Apple Packed Days…Apple Picking, Apple Books, Apple Baking and Apple Exploration!

Fall is in the air and that means it’s time to head to the apple orchard to pick your own apples, make yummy apple treats, read apple themed books and have fun with some special apple activities!

Apple Picking- This year we went to Liberty Orchard, a small apple orchard in Edwardsville, IL not too far from St. Louis, MO. Liberty Orchard had nine different varieties of apples ready for picking on the day we visited and we enjoyed some of each! While at the apple orchard we picked green apples, yellow apples and red apples. We talked about how each variety tasted (sweet, tart, sour, crunchy, crisp, juicy). The orchard educated us on the many varieties and made recommendations on which apples were best for baking. We tasted the following: EMPIRE: Crisp, juicy, tart off the tree – mellows with storage. Chosen by McDonalds for their Happy Meal. Uses: Eating, sauce, pies, baking and salads JONATHAN: Sweet/tart with firm texture. Bright red color Uses: Eating, baking – an apple butter favorite. LIBERTY: Fine textured, crisp and juicy. Rich complex flavor. Uses: Eating, pies, sauces.

Apple Books– To prepare for our day at the apple orchard we read some books at home and my daughter’s kindergarten teacher read some Apple Books at school. These are just a few of the many great Apple Books we read this autumn. Fancy Nancy Apples Galore! was new to us but my daughter loved it because she loves anything and everything Fancy Nancy! Autumn is for Apples was another new read and was perfect for preschool and kindergarten students. Apples and The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons are classics and good informal texts. The Apple Pie Tree and The Biggest Apple Ever are fall time favorites!

Apples! Apples! Apples!– It wouldn’t be fall if we didn’t make the Apples! Apples! Apples! mini book I wrote when I taught kindergarten. My daughter and I have made one of these books every year from age two to age five and it has been fun to compare her increased control in fine motor abilities over the years. One thing that has not changed are the laughs when we read…Blue apples- Yuck! CLICK HERE to download a copy to make with your family.

Caramel Apple Cookies and Apple Pizza– This year my daughter decided that we should make caramel apple cookies with some of the apples we picked. I researched apple cookie recipes and combined a few to create our own Caramel Apple Cookie recipe. CLICK HERE to download the recipe. You have to try these cookies. They are amazing! They call for caramel bits, something I didn’t even know existed, although I did read some people make their own bits. This recipe tastes great with or without the caramel so you can enjoy them either way. We shared some with Lillian’s teachers and everyone thought they were simply delectable. It looks like we discovered a new fall tradition! Another activity from my book is Apple Pizza. CLICK HERE to download this easy but very tasty fall treat!

Apple Exploration- My daughter’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Reed, led the class in a variety of apple activities from making apple sauce, creating apple prints, designing apple trees out of sticks and clay, counting apples and having the class graph their favorite kind of apple. I love the apple peeler the children used to prepare their apples for the applesauce. It brought back memories of the years I taught kindergarten because I did the same thing with my students! My daughter’s kindergarten class enjoyed comparing the length of the peelings…just another example of the fun exploration children can have with their world when given the opportunity.

Click on the links below for more awesome apple ideas from the Noteworthy Mommy!

Apple Activities for the Family

A Truthful Apple Story

Three in One- Using an Apple to Teach the Trinity

The Snowman… 40 Years of Snow Much Fun!

The mid-west just experienced a major snowstorm that dropped 11 inches of snow in our yard. My little one has never seen so much snow and we had fun exploring this winter wonderland! Our frosty fun included sledding, making footprints in the snow and building a snowman.

We continued our fun indoors by sipping hot chocolate and watching “The Snowman” and “The Snowman and the Snowdog” films, making “The Snowman” mini-book, being creative and making snow people and baking yummy snowman treats.

The Snowman– The book “The Snowman” written and illustrated by English author Raymond Briggs is a wordless book with beautiful illustrations that chronicles the adventures of a boy named James who builds a snowman that comes to life. The book was originally published in 1978 and just celebrated 40 years of making winter dreams come to life. The delightful book takes the reader on an adventure where James introduces the snowman to his world (with a few comical mishaps along the way) and continues with the snowman taking James on a magical journey of discovery to meet Father Christmas. Sadly, the story ends the way all winter tales do, with the sun appearing overhead, melting the snow and bringing this beloved friendship promptly to an end.

In 1982 a short animated film based on Raymond Briggs classic story, “The Snowman” was created and aired in the UK. The brilliant score was composed by Howard Blake. The wordless film relies on the animation and the music to tell the story.  I was first introduced to the film when my mom (a retired teacher) purchased it on VHS through a Scholastic Book order. When I taught kindergarten I looked forward to showing the classic film to my students after we completed a January unit of study on snow. Upon first seeing it I immediately fell in love with the music and often found myself listening to the score. So you can imagine my excitement when my husband and I performed “The Snowman Concert Version” with the Northwinds Concert Band a few years ago. Our performance played simultaneously with the projected film and included the song “Walking in the Air” performed by a young boy soprano.

