Creepy Counting!

Here's a Halloween-themed idea that uses the age-old tradition of pumpkin carving to facilitate children’s maths and counting skills. It takes a little more preparation, but should allow for some fun, messy play!

What you will need:

  • Pumpkin/s (depending on how many children there are in the group – one between two will suffice). 
  • Set of balancing scales. 
  • Chopping board. 
  • Knife. 
  • Spoons. 
  • Several see-through containers (Tupperware, glass jars, etc.) of varying sizes and shapes. 
  • Wipe-clean mats. 
  • Aprons. 

Preparing the activity

Before the activity, remove the tops from the pumpkins and scoop out the flesh from inside. Try to make sure you get big, whole chunks that can be chopped up. 

Separate the stringy flesh and seeds from the chunks of pumpkin. If feeling especially Halloween-y, feel free to carve a face on each pumpkin! 

Divide the pumpkin chunks into two halves. One half should be sliced into roughly even cubes. 

The other half of the pumpkin flesh is to be mashed. Firstly, this requires slicing the pumpkin into cubes and placing them into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Cover with cling wrap and microwave on high for 15 minutes, stopping once to stir the pieces, until very tender. This should be done the night before, or at least a few hours before the activity, so that the pumpkin is completely cool. 

Mash the pumpkin using a spoon, masher or your hands. Depending on your assessment of the children’s ability this stage can either be incorporated into the activity or prepared beforehand. 

Distribute the pumpkin cubes evenly between the hollowed-out pumpkins. Put the tops back on. 

Arrange the activity space with a pumpkin, some containers, a wipe-clean mat and some aprons for each child or pair of children.

Doing the activity:

Allow the children to open the pumpkins and remove the cubes. See if they can count how many cubes are in their pumpkin. 

Ask the children to try and build a tower with the pumpkin cubes. Encourage them to count how many cubes they have used, or to look at how many are in other children’s towers. For example, ‘which tower is taller?’. 

Hold up (or encourage individual children to hold up) a handful of pumpkin cubes and a handful of mash. Ask them to think about which hand has more pumpkin. Use the balancing scales to find out. 

Fill similar containers with cubes of pumpkin and with mashed. Ask the children which they think contains more pumpkin. Use the balancing scales to show which is heavier. 

Tracking the activity

22-36 months

Mathematics: Numbers; “Begins to make comparisons between quantities.” 

30-50 months 

Mathematics: Numbers; “Uses some number names accurately in play.” 

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