Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fall and Halloween Loose Parts

I love Fall and Halloween! I enjoy the changing of colors, cooler air, leaf piles, harvest season, and so much more! To me, this is a great time to incorporate seasonal or holiday inspired loose parts. I've linked to a lot of my related blog posts so feel free to explore the hyperlinks, including my post on 30+ ways of approaching Loose Parts Play

Outdoor Environment

A great way to use seasonal loose parts is in the outdoor classroom or just in your backyard. While we may consider things as "decorations", if we allow children to use and move these pieces, the decor becomes loose parts! Here are a few of our favorites:

mini pumpkins
straw bales
corn stalks
acorn caps
sunflowers and sunflower stalks
garden clippings
sweet gum balls
leaves, leaves, and more leaves
mums and seasonal flowers

We have a mental map to know where to get these each season and let people know our vision--you never know who might help! Someone I met online regularly walks the woods and collected buckeyes for us this year. We have a couple of inexpensive places where farmers sell their pumpkins and gourds. We know where to get the "fun" burr oak caps above by the youth arts building. A friend needs her beans shelled.  Knowing the timing of when to get these can be helpful and we usually have a collection of stuff in the swagger wagon. Feel free to leave a comment if you have other suggestions that you find in your area for fall loose parts.

Seasonal Art Projects

Mini gourds can be an inexpensive and accessible option to decorate with nature. We typically use a glue gun (with help) or Tacky Glue to affix the "stuff" and create nature decorated gourds.

Things to collect for this: leaves, acorn caps, sticks, googly eyes, fabric scraps, sweet gum balls, seeds, pine needles, etc.

Leaf art! Inspired by the book Leaf Man, we create our own leaf creatures. 

Color Matching Using color swatches we look for nature with the colors.

Sensory Bins and Sensory Experiences

A big corn bin becomes a great sensory experience. I might include more scoops and fewer trucks, but it's really fun with nothing at all. It's inexpensive to get 50 lbs. of this.

For our sensory bin we started with pinecones and tree cookies, adding in colored pom poms, fake leaves, measuring tapes, fake spiders, and more!

Sensory activities also can include shelling beans, corn, and sunflower heads. Great fine motor activity and interaction with sensory experiences. 

Cutting open a pumpkin is a great way to explore as well. Adding some tools such as magnifying glasses, tweezers, and a number chart extend the experience. 

Loose Parts Tinker Trays

We have really enjoyed putting together and using tinker trays. It's easy to put out and put away rather quickly. For the fall tray we added fake mini gourds, felt acorns and pumpkins, seasonally colored popsicle sticks, wooden, fabric, and metal leaves, wooden acorns, and lots and lots of nature. We rotate these out from time to time.  Helpful tools include a good tray, magnifying glasses, and frames.

Loose Parts "Kits"

Sometimes we need a monster grab an go option like this quick bin with felt scraps, ribbons, clothespins, yarn, feathers, and more, paired with a seasonal frame. Look at those monsters!

This fall grab and go kit has many items similar to the fall tinker tray above, all contained in a muslin bag

A good source of felted wool acorns is fun as well. A collection in a bowl allows for exploration. 

Simple, seasonal invitations can easily be set out, such as this clothespin clipping spot. Here is a string tied outside with clothespins on it and felt leaf cut outs. We easily changed these for bats another day. The children are open to explore this how they want. 

Halloween Loose Parts Invitation This divided tray with spider frames, plastic spiders, eye balls, goggly eyes, tree cookies, pumpkins, cookie cutters, play dough, and so much more became a great seasonal invitation. 

Build a Spider  Spiders are always fun in the fall! When we investigated siders we had tree cookies, eye balls, pipe cleaners, silicone spider/pumpkin trays (mostly used for sorting), beads, play dough and more. 

Honestly, I can't quite remember what we were doing below, but shows how seasonal items such as frames, baskets, and runners can be part of the equation to make it more festive. I always check the clearance sales after the holiday (and even early in the season as it's sometimes half off or the week of--Michael's was advertising 60% off Halloween and 70% off Fall today). Frames were 30 cents each when I got them after Halloween a couple of years ago!

Seasonal Items and Color Swatches We collected a large basket of seasonal colors on a walk and matched them with our paint swatches. Lots of options with this. 

Seasonal Play dough and Loose Parts--we like making a pumpkin spice play dough. So fun! It becomes the glue to hold things together and goes right back to loose parts when we are done. Here we used fall table scatter

Inside Decor

One approach is to have a Fall Nature Table that children can explore. We got a lot for ours through a swap--such pretty stuff that I don't have a picture for. The wool acorns and wool felted trees are there, along with different things we discover outside. We might have a few guide books/pamphlets, poems, books, etc. there as well.

We also usually have a seasonally themed Table Centerpiece. Gourds are great and can be used for projects found above as we finish with them. :-)


People often ask me where I get all this stuff! :-) Here are some places I often look:

My stash, such as craft supplies
Nature--loads and loads of options there
Roadside seasonal stands
Hobby Lobby--For both of these watch for the 50+% off and the clearance sales after the season. I get great finds at both places, looking for packages that have several within the set. I do a quick check early in the season and then return again when it is clearance time.
Target--try what used to be the dollar spot
Wal-mart--table scatter, seasonal erasers, plastic spiders, seasonal pom poms and pipe clearners, etc.
Dollar Tree--clear gems, rocks,
Amazon--here is a list I compiled recently
Garage sales
Letting people know what I'm doing--share the vision!

Other Activities

Not necessarily all a loose part, but we have enjoyed these action cards for Halloween.

Strawing for Spiders

 Spider/Not a Spider Sort  As we look at spiders, we often have a spider/not a spider sort, finding the items all in our basket with paper crinkled grass.

Natural Weaving Another extension of spiders is to make a simple cardboard and yarn loom, adding to it as we go on a hike. Love the fall colors! Read more ways to do natural weaving here. 

Food as a Loose Part/Seasonal Snacks There are so many options to this--here we are making spiders.

Sticky tape to learn about spiders--threw this in just because I wanted to remember it. :-)

Harvest Exploration Onions, apples, dried corn, sweet potatoes, sunflowers, gourds, and more make for a great harvest exploration. Add in a magnifying glass.

Pumpkin Pounding We used golf tees and crab mallets to pound into a pumpkin. I suggest using safety goggles here too. :-) Such great work for little hands (and not so little--my big boys like it as well!).

Topics to explore for Fall/Halloween may include:

Leaves/Trees--More trees, Playing with Leaves!
Harvest Moon
The Harvest
Halloween Fun
Nocturnal Animals

Fall and Halloween Books We Enjoy

Boo to You -- Great for loose parts!
Leaf Man -- Great for loose parts!
Look What I Did with a Leaf
Awesome Autumn
Too Many Pumpkins
The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything
Nuts to You

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