Pre-Schoolers & Pumpkins, Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Scooping out the insides of a pumpkin with my 2021-2022 co-teacher, Hannah.

Autumn Exploration

Carving out the insides of a pumpkin with an audience of little onlookers is fun. Inviting the kids to explore its’ texture is funny. Some are game and some are not! A few reluctant kids change their minds when they see others touching the orange, wet, and stringy pulp and seeds. One girl tasted the pulp and seeds. I know who’ll be a fan of pumpkin lattes!

At the end of the school day, I collected the seeds and, hon, you know what came next. I made Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below) and brought them in for the kids to try. Yum!

We also painted mini-pumpkins, crinkled leaves to decorate paper trees, and explored a texture tray filled with smooth acorns, bumpy pinecones, and itty-bitty pumpkins snipped off of Pumpkin Tree branches. We rolled pinecones in paint and then rolled the paint-covered pinecones on blank paper to create original prints.

Hands-on learning!

Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Autumn Kids Crafts: DIY Fall Wreath

Inspiration Wreath
Inspiration wreath at Michael’s.

Guess what hon? Twinkl, an online educational resource for teachers and individuals, reached out and asked to include one of my DIY Kids Crafts on their site! “This children’s craft idea features in Twinkl’s Absolutely Amazing Autumn Ideas.”

This Autumn Kids Craft:  DIY Fall Wreath is evergreen, so I’m re-posting this kids activity from the time I taught “Creative Minds,” an After School Enrichment class at Wyoming Elementary School in Millburn, NJ. The 3rd to 5th graders wrapped burlap around wreath forms, hot glued ends, chose leaves, berries, and fruit, and secured them with coiled wire. They tied ribbon as flourishes and added twine for hanging. Fun!

Here’s what you need and how to make your own.

wreath supplies
Wreath supplies

DIY Fall Wreath Supplies

  • Wreath Form, whatever size you want
  • Burlap, amount depends on size of wreath form
  • Coiled Wire, used to secure floral spray before gluing
  • Wire Cutters, we used two sizes, one to trim floral sprays and one to trim coiled wire
  • Hot Glue Gun and extra glue sticks for glue gun
  • Floral Decorations, such as floral sprays (leaves with berries and fruit), colored beads and leaves
  • Ribbon
  • Twine, knotted and looped for hanging
  • Scissors

Directions:

  1. Before cutting burlap from roll, loosely wrap around wreath form to check how much is needed. Allow extra to tuck end under. Cut burlap from roll.
  2. Wrap burlap around wreath form. Tuck end under and hot glue. This will be the back of the wreath.
  3. Decide how to arrange decorations. Some may have bendable stems. If so ,wrap around wreath form.
  4. If floral sprays, berries or other decor have long, unbendable stems, cut off with large wire cutter.
  5. Using coiled wire, secure smaller decor such as leaves and berries to wreath form. Secure to wreath form by criss-crossing wire until decor is secured. Twist wire in back and tuck ends under.
  6. Secure floral spray with wire and hot glue. Hot glue leaves so they cover wire and lay flat.
  7. Hot glue colored beads and individual leaves.
  8. Tie ribbon and glue if needed.
  9. Find top of the wreath. Create a hanging loop with twine.
Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.
Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.
Hot glueing, watch your fingers!
Hot glueing, watch your fingers!
Pretty!
Pretty!
Seasonal!
Seasonal!
Love it!
Creative!

Angelic Voices, Precious Lives

Hon, you know I like to post happy things with occasional contemplations. But.

But my heart is heavy after yet another school shooting amidst a spate of violence in a disease that has infected the United States. Thoughts of horror in classrooms invades my mind and I tell myself to think of the ocean, the forest, the mountains and sky.

Throughout the year at the preschool, we drill for emergencies: fire, shelter-in-place, and active shooter. The morning after the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas we drilled.

My co-teacher had taken three children to the bathroom, so I was alone in the classroom with six two year-olds when we were heard “Active shooter in the building!” Should we stay in the classroom or run?

I blacked out the window on our door, bolted the door, and told my kids to get down and stay quiet. It was hard for them. Was Miss Naomi serious? She never speaks in that tone. My tone said Now! I mean it! Shhh!

As soon it seemed safer to run, we did. My toddlers are little and their wobbly legs can’t run fast without tripping and falling. I scooped up one, held hands with three, and teachers who were running with their students through my classroom scooped up the others and ran holding them.

We gathered outside. One teacher didn’t know it was a drill.

The critique from our security guard? Run much, much farther.


I posted the video of the New York City Children’s Choir singing Holy Night December 15, 2012, the day after the horrific Sandy Hook School tragedy. At the time, my youngest wanted to know if December 14 would become a national day of mourning. We’d have to add February 14 for Parkland and many more.

I can’t stop thinking about the precious children whose eyes tear up when they look at their teachers for reassurance. Is this a drill or real?

Easy DIY Kids Craft: Rainy Day Spring Scene

At preschool, we were asked to come up with an Easy DIY Kids Craft or Activity using only supplies found at home. Our ideas were compiled into a “Cooped-Up Activities” resource for parents.

Hon, hoping Spring blooms very soon.

RAINY DAY SPRING SCENE

Supplies:

  • paper
  • aluminum foil
  • cotton balls
  • baking cup
  • markers
  • scissors
  • glue

Directions:

  1. To make a grey sky, cut aluminum foil and glue to top of paper.
  2. To make rain clouds, glue cotton balls on top of and below grey sky.
  3. To make an umbrella, fold baking cup in half and glue together. Place umbrella on paper and glue down. Count to 20 while pressing so umbrella sticks to paper.
  4. Draw outline of umbrella handle and color in.
  5. Cut raindrops out of aluminum foil. (This is challenging as they are small and stick to fingers.) Glue raindrops under clouds.

