Because pumpkins are harvested in the fall, they're a traditional part of fall celebrations. Here are some ideas for using pumpkins in the child-care setting. Most people think of pies when they hear the word "pumpkin," but pumpkin can also be used as a vegetable. Prepare pumpkin in one of the following ways.
Putting Pumpkin on the Menu
Bake. Remove fiber and seeds from the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin into large pieces and place it on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until it is fork tender. Remove the skin and mash pumpkin with butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve as a vegetable.
Steam. Remove fiber and seeds from the pumpkin. Cut medium-sized pieces of pumpkin and remove the skins. Place them on a steamingrack in a heavy pan. Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup water and cover the pan tightly. Reduce heat when steam begins to escape. Steam until fork tender. Mash and use as a vegetable or in your favorite pumpkin recipes.
Microwave. Pierce the skin of a whole pumpkin with a fork several times to make holes for the steam to vent. Cover with a paper towel to contain spattering. Microwave on high heat until pumpkin is fork tender. Cut the pumpkin open and remove seeds and skin. Mash and use as a vegetable or in a recipe you like. Try the following recipe for pumpkin muffins or roast the seeds for a tasty treat.
Sift dry ingredients together. Beat egg slightly. Combine egg, milk, pumpkin, and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture all at once and stir until they are combined. Batter should be lumpy. Fold in raisins. Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes 12 muffins.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Scrape the inside of the pumpkin, saving the seeds. Wash the seeds to remove the membrane. Drain and spread in a baking pan. Toast in a 300-degree oven, stirring occasionally to brown the seeds evenly. Serve to the children for a snack. Caution: Roasted pumpkin seeds may cause choking in children under 3 years of age.
Pumpkin-Seed Art Projects
Dry clean pumpkin seeds on a plate in a sunny window and use them later for art projects. Combine the dried seeds with other natural materials, such as acorns, pine cones, corn kernels, and dried beans to make mosaic pictures.
The Pumpkin as Jack-o'-Lantern
Jack-o'-lanterns are the traditional symbol of Halloween. Before doing this activity, however, stop to consider the way some parents view Halloween. Some families do not celebrate Halloween because it conflicts with their religion or values. Select another activity if you feel parents would object to this one. If you aren't sure, ask!
Let the children help design the face of the jack-o'-lantern and take out the pumpkin seeds and string. Adults should do all the carving. When the jack-o'-lantern is finished, let the children touch and explore it. Place a small flashlight inside to light upthe features.
Children can make their own jack-o'-lanterns by decorating pumpkins with permanent markers. Jack-o'-lanterns made in this way can be cooked and eaten after Halloween if segments with permanent marker on them are discarded.