Saturday, November 14, 2009

Preschool Fall Activities - Part 5

(This one was a miniture pumpkin we did.)
Ah, did you save those gourds and pumpkins? Good then let’s get started. We had a variety of these fun fall decorations this year. Unfortunately, for us the gourds didn’t last as long as they usually do. Gourds like pumpkins tend to eventually give way to a number of things such as funguses or mold. With many gourds especially the ornamental kind they tend to have an unusual drying process that rather has an unattractive look to them when their inside moisture is trying to escape. Anyway, we took a number of our gourds (and will do so when the time comes to our pumpkins) and decided to harvest the seeds and keep them for planting next year.

Activity 5 – To harvest the seeds is really quite easy and a great activity for a preschooler on up. We cleared a spot and set up several paper plates and a strainer. I took a knife and cut the gourds open and then handed them over to my 4 1/2 year old and let her take out the seeds with a spoon. (We kept the seeds separate as we wanted to avoid any mix-ups later.) She was carefully not to damage them when she went digging. Once she had the seeds out we tried to remove as much of the pulp or strings as she called them before we put them in the strainer. She then washed the seeds under a gentle flow of water.

We then spread them out on a paper towel to blot dry and then moved them to a regular plate to dry. (Leaving the seeds damp on a paper plate or towel will cause them to stick later and not dry properly.) The hard part for the young one was waiting for them to dry. After two days they were dry. She has since created an envelop with her “picture” of the gourd to store them and we’ll plant some in the spring. Because there were so many seeds the young one is creating more envelops with planting instructions and giving these out for Christmas gifts this year. There are a lot of teachable moments in this fairly quick and easy activity. Most of all though it was just plain fun.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Preschool Fall Activities - Part 4

Now before we get started with this one - do not throw away those gourds and pumpkins just yet.

Okay, with that said let's move on. If you planted flowers this year and had some success, why not extend that over to next year. Our flowers actually did fairly well this year, I think mostly because we had pretty good weather and didn't require too much maintenance from me. Anyway, we did spend more than I had planned on acquiring the flowers though. Unknown to me when I planned the garden was that rabbits enjoyed feasting on marigolds. I had heard otherwise for years. I had thought by encircling the typical flowers we get with marigolds the rabbits would not munch and all would be safe and survive. Oh, how this is so not true. I cannot count how many times we would look out back and see one of our regular six rabbits of varying size enjoying our marigolds as if they were the cream of the crop. Then when I would go out front, sure enough I would be missing a number of them there as well. Of course they then went for the petunias and other flowers. Silly little rabbits.

So why go into all this, well the next activity has to do with harvesting marigold seeds. Yes, that's right.

Activity 4 - If you haven't had a hard freeze yet and still have these out then now is the time (if not sooner) to get out there and collect the dead heads. (See them circled in red in above picture.) As the blossom dies out there are seeds housed within the base of the flower. Have your preschooler or older one help snap off those dead heads and open up the base. Carefully take the seeds and spread them out to dry. You do not want any moisture in the seeds when you pack them up for next year. There are lots of internet and book resources that can teach you how to do this with most flowers. Marigolds are one of the easiest for little kids I think though. My little one is decorating the envelops and handing them out as gifts this year. She had a great time learning about the life cycle of the flower and can't wait to plant them in the spring. She is also learning some patience as well as things take time to grow just like her.

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