Easy DIY Kids Activity: Ice Painting

Winter Lessons, Exploring Ice

Both my two year-old class and not-quite-two kiddos loved exploring ice. Some were tentative about touching it and some reached right in. Each child had his/her own tray of ice in addition to the large tray. What does it feel like? What does it do when it’s being held? What’s dripping on the floor? Is it hard or soft? And what sound does it make when you shake the tray? So fun!

Directly related to exploring ice is Ice Painting. Though Ice Painting may seem like a winter-only Easy DIY Kids Activity, it’s a great science-related lesson any time of year–think water/ice, liquid/solid, and hot/cold. Here’s what you need:

Supplies:

  • ice tray
  • craft sticks
  • water
  • watercolor paints or food coloring
  • paper

Directions:

  1. Add either watercolor paint or food coloring to water and stir.
  2. Pour colored water into ice tray. Set craft sticks in ice tray sections. Freeze.
  3. Pop sections out of ice tray and paint with “ice paint.”

Note: Ice paint will melt as it’s being used which adds to the experience. Partly used sections may be re-frozen and used again.

Easy and Important Kids Activity: Sensory Play

Sensory table.

Some preschoolers don’t mind getting their hands sticky, gluey, and dirty, while others pull their hands back when introduced to unfamiliar textures. Example: glueing feathers to outlined hands to create turkeys. Observation: some kids spread their fingers to be outlined and some have to be prodded. Most kids didn’t mind sticking feathers to a gluey surface, but others will only touch the surface lightly and then hold up fingers in a way that says, “I don’t liking this feeling.”

Despite the different tolerance levels, all the kids love playing in the water table. They enjoyed the floating pumpkin pieces and, similarly, the water-table-as-a-giant-sensory-bin is a hit! It’s filled with pinecones, colorful blocks, gear-like connecting pieces, and measuring cups and shovels. I can’t wait to create different texture combinations using pasta, snow, ice, and assorted found objects.

According to Amanda Morin for verywellfamily, “Sensory play has an important role in development.” She also says,

Playing with different types of textures, tastes, and objects help your child build new ways of talking about the world. Suddenly, the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark, or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves), slippery with bubbles, or cold and translucent when frozen. Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups and are important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning, and zipping, among other things. Sensory play often involves using and building fine motor skills by exploring things using pinching, pouring, and lacing movements.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Post Halloween Easy Kids Activity, Pumpkin Pieces Float

Halloween may be over, but the pumpkins still have a purpose. Before you throw away your jack-o-lantern, here’s an idea–cut it up into pieces. One of the directors at my preschool suggested this easy, fun and educational kids activity, and the kiddos loved it.

My co-teacher and I cut up our classes’ pumpkins and placed the pieces in a water table. Don’t have a water table? A big plastic bin, large sink or even a bathtub will work.

Our two-year olds had a blast scooping, filling, pouring and experimenting. The blog Miss Ashlee’s Class suggests ways to enhance the activity. Older kids could discuss the parts of a pumpkin, hypothesize whether they think the pieces will float or not, learn about density, and record observations.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

My co-teacher, Hannah, scooping and sharing the insides of a pumpkin.
Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

I like roasted seeds and nuts (do I sound like a squirrel?), but have never tried sweet roasted pumpkin seeds. When we were scooping pumpkins and saving the seeds for our two preschool classes, my co-teacher Hannah said she loved the seeds with cinnamon. Mind blown! What planet am I living on? How did I not know about these? Hon, here’s a healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly, kosher recipe from Joy Food Sunshine that I must try!

Happy carving, scooping and baking!

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Easy Kids Craft: Shaving Cream Snowmen

Shaving cream/glue snowmen made by a Three’s class.

SNOW FUN!

Creating snowmen or other snowy scenes using a shaving cream/glue combo is snow fun because it engages several senses. The kids smell the shaving cream, listen to the can, feel the texture, and see the color. What ratio of shaving cream to glue to use? According to KiwiCo Corner, “Mix one part shaving cream with one part glue. The mixture ends up thick and goopy–and dries up puffy, like snow!” The “snow paint” can be applied with paintbrushes, sponges, spoons or hands. (Two year-olds like to use their hands. LOL!)

As recommended by a Three’s teacher, I outlined snowmen, glopped “snow paint” onto the snowmen sections, and handed out spoons. Each child picked buttons and a construction paper hat, scarf, eyes, and carrot nose. Fun!

Next multi-media and textured project: Winter scenes of green, felt trees on black construction paper, snow made with both silver glitter and Q-tips dotted white paint. Winter spirit!

Raku Extruded Bowls

Pieces glow orange when they’ve been Raku fired to about 1,700-1,800 degrees F.

One of my favorite things is to Raku fire with my teacher and potter extraordinaire Peter Syak. In a (small, masked and socially distanced) ceramic class this summer, Peter introduced the extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh machine, but for clay.

I made seven bowls: three small ones without feet and four large ones with feet. My carving needs a ton of practice, but I like how some of the pieces came out.

Though Raku pottery is generally not food-safe, it’s safe with “dry” food such as candy, nuts, and pretzels.

The Copper Blue Luster glaze is beautiful, and I always like the crackles that show up when using Clear Glaze.

Happy creating, hon!