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Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Celebrating Harvest, Fall, and Pumpkins!

In celebration of the harvest season, we’re talking, playing, painting and singing about pumpkins.

We’re baking pumpkin muffins, mixing pumpkin “rascals” (a nutritious cookie with chia seeds, aromatic cinnamon and nutmeg) and scooping the middle of pulpy pumpkins to extract and roast their seeds to munch on.

Our pumpkin focus mirrors our ongoing approach to curriculum in providing:

  1. Sensory-rich activities.  Opportunities to see, hear, taste, feel and smell.
  2. Multiple prompts.
  3. A variety of open-ended materials.
  4. Invitations to explore in multiple interest areas using a variety of disciplines. Including library, writing center, creation station, sensory table,  blocks, easel, dramatic play area, circle time, play yard etc.
  5. Encouraging families to fully participate and share experiences.

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The orange paper construction paper pumpkin cut-outs, inspired one child to dictate the following story:

We’re going to the pumpkin patch. And a person saw a really good pumpkin. And a pumpkin hopped away as fast as it can. The person was getting weared out. The person chased the pumpkin. They passed a lion. A sleeping lion. That’s the only thing that past. And another person walked passed with a pumpkin and said “What?! a hopping pumpkin?!

The author cracks up when Teacher Susan reads their story back to them. They share this circle and of the class is thoroughly entertained.

Last week, families met at Kruger’s Farm for our annual pumpkin picking trip. We arrived and played a veggie guessing game with Farmer Don, who exclaimed our 3s and 4s knew more vegetable names than most teenage groups! We visited sweet Matilda, the farm’s resident pig, saw (and sniffed) piglets and chickens, and took a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Children relished in the wide outdoors, feeling the sticky mud under their boots, sloshing through puddles, holding on during the bumps and ruts of the road on the tractor ride, and choosing their perfect baking pumpkin.

Joyous pumpkin farm romping is an ideal way to nourish children’s connection to the natural world. We’ll plan to return to the farm in June to harvest and devour ripe strawberries.

 

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Sneaky Raccoon Pizza Party!

This week children made a special snack– Pizza!  We have been getting a big kick out of  the book Secret Pizza Party* by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri.  In this silly story, raccoon longs for the cheesy goodness of pizza, but is denied access to it because raccoon is an animal.  Children can relate to wishing for something they can’t have and they enjoy the outlandishness of a raccoon munching on one of their favorite “people” foods.

The more we read together, the more children talked about their shared enjoyment of pizza.  So we decided to have a pizza party– raccoon-style. The easel was set up for painting pizzas, and there were felt raccoon tails and face paints available for anyone who wanted to get into character.

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Parents provided all the fixings and the dough for everyone to make a masterpiece good enough to eat!

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At circle, Susan and Matt appeared as singing slices of pizza while singing “I Am A Pizza” by Charlotte Diamond.

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Making pizza  was AWESOME! And so was eating together.

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* When reading Rubin’s book together, we opted to shift the focus slightly, replacing “Secret” with”Sneaky Raccoon,” as we intentionally teach children not to keep secrets in an effort to support safety.

*Giant Pizza Slices created by local artists Drew Laughery and Elisabeth Tschalaer.

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Za’atar Swirls and Expanding our Preschool World

By Amy Dudley

As highlighted in a recent blog post, Teacher Susan added some wonderful new books to our rotating library that focus on experiences of immigrants.  This got me thinking about how to talk with my two children ages 4 and 6 about the refugee crisis in Syria.

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As parents we often want to shield our children from pain and suffering, but I try to thoughtfully engage my kids with the world’s challenges in the hopes of encouraging their innate compassion and love towards the big, wide world around them and outside of their own direct experience.  I believe that when we keep silent the unintended consequence is that our children internalize that silence as a message that those people who they haven’t heard about or been able to ask questions about without disapproving looks or hushes must be bad or wrong.  And so I try to say something, as sloppy as that sometimes is.

Which brings me back to my recent helper shift where I was to provide snacks for the classroom.  I took to the internet to find out about Syrian recipes I could make with the kids, and in the process discovered this great website, Syrian Cooking, written by Ghinwa Alameen, with recipes and tips for families hosting Syrian refugees.  She shared how food is an extension of culture and home, as we all know, and providing familiar staples in a pantry, or dishes at meal time was a great way to welcome someone, and to honor their culture.  

So the children and I set off for the International Grocery store where we gathered our ingredients for making Za’atar Swirls.  The children delighted in finding new candies from around the world to beg me for, and I was happy to find preserved Pergamot made in Syria, a citrus fruit also known as Berganot that gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive perfume.  

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On snack day the children enthusiastically helped roll out the dough, make the spread with tomatoes, olive oil, and the Za’atar spices, sniffing and declaring the whole endeavor to be like making pizza.  My son encouraged his friends to try the Pergamot, adding that it tastes like gummy bears.  I loved these observations that this food that could be considered so new to us, was actually familiar.  Like so much of exploring the world, where we find new experiences we also find commonality.

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At circle time Teacher Susan passed around pictures of three Syrian children in refugee camps, 4 and 5 year olds, who shared their hopes and dreams.  Gays loves building and wants to be an engineer when they grow up so they could create hospitals for their country.  Many of the children could connect with his love of building, or Ele, who was in Kindergarten like many of our preschoolers will be next year.  “Same, same, different, All good ways to be…” as the song Teacher Susan wrote and taught to the children and families at HFP.  As we closed circle, we sang our song “We wish you well” naming each of the children we had met who are Syrian refugees.

IMG_2357  IMG_2358Ele Cundi at Midyat camp, Turkey                        Rahaf Hasan with a drawing of her home

On one hand these are small steps, on the other, they are huge.  Making and enjoying a za’atar roll was an invitation to appreciate and honor Syrian food and culture.  Saying the names of people who are suffering in refugee camps seemingly worlds away brings these people into the room with us.  Sitting with our little ones, I could feel the power and potential of love and connection that we were nurturing, along with my own hope that we can make the world safe for all families.

IMG_2359  IMG_2360Gays Cardak, 6                                                             Ali Addahar, 9

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Successful Snack Ideas — Tacos

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Tacos are a favorite snack for everyone at HFP. Not only are they delicious, they’re also easy to make vegan and gluten free, and children are easily included in the process of making them. Parent Helpers assist children in cutting tomatoes, olives, and avocados; mixing, rolling, and pressing corn tortillas; adding spices to beans; shredding cheese and lettuce; and finally, assembling their own tacos. This is an easy snack that appeals to most children, and a sweet way to incorporate new and exciting flavors and textures.

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Fall Inspired Snack Ideas

Spiders, ghosts, and pumpkin muffins all made an appearance at snack this fall season. Here are a few ideas for fun and delicious fall-inspired snacks:

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Pumpkins made from mandarin oranges

Children can peel oranges and help cut celery stem pieces before assembling.

Monster mouths w/ apples, almond slivers and fruit roll (tongue pieces)

Children can assemble all elements of this snack in the classroom.

Banana Coconut Ghost Pops

Vegan and gluten free

Spider crackers

Can easily be made gluten-free with rice crackers or corn chips; can be made vegan with hummus or peanut butter filling. Carrots, celery, etc. for the legs.