Falling for all things Fall: Apples, Leaves, and Pumpkins!

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I really feel this year (especially) that fall is a new beginning for us.  I am super grateful for the cooler weather and the extra time spent outdoors.   

Last week we went apple picking at our local orchard, Carter’s Mountain.  While it was a different experience with “the Virus” this year: “Mommy, where’s the tractor for the [hay] ride?”  “Sorry Love, because of the Virus, they won’t be doing hay rides.” – it was still a fun and enriching experience for the whole family.

We picked three different types of apple: Jonagold, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious.  The Jonagold we learned should be more red than green and are good as is (so don’t bake with them!). The other two are great for cooking and our family loves a good crisp.  In fact, I believe a good crisp is a suitable meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and snack time in between.  But…that’s just me.

Apple books we read and enjoyed:

Curious George: Apple Harvest

Mon Cœur (MC) loves Curious George, so naturally, we read Curious George: Apple Harvest adapted by Lynne Polvino.  We’ve read other Curious George books and I really enjoy the playful, childlike aspect George brings to a theme and how he discovers different ways that the world works.  

In this particular book, he helps to harvest and sort the apples, and also discovers how a cider machine works.  I appreciate how there’s more than just a main picture to explain information.  For example, with the cider machine, there are three different mini-pictures that sequentially explain the process of making cider. It makes for vocabulary building with sequence words as well as conversation and curious questioning throughout the book.

Applesauce Season

Applesauce Season written by Eden Ross Lipson and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein is a wonderful book exploring different apple varieties and recounting the story of three generations of a family who come together each year to make applesauce.  It is beautifully illustrated, and reads like an interactive, family souvenir recipe narrated by the grandson.  

At the end is a sweet surprise of a recipe for the applesauce made in the book.  I love how this book shows where applesauce comes from (not just a can in the store), and the different variations of taste that applesauce can have (depending on the varieties in season and used).  

After reading this book, it’s easy to see what “eating in season” is all about, and I love how the book begins:

“My grandmother says there’s no reason to start eating apples when peaches are perfect.  So we don’t eat the ones ready in August.”

Applesauce Season

The family lives in the city, so although the book doesn’t include a trip to the apple orchard, MC saw illustrations of a farmer’s market, and added that concept to her concept bank.

Seed by Seed 

What apple themed reading selection would be complete without a book about Johnny Appleseed?  Seed by Seed, written by Esmé Raji Codell and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins takes the reader back in time, away from the hustle bustle of the city to simpler, slower times.  

Although much of what we may have heard about Johnny Appleseed is legend, Codell focuses on five lessons we could learn from him:

  1. Use what you have.
  2. Share what you have.
  3. Respect nature.
  4. Try to make peace where there is war.
  5. You can reach your destination by taking small steps.

This was a fabulous non-fiction read to introduce MC to Appleseed and how he led by example. I love that these five lessons are simply taught for little readers and serve as a reminder for adults, too.

Apple Activities:

As we read these books, we completed various activities involving apples, including:

  • A visit to an apple orchard.  We try to visit the orchard each year, and especially this year, we wanted to get out and enjoy the fresh air and get some apples.  I was impressed that MC remembered the orchard – when we arrived she asked, “Is this the orchard we visit last year with O?” and “Where is the tractor? I want to ride!”

It was a great experience to get out as a family, pick apples, and see how they grow.  

  •  Apple washing:  Yes.  This sounds silly, but those apples needed to get washed before they were eaten or cooked.  I could have done it by myself, but that would have taken less time, made less mess, and been less fun and educational! So I cleaned the sink and MC pulled up a chair to stand on. For the next fifteen minutes, she enjoyed splashing around and using a rag to wash the apples.
  • Apple sorting:  We bought three different kinds (all fairly easy to distinguish – red, green and golden varieties), so I decided MC could complete a breakfast invitation where she sorted the apples by kind and counted.  I counted to see what was the largest quantity of apple we had, then I created a graph that went as high as that quantity.  In the morning, MC took each apple out of the bag and began sorting it into the graph.  Afterwards we counted each kind to practice one to one counting.
  • Apple cake and apple crisp:  MC loves to bake, so naturally we had to make some fall treats to eat. A friend shared her family’s apple cake recipe (delicious!) and an apple crisp is a Fall tradition in our house- one sweet treat that all of us enjoy!

RELATED:  Apple craft: Last year, we ended up with some apples that weren’t quite ready….what to do? We cut them up and did some apple stamping.

RELATED: What’s a breakfast invitation?  Read this related post about our new morning activities we do that are either created or inspired by Days with Grey.

Fall books we read and enjoyed:

Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall

Written by Anne Sibley O’Brien and illustrated by Susan Gal, this was a fun little book to get in the mood for Fall.  MC loved the “magic words” Alakazam, Abracadabra, Shazam, among others, as well as the fold out pages.  We loved reading and relating to all the fall fun festivities – back to school, milkweed seeds floating away, changing and falling leaves, apple picking, and pumpkin patches.  The rhyming and spellbinding words kept MC tapping her hand and smiling as I read. it was a great book to remind us of all the enchanting changes happening as one season ends and another makes its dramatic entrance.

My Leaf Book

This was the perfect book for providing general leaf and tree identification information.  Written and illustrated by Monica Wellington, it provides just enough information about trees to spark a kid’s curiosity and interest in identification. The simple shapes and illustrations together with a “think aloud” show readers how easy it is to identify trees.  Many of the various trees mentioned in the book- sweet gum, honey locust, oak, cherry, sassafras- are trees that we have at our house, so it gave us a springboard for scavenger hunting.

