Bell Horses

There are TWO fabulous classic folk songs about jingle bell horses and their fun sleigh rides.  While singing or listening to these fun songs, have some fun with different ways to make this song come alive for your child.

Over the River and Through the Woods”  is a Thanksgiving classic.  My FAVORITE book featuring this song is a Scholastic book by the same name, illustrated by John Steven Gurney. (It also comes with a recording of the song.)  After reading/singing it through once, we always go back through and talk about all the fun winter activities that are going on in the beautifully illustrated winter scenes.   Since we live in Florida, it helps to have a good reference into this mysterious world.

Jingle Bells” is simply a song about the same activity – sleigh rides with jingle horses.  It was originally written for a Thanksgiving program, but was so popular, it was revisited at Christmas and instantly became a favorite classic.

These are some fun ideas I’ve introduced in my Kindermusik classes.  For more information, see my website.

Sleigh ride fun while singing these song:

  • Use fingers to trot around on your child or on the floor while making a jingling sound.
  • Place them on your lap, and keep a steady beat bounce.  At the end of the song, make lots of fun HORSE sounds.  Let them hold some jingle bells while bouncing.  (Make sure the bells are safe for the child –  typical jingle bells may cut child’s tongue if mouthed). 

  • Use a blanket or towel and pull your child around  –  let them play with some safe jingle bells.  Enjoy making horse sounds.
  • Have the child use a blanket to pull their favorite stuffed characters around.

  • Use a long scarf as reigns for your little horse.  Wrap the scarf around the front of their body and under their armpits, with the long ends trailing in the back for you to hold onto.  Let them hold, or wear, bells if you have them.  Have your horse lead you around the room, or even the yard.
  • TRADE – the adult becomes the horse, and the child becomes the sleigh driver


I PROMISE these activities will leave lasting memories of the fun times that you and your child share, as well as provide them with the knowledge of the songs of our culture, and of our history. 

For more blog posts on Thanksgiving themes, click here.

I’d LOVE to hear if you know of additional songs about bell horses and sleigh rides – OR, if you have any additional ideas for interactive sleigh ride activities.

Follow me to Kindermusik

I LOVE watching happy children enjoying the act of making music with others –  in this video, as well as in my Kindermusik classes each week.   And your heart will truly melt when YOU see YOUR child so happy to learn and explore, and show you what NEW things they can do, or songs they can sing.   Your house will be filled with joyful music (that you won’t mind listening to over and over again).

It’s amazing how, in less than a minute, you can see so many of the wonderful benefits of these group musical activities (and that’s just the benefits for the children – there are lots more for the parents as well.)

Children are born with a love for music.   To help them build that love into skills can make such proud children, and proud parents.  From the first time they clap, to their first song you can recognize, to realizing they are keeping a steady beat to the music, to hearing them sing on pitch, to watching them play a song on an instrument,  Kindermusik is there with you every step of the way.

So PLEASE share a fun story about your musical child that made your heart swell with pride!

Fathers find music great for child bonding

It is absolutely awesome when fathers are able to come with their children and participate in the music activities at Kindermusik.  Each time, the child is SOOO proud to have their dad by their side, playing, sharing, and singing.  I LOVE to hear those male voices in my classes, and to watch these heartfelt interactions, fun lap bounces, exploring instruments together, and dancing.  But dads especially come in handy for swinging activities !

I just wanted to share a slide show of some fathers in Kindermusik this last year.  When watching it, you might get some good ideas for fun activities with your children, just add music.

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Hello Weather, Let’s Make Rain Hats and Rain Shakers

We’re singing, and dancing, and making rain music in our Imagine That! class!  Playing in the rain has never been so fun (and so dry), as with our imaginary musical rain excursions.  To enhance our rain play, students designed and created their own Rain Shakers to use for sound effects in our rain story.  AND they designed, created, and decorated their own rain hats to enhance our dancing in the rain activity.

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Their personalities just SHINE when they play such an important role in their creations.  A big round of applause is earned for both the students who created these wonderful crafts, as well as to the parents who listened, and supported their child’s ideas in this creative process, allowing them to do as much as possible.

This type of creative enhancements to a learning experience allows the child to internalize the ideas, and to use these ideas to create something uniquely their own to use with the activities in a new way.  If you’ll notice, several of the students placed their hats on top of their instruments to make umbrellas to dance under.  I LOVE how different EACH person’s hat or shaker is from each other.

Reflections of Spring: Family Time in Winter Haven

The Kindermusik Family Time semester, Make Way for Music, is the fourth installment in the Family Time series, and completes the set of puppet characters from the Jelly Bean band with Rex, the Lion.  More importantly, it has been an excellent introduction, and vehicle for families to explore the many aspects of music with their children.  Mrs. Bernadette has offered a musical haven for families with her sweet demeanor and gentle way of engaging the children in the activities.  The following pictures celebrate their time together this semester, and the conclusion of this phase of Kindermusik in the Winter Haven area.  Due to the interests of her daughter, whom she is home schooling, Mrs. Bernadette will be taking a break from teaching Kindermusik for awhile to support her daughter in a Marine Biology program. 

Monday Night Class

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Tuesday Morning Class

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To the Kindermusik families in the Winter Haven area, Thank You for sharing your families with us.  May your lives have a strong steady beat of consistency, as well as the rhythms of sponteneity and joyfullness.  May your homes be filled with happy musical voices, and may your family grow together to blend like the instruments of the orchestra when they play so fully together.  I do wish you all the best!  And please stay in touch, as I am working on several new options for the Winter Haven families.