1. Use a pumpkin for sensory exploration.
Take your child to the pumpkin patch or store and allow her to choose any pumpkin she wishes. When you get home, have her watch you cut a hole in the pumpkin. Then, explore the goopy insides together! How does it feel? Squishy? Stringy? Dry? Wet? Next, use your hands or a spoon to scoop out the insides. How do they look? What color(s) do you see? How many seeds can you count?
2. Take your pumpkin to the kitchen.
Choose one of these kid-friendly recipes to explore what pumpkin tastes like. This is a great opportunity to explore the five senses using your ingredients and final product. Ask your child questions like "What does the pumpkin smell like?" and "How does the sugar taste?" If your child is still learning these concepts, tell your child what you are experiencing. Extra points if you make your pumpkin puree from scratch and take your child along for the ride!
If you are worried about your child getting near sharp items, pumpkin painting is an excellent alternative to carving. Again, have your child pick out his very own pumpkin. Then, get out art supplies like paint, paintbrushes, glitter, glue, pom poms and anything else you think might be fun. Have your child expand his requests for materials from you by choosing how many pom poms he wants or what size paintbrush. Next, ask your child to help you paint your pumpkin. Practice multi-step directions by giving directions like "Take a pom pom, dip it in glue and put it on top of the pumpkin."
4. Learn pumpkin songs.
Children love seasonal songs, especially when you can sing along together. Five Little Pumpkins is a fun song that you can both learn easily. Sing the song each day so that your child gets to know it well. Then, leave out parts for her to fill in. You might also buy small pumpkins (or make your own) that you can use as props in the song. Have your child imitate rolling the pumpkins along the floor. Count how many pumpkins are out and whether you have enough for the song.
5. Make pumpkin play dough.
This last activity doesn't use a real pumpkin, but your child will love it. If you don't want to make a pumpkin mess or just have play dough ingredients on hand, consider making pumpkin play dough. You can include your child in the process of making the dough. Tell him what steps you need to follow, and have him correct you when you "accidentally" do the wrong thing. For instance, say, "I'm going to put the flour in bowl" and then put the bowl on top of your package of flour. Once the play dough is made, see if you can make your own pumpkins out of the dough. This is also another great activity for talking about the five senses.
Let us know what activities you try. Have fun!