Category: Book Recommendations & Reviews

FREE (or nearly-free) pumpkin activity ideas

FREE (or nearly-free) pumpkin activity ideas

Fall is officially here! Pumpkins are everywhere, which is the perfect opportunity to learn about the life cycle of plants with your little ones. I want to share some of our favorite FREE (or almost-free) pumpkin activity ideas with all of you today. I’d love to see/hear about your pumpkin fun, too–tag me on Instagram (@rollingprairiereaders) so I can see what your little ones are learning!

Pumpkin Activity Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers | free pumpkin learning for kids, recommended pumpkin picture books, pumpkin printables, crafts

Please keep in mind that this blog uses affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission if you purchase anything recommended here, at no additional cost to you!

Hands-On Science Pumpkin Activity Ideas:

We bought a pie pumpkin from our grocery store (almost free!) and planted the seeds in cups with a little bit of soil, lots of sunlight, and some water. In just a few days, our seeds have sprouted, giving the girls a front-row seat at real-life, hands-on science! We’ll roast our leftover seeds and bake up a tasty treat this weekend, too.

Printable Pumpkin Activity Ideas:

We use printables from for many of our seasonal lessons, and we found some of the cutest activities that are absolutely FREE! You will need to set up an account at TpT, but I promise you’ll be back frequently.

Pumpkin Investigation Sheet
I See a Pumpkin Emergent Reader (counting & colors)

These activities are no longer free, but are really affordable!
Life Cycle of a Pumpkin CROWNS for boys and girls
Life Cycle of a Pumpkin cut & paste

Pumpkin Book Ideas:

We checked out books about pumpkins from our local library (also FREE!). Our favorites are:

STEM and Sign Language Pumpkin Activity Ideas:

Finally, we are watching the Rachel and the Treeschoolers Plants & Flowers episode, which covers how a seed grows, what it needs to thrive, and the process of photosynthesis–all while singing and learning American Sign Lnaugage! Learn more about the episode here and download the FREE Activity Guide here.

Join us for 31 days of FREE pumpkin activity ideas!
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Best Apple Books for Kids

Best Apple Books for Kids

September is here, and we are starting our family apple unit study!

Best Apple Books for Kids | picture book recommendations, apple books for toddlers, apple books preschool, apple unit study

I love this time of year. We are entering our sixth year of homeschooling, and every year we start with our apple activities. Now that we live in the Midwest, we even get to take a family field trip to the apple orchard later this month!

(Did you get your FREE apple-themed invitations to play download?)

Before we kick off any unit of study, I always like to begin with a big stack of picture books. I place them all in a basket in the living room, near the couch. The girls browse through them often throughout the day, and make a list of activity ideas for later in the month.

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you.)

Our all-time favorite apple book is Secrets of the Apple Tree from Usborne Books and More. I love the interactive aspect of the book, as well as all the science information! The girls love using a flashlight to find all the hidden pictures. Secrets of the Apple Tree is definitely the BEST of the best apple books for kids. (Learn more about the book here in my UBAM store.)

Best Apple Books for Kids | picture book recommendations, apple books for toddlers, apple books preschool, apple unit study

Best Apple Books: Fiction

One book we love is Apples, Apples, Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. The end pages feature illustrations of the apple tree in all four seasons. The book features a family of rabbits who go to the orchard. Throughout the book, there are lots of opportunities for discussion and learning, including:

  • a chart of different varieties of apples, their attributes, and uses
  • a diagram of the different parts of an apple
  • recipes
  • an art project
  • and even an apple song (with sheet music!)

Our friend Vicki at Babies to Bookworms recommended The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. It tells the story of an apple tree throughout all four seasons through the eyes of two young children. (And the last page of the book includes more details about the pollination process and a recipe for apple pie!) Be sure to visit Vicki’s site for activity ideas for this great book.

With a first grader in the family this year, I also checked out Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore. Nancy’s class takes a trip to the apple orchard and learns a lesson about following directions and friendship. As always, this Fancy Nancy book introduces lots of excellent new vocabulary words!

Best Apple Books for Kids | picture book recommendations, apple books for toddlers, apple books preschool, apple unit study

Best Apple Books: Non-Fiction 

While my girls love reading fiction, I think it’s important to include non-fiction text as well. Julie Murray’s Apples features a table of contents, a glossary, and an index. The pictures are bright and colorful, and the text is just right for 2nd and 3rd grade readers (and for family read-aloud time)!

How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro is a terrific overview of the pollination process for elementary students and preschoolers with a longer attention span. We will definitely use this one for our science lessons this year!

Gail Gibbons is one of our family’s favorites authors, so of course we grabbed her Apples book. This book includes a little of the history of apples in the United States, including a brief mention of Johnny Appleseed. (If you have elementary-age children, they might enjoy Who Was Johnny Appleseed?, a longer biography about John Chapman.)

Shop the Best Apple Books for Kids:

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, we like to store our unit books in an obvious, can’t-miss spot in the living room. Since we homeschool, we often use picture books instead of a textbook for science and history studies–but many of these books can also be enjoyed during family read-aloud time.

Check out 12 Ways to Incorporate Reading Into Your Day!

Did I miss any of the best apple books? Share your recommendation below!

Best Apple Books for Kids | picture book recommendations, apple books for toddlers, apple books preschool, apple unit study

Solar Eclipse Tips and Resources for Kids

Solar Eclipse Tips and Resources for Kids

If you’re like me, your newsfeed is FULL of news and updates about the upcoming U.S. solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st. There’s a lot of information out there, so I wanted to grab the “best of the best” for all of you to peruse quickly before Monday.

We like to use major events like these to pique our girls’ interest in new ideas (like the solar system!) and go deeper in our learning while interest is high.

What is a solar eclipse, and why is it such a big deal?

This video from SciShow Kids explains it perfectly!

How can I watch it (safely)?

If you live in this zone, you’ll be able to see some or all of the eclipse in your own yard!

Map of the 2017 solar eclipse, courtesy of NASA
Source: NASA

If you’re not able to see it outside, be sure to check out this live stream!

Know the Risks, Don’t Peek!

Note: Some scientists are disputing Dr. Schecter’s post, so use caution and make the best decision for your family. 

Helpful Idea to Try with Kids:

Other Ways to Watch the Solar Eclipse:

Learn more about the solar system with these great solar eclipse resources!

More Solar Eclipse Activities:

If your kids are like mine, they will likely be talking about the eclipse for days (or weeks!). Take advantage of their excitement to learn more about the sun AND take some time to preserve their memories of the day.

Solar System Book Recommendations | Solar Eclipse 2017

Book Recommendations:

My girls LOVE to read, so I always try to have a few non-fiction books available about the topic we’re studying. Visit your local library, or add a few new books to your collection. We have not found many eclipse-specific books, but are using the experience to learn more about the solar system in general. As an Usborne Books & More Consultant, I recommend these five great books:

Big Book of Stars and Planets from Usborne Books & More

The Solar System from Usborne Books & More

Sun, Moon, and Stars from Usborne Books and More

100 Things to Spot in the Night Sky from Usborne Books & More
Technically not a book, but a box of information cards.

Secrets of Our Earth from Usborne Books & More

Additional Resources:

  • NASA has set up a homeschool section on their solar eclipse website, including family activities and lesson plans for all ages.
  • I will continue to update this post as new resources become available!