Scattered on each page is a quick, fun fact about each different tree, and at the back there are many different suggestions for leaf projects involving leaf rubbings and prints.

J is for Jack-O’-Lantern, A Halloween Alphabet written by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Illustrated by Donald Wu

This was a great book for us to continue talking about letters and the alphabet in general.  It touches on many different Halloween topics – jack-o’-lanterns, witches, pumpkin patches, skeletons, and scarecrows.  

Although what I read to MC was just a four-line poem for each letter, in the margin of each page, the book included background information or an idea for a craft or a recipe for each Halloween word. Bobbing for donuts, ideas for unusual costumes, deviled egg eyeballs, popular symbols for Halloween were just a few of the margin notes that I found interesting.

Pumpkins

This summer we had good luck with our citrouille (pumpkin) harvest, a French heirloom variety Rouge Vif d’Etamps, also commonly referred to as Cinderella’s pumpkin.

We planted them a little later, around the Fourth of July, and that ended up being perfect timing for harvesting early October.  We have enjoyed watching the vines sprawl across the yard, claiming ten, 15, 20 feet of land.  We’ve watched the blooms open, the fruit begin growing, and then change to a vibrant red-orange color.

Mon Cœur (MC) loves the pumpkin patch, and anything pumpkin…except jack-o-lanterns…There is something about a face on a pumpkin that she does not like…No, it’s not natural, but it’s classic Halloween…So we chose a couple of pumpkins to save and carve, hoping that will take any mystery out of jack-o-lanterns and making them a little less intimidating. The others we processed into a purée and canned for bread, pie, and soup.

Pumpkin books we read and enjoyed:

How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? 

Pumpkins as boats? Giant pumpkin balloons?  Seriously?  Yes!  Author Wendell Minor wrote the book, How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? around the theme of giant pumpkins and monumental American sites.  We learned that in Vermont, people actually carve out giant pumpkins to make boats for Regattas and festivals.  In Wisconsin, they hold giant pumpkin contests each year, where pumpkins weigh in around one ton each!  In New Mexico they host a hot air balloon festival where there are many amusing and non-traditional balloons in shapes of animals or insects, in Fall shaped themes, and even a Jack-O-Lantern balloon.

This was a fun, silly book to introduce the idea of giant pumpkins and to show them superimposed with scenic views across the United States, such as Mount Rushmore, Kennedy Space Center, the US Capitol, a Paul Bunyan statue, and the Grand Canyon.

I like how in the very back of the book, each place is labeled with the location (State) and a little history.  I really didn’t believe people made boats out of pumpkins until I saw the back of the book.  It was fun to discover these places, events, and facts with MC.

Pumpkins 

From a gardener’s perspective, I really enjoyed Pumpkins, written by Ken Robbins.  Beautiful photography accompanies the story of a pumpkin’s lifecycle from seed to farm stand or pumpkin patch.

Even though we had our own pumpkin patch to observe, it was nice to have a book that illustrated and narrated the growing cycle of the pumpkin.  

And at the end of the book, there is a quick jack-o-lantern how to. The different carvings allowed us to talk about the faces we liked the most and the faces we liked the least and why.

Pumpkin activities:

As we read these books, we completed various activities involving pumpkins, including:

  • Pumpkin faces:  We have been bouncing back and forth between fall and all about me themed activities.  One morning for her breakfast invitation, I cut out simple orange circles and some eyes and a mouth.  Before I could even get out of bed, she already had the top off of the glue stick and was making faces. Love!

RELATED: What’s a breakfast invitation?  Read this related post about our new morning activities we do that are either created or inspired by Days with Grey.

  • Pumpkin-themed oobleck:  Susie at Busy Toddler frequently posts pictures of oobleck on her Instagram.  I really loved her Halloween-themed oobleck, although our stash of holiday themed knick knacks was lacking…we used what we had on hand: pumpkin seeds, ping pong balls, orange dice, and googly eyes.

Oobleck is a “non-Newtonian” substance, meaning it’s neither solid nor liquid, and yet exhibits properties of both.  It is made by mixing two parts cornstarch to one part water.  You can use food coloring to dye the water and make your oobleck any color you want.  We made ours orange!

It took some getting used to at first- MC didn’t like the texture or the mess. I sat there scratching my fingers through it, picking it up, letting it ooze and drip from between my fingers…I was astounded…It eventually grew on MC, and we were able to save and reuse the oobleck for a few days before having to trash it. She experimented moving it around with a scoop, a ladle, and a funnel. It was so fascinating to see how differently the oobleck reacted to a scoop (it was more solid, and crumbled) versus moving through a funnel (it acted more like a liquid, dribbling out of the funnel).

  • Pumpkin baking:

It was a family effort to process two pumpkins, and we were able to purée and can 12 fifteen-ounce jars of pumpkin. That’s a pretty impressive quantity for us, and we’ve been sharing with friends and trying new recipes. We’ve tried a pumpkin bread and muffin recipe so far, and have pie and soup on the list to try next. The pumpkin muffin recipe came from Smitten Kitchen, and made me completely forget about the pumpkin bread we made the week before. It was perfect for a tray of 6 large muffins, and made a great breakfast treat for us…I found them to be so amazing that I ended up eating two this morning! The cinnamon sugar is a perfect topping for the muffins and gives it a satisfying crunch. I love that these can be frozen – I am going to try to make some and stash them for later, when I won’t have time to make them.


What is your favorite fall read or activity?

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