Pretend play is not valued as it should be, research about early childhood classrooms tells us that pretend play has all but evaporated from kindergarten classes and is less frequent than it used to be in preschool as well. The thing is is that this is when kids learn when they are pretending they are constructing new knowledge and applying it. Let’s look at the pumpkin patch today since many of you are in the middle of Fall Fun and Harvest themes at preschool.
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For a pumpkin patch pretend play gather some real pumpkins, some scales, a cash register with play money, and some bags or baskets. Of course, you can add anything that will fit with your students. Add more signs like the printable ones below and paper and pencils to write out receipts to add in more print and a focus on literacy.
But what are they learning?
That depends on the child and what they are doing but let’s look at some of the typical things. As they play with the pumpkins and the scales they are comparing the weight and learning about size. They are touching the pumpkins and recognizing that they are not all uniform in shape or color yet remain in the category of pumpkins. As a teacher or perhaps another child joins in the play, they may tell them ” I like this pumpkin the best because it’s the biggest.” The teacher can go back saying something like ” I like its oval shape and how it’s got a smooth texture.” and introduce thinking about shapes and perhaps a new vocabulary word ( texture) as well.” This back and forth is how teachers can assess as well as differentiate instruction in a playful environment.
When a child is manning the cash register they are learning all about math as they collect money and present change. They are practicing writing when making receipts with paper and pencils but more than that they are learning that what you write down conveys a message. That print translates to spoken words and meaning. The signs ( print them out below) enrich the environment with more meaningful print as well.
As children play together they aren’t just learning about friendships, children act as scaffolds for each other, and when we control their play too much we lose out on this. Learning when to observe and when to step in as a teacher is always a leap of faith, but as you watch closely you can see the natural spots where you can do it without changing the play. This comes of course by having enough playtime in your day for ample observation.
Pumpkin Patch Printables
Click the images to print