The book and animated film quickly became Christmas classics and is as popular in the UK as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is in the United States! There was a sequel called “The Snowman and the Snowdog,” equally adored by my dog loving little girl, additional books and a variety of toys featuring the popular snowman. I just discovered a website dedicated entirely to “The Snowman” that contains on-line games, family friendly activities and information about a stage production currently playing in London and Birmingham.

“The Snowman” Mini-Book– We also made and read the mini book “The Snowman,” a reproducible book found in Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities. Lillian loved the predictable text and read the book to her stuffed dogs. Click Here to download a copy of the mini- book, “The Snowman.”

Paper Plate Snow People- We used paper plates, construction paper and glue to make creative snow people. Lillian gave her snow person a carrot nose and a black hat. She free cut the decorations out of construction paper with some help from mommy and enjoyed gluing them on her snow person.

Snow People Snack This recipe from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities, is the perfect winter snack! Lillian and I used chocolate chips, m&m’s and snowflake shaped sprinkles to decorate our snow people that were molded out of biscuit dough. The best part was eating them hot out of the oven! Click Here for the Snow People Snack recipe.

Roll-a-Snowman Game– Another fun activity from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities is the Roll-a-Snowman Game. The game is played like Cooties where the players take turns rolling a die. For each number they roll they get to add a different item to the snowman they are drawing. The player who builds the snowman first is the winner. I assisted Lillian when it came time to draw her snowman. Another adaptation is drawing the parts of the snowman ahead of time, cutting out the pieces and then putting the pieces back together when you roll each number on the die. Click Here for a copy of the Roll-a-Snowman Game.

I will end with the words Raymond Briggs recites at the beginning of “The Snowman” animated film…. “I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day… and it was on that day I made the Snowman.”

An October Filled With Pumpkins, Pumpkins. Pumpkins!

It wouldn’t be fall without fun pumpkin activities, yummy pumpkin treats and a visit to the local pumpkin patch.

Roll a Pumpkin Game- This game is played like Cooties where you roll the die to build a pumpkin person. Everyone starts with a pumpkin body. With the youngest player going first you take turns rolling the die and building your pumpkin. The first player to build a pumpkin with a stem, eyes, nose, mouth, arms and legs is the winner!

Five Little Pumpkins- We enjoyed singing the classic song, “Five Little Pumpkins” and reading several different versions of the book. Using a fence and pumpkin play set found in my book Student Made Thematic Mini Books: With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy, my “Little Pumpkin” and I acted out the song and practiced our counting skills.

Pumpkin Bread- Nana helped us make yummy pumpkin bread. We added chocolate chips and enjoyed sharing our bread with others. Paired with Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend hot tea, pumpkin spiced coffee, or even pumpkin beer, it makes the perfect fall treat!

Jack-O-Faces Book- This is another fun rhyme found in my book Student Made Thematic Mini Books: With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy. We enjoyed coloring the book together and reading the fun rhyme about a pumpkin who shows us a variety of faces and emotions but ends up in a pumpkin pie! We acted out the story by making the faces along with the pumpkin. Lillian enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror as she made happy, sad, mad and sleepy faces.

Pumpkin Carving- Daddy helped Lillian carve a Jack-o-Lantern this year. Prior to creating her pumpkin, Lillian planned out her design on a large pumpkin shape. Daddy cut and we all helped clean out the “pumpkin guts,” making sure to save the seeds to roast later. We talked about how the pumpkin smelled, felt and looked. A great way to build vocabulary and to use the five senses.

Pumpkin BINGO- My dad helped me make this pumpkin themed BINGO game when I was teaching kindergarten. We dusted it off and played it at Lillian’s preschool Harvest Party and with our friends. One side has the letters of the alphabet, perfect for developing alphabetic knowledge. Flip the card over and you will find numbers, giving the BINGO players an opportunity to work on both letter and number identification. The children enjoyed using candy corn as cover ups and got to eat the candy corn at the end of the game.

Pumpkin Exploration- Lillian’s preschool teacher incorporated some wonderful pumpkin activities into center-time. An activity new to me was hammering golf tees into a pumpkin to work on fine motor skills. Pulling the golf tees out provided even more motor strength. They also did a pumpkin experiment where they tested a pumpkin to see if it floats or sinks. (It Floats!) Students worked on exploring the inside of a pumpkin, using tweezers to remove the seeds (another great fine motor activity), measured pumpkins, compared pumpkins and recorded their findings in their science journals.