Tag: learning through play

5 FREE Pumpkin-Themed Invitations to Play

5 FREE Pumpkin-Themed Invitations to Play

October has arrived, and so have the pumpkins. On Saturday, we took our girls to go apple-picking, and the farm was full of families heading to the pumpkin patch. Grocery stores and home improvement warehouses are setting up their displays, leaves are raining down from the trees, and little ones are counting down to Halloween. Today, I am excited to share five FUN, free, EASY pumpkin-themed kids activities for your family.


Scroll down for our freebie!

And if you are a homeschooling/tot-schooling family, be sure to click here for our list of FREE (and almost free) pumpkin activities for the month of October.


In case you missed the introduction to our invitation to play series (click here), let me give you a brief introduction to how we structure these fun, simple activities at our house.  

  • Maybe you are looking for some play-based learning ideas for your toddler or preschooler.
  • Or you are trying to help an older child with homework or get dinner on the table. 
  • It could be you are a WAHM searching for a quick activity that will engage your little one while you send an e-mail or film a FB live video. 

An invitation to play is an easy, open-ended activity that uses just a few materials found around the house. Keeping these learning activities set aside for special times keeps them interesting and intentionally engaging for when you need 10-15 minutes to get something else done! Best of all, these simple materials can be mixed and matched for countless other activities throughout the year.

This week, I have a freebie for you: a download with FIVE simple pumpkin-themed invitations to play, including a materials list!


Here’s a sneak peek at some of the skills found in our pumpkin-themed kids activities:

  • Fine-motor and hand-strengthening
  • Object transferring
  • Object stringing
  • LOTS and LOTS of learning through open-ended play

See one of the activities here:

If you want even more, be sure to join our Facebook group for 31 days of pumpkin-themed kids activities!


Five FREE Pumpkin-Themed Kids Activities (Toddlers and Preschoolers) | tot school, preschool at home, learning at home, tactile activities, wahm kids

Just fill out this quick form to let me know you want the freebie!

Melissa @ Rolling Prairie Readers

Don’t forget to share this freebie with your friends. Hit the Facebook button below or pin this image:

Five FREE Pumpkin-Themed Kids Activities (Toddlers and Preschoolers) | tot school, preschool at home, learning at home, tactile activities, wahm kids

Make Learning Fun … at Home!

Make Learning Fun … at Home!

Yesterday (September 19th) was Talk Like a Pirate Day. We celebrated with costumes, a reading of Tough Boris, and a trip to our local bakery for a donut. (Don’t all pirates eat donuts?) As I planned this goofy little break in our daily routine, I though about each of YOU and your children.

It seems like the current state of education has become overwhelming for us and for our children: homework, standardized testing, getting into a good college (and figuring out how to pay for it). I wanted to share how we–parents–can make learning fun at home for our children! 

I am a BIG believer that education SHOULD be a joyful experience for our children. It breaks my heart when I hear kids says, “I don’t like school,” or “Reading is boring!” In fact, one of my major goals for Rolling Prairie Readers is to help all parents (including myself) re-think about our attitudes and actions about learning. When we say, “I don’t like math,” or “I’m not good at art,” we are impacting the way our children think about the world!

Make learning fun at home! Read good books, learn through play, go on family adventures, and talk positively about school and books with your children.

So, what are some ways we can make learning fun at home?

  1. Talk positively about learning. Our children will be in school for at least 13 years (not counting college), so it’s important that we are strong supporters of our schools, teachers, libraries, and education in general. Make a point to stop negative talk early, and reframe our children’s frustrations as much as possible. (“I can’t do it,” becomes “I can’t do it yet, and that’s okay!”)
  2. Make GOOD books a part of your family’s culture. Visit the library often. Buy books for gifts. Read aloud to your children even after they can read to themselves. Listen to audiobooks on long trips. (You can click here to read 12 Ways to Incorporate Reading into Your Daily Routine.)
  3. Offer your child several opportunities to learn through play each day. Consider how your child learns best, and add in more music, videos, or sensory bins. I have several seasonal “invitations to play” here on the blog for FREE. You can also browse my Pinterest boards for more ideas!
  4. Chase adventures together. It doesn’t matter if you travel near or far, there is much to be learned from this big world of ours!

Imagine that your’s child learning journey is a hunt for treasure. You have been given the map to guide your child through dangerous and wild lands, past hard times and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Hopefully along the way, your child will learn that the real treasure is a life of learning…with you!

Sign up for a FREE mini-plan! Our mini-plan gives you a sneak peek at the planning process and includes 3 custom activities for your toddler/preschooler.

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip

When the calendar switches to September, I immediately begin planning our fall family outings: apple-picking, visiting the pumpkin patch, hiking local nature trails, driving to see the changing leaves, and more!

One of my intentions here at Rolling Prairie Readers is making learning fun for all families. The easiest way to do that is to include more family field trips in your calendar. While it can be tricky to fit one more thing on your to-do list, my suggestion is one family adventure each quarter. If that goes well, you can always add more trips as your schedule allows.

Now that we have moved to the Midwest, we are able to experience more “seasonal” activities.  When I mentioned I’d like to go apple-picking, a quick Internet search brought up several orchards within an hour of our house.


(If you don’t have an apple orchard near your town, keep reading to the end! I have lots of fun family ideas, including re-creating an apple-picking experience at home.)


Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

Last year, we visited Center Grove Orchard, close to Ankeny, Iowa.

The orchard offers a large variety of fun, fall, farm activities. On this trip, we decided to focus on picking apples. We took a tractor-pulled hayride out to the orchard, where we purchased our bag and got a list of the varieties available for picking.

We enjoyed seeing all the different types of apple trees in various stages of growth. Some of the trees were quite mature, while others were really young. We picked 15 apples from five trees: McIntosh, Gala, Blondee, Crimson Crisp, and Jonathan.

Before we left Center Grove Orchard, we made a stop at the restaurant to get a small treat (pie for me, turnover for my husband, and apple cider donuts for the girls) and purchase some apple butter for the fall!

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

If you are you are planning on taking your family apple-picking this fall, here are some tips and learning activity ideas.

Before Apple-Picking:

  • Check out apple-themed books from your library. (Here’s our book list, Best Apple Books for Kids.)
  • Visit pickyourown.org for a list of apple orchards nearby.
  • Look at a map with your child and choose a route to get there.
  • Discuss the measurement terms “bushel” and “peck.”

During Apple-Picking:

  • Discuss different parts of an apple and its tree.
  • Compare and contrast types of apples available.
  • Count apples as you pick them.
  • Talk about what an apple tree needs to produce fruit.
  • Meet orchard employees and learn more about the work they do.
  • Make a list of products that come from apples.
  • Watch an apple cider demonstration (or watch this video when you get home).

After Apple-Picking:

  • Set up a taste test of the different apple varieties.
  • Make a chart of attributes about each of the apples tried.
  • Cook a tasty treat together.
  • Plant apple seeds and watch them grow.

If you don’t live near an apple orchard, you can still do many of these activities! Go to the grocery store, choose several different varieties of apples, and set up a “tasting” on a picnic blanket in your yard or at the park.


40 fun family activities: apples | simple learning ideas for toddlers and preschoolers, learning at home

Looking for even more apple-themed learning ideas for your toddler or preschooler?

Get the first week of our Ultimate Family Activity Guide absolutely FREE!