The wide variety of seasonal foods and changes in the environment make the fall season ripe for celebrating with a harvest festival. Sometimes used in place of Halloween celebrations, harvest parties celebrate fall with sensory activities related to this particular time of year.
Ideas for preschool crafts are as bountiful as the harvests of the season. Almost any craft can be adapted to suit three-and-four-year-olds in a school, community or home setting. The key to crafting with this age group is to prepare as best you can before the party and expect a big mess. Modern crafting inventions like glue dots and safety scissors can be your best friends.
Instead of carving pumpkins, which can be dangerous when using a knife or carving tools, consider making Frankengourds. These adorable monster-like creations are a fun and easy harvest festival activity for kids of all ages.
- Small gourds (one per child)
- Glue dots
- Multi-colored pom-poms
- Pipe cleaners, sequins, feathers, foam stickers, and buttons
- Hot glue gun (for adult use only)
- Help each child select the specific materials she would like to use.
- Direct students to use the supplies to decorate their gourds with a face.
- Help students use glue dots to hold any of the supplied items in place.
- Students can use markers to draw or color elements on their gourds as well.
- Have adult helpers on hand to hot glue elements once the student has finished decorating.
- Alternatively, you can glue on only some elements (like hair) and leave the rest in place with glue dots. Doing this will allow the child to switch the gourd's look.
Send the finished gourds home with children to use as centerpieces for their tables.
Leaves are abundant during autumn and make great craft supplies. Children can use their imaginations to create people, places, animals or objects using leaves.
- A variety of leaves in different shapes, colors and sizes
- Card stock
- Elmer's glue
- Small cups
- Washable markers
- Direct students to choose leaves that look like other things, such as a head or a tire. If you don't want to make leaf hunting part of the class activity, instruct students to come to school with a variety of leaves. (Tip: Collect leaves a few days in advance so the leaves have time to dry out.)
- Right before the activity, provide each child with a small cup of glue and a paint brush.
- Using the leaves, have students build pictures by setting the leaves out on a piece of card stock.
- Once each child has his leaf picture laid out, he can use the paint brush and brush the glue onto the paper.
- Show students how to press each leaf it onto the paper so it stays.
- After all the leaves have been glued to the card stock, children can use markers to add other elements to the picture that will help identify what they have created. For example, if a child creates a leaf person she might want to add a face and hands.
- Allow pictures to dry.
Games and Activities
Preschoolers are full of endless amounts of energy. Put it all to good use with some active harvest-inspired fun.
Sensory bins are great activities for children in this age group. Not only do they provide a fun sensory experience, but they also teach children more about the properties of a particular item. In this case, use the inside 'guts' of a pumpkin as a filler in the sensory bin. Just as if you were carving a pumpkin, cut the top off and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and gooey stuff inside. If you like to roast and eat pumpkin seeds, you can use the goop that's left as your filler. Give children scoops, spoons and small cups to use while playing in the 'pumpkin guts.'
The best part about this activity, aside from the obvious disgust factor, is pumpkin will easily wash off little hands, and it is safe if ingested. As with many foods today, some children may be allergic to pumpkin, so be sure to ask parental permission before setting up this activity.
Scare the Crows
This game is best played in an open area with walls such as a gymnasium.
One child should be chosen as the 'scarecrow.' He will be instructed to stand at one end of the room with his arms raised like a scarecrow. All other students will be the 'crows' and should line up on the opposite end of the room from the 'scarecrow.'
- The teacher will call out commands for the number of steps 'crows' should take. Use garden-themed commands like, "Take two steps forward if you like to eat apples," or "If you like to eat pumpkin pie take four steps forward."
- The 'crows' should follow the instructions.
- The 'scarecrow' should hold still until he feels ready to scare the crows out of the garden. When the 'scarecrow' is ready, he can jump up and say "Get out of my garden, crows!" then try to tag one of the 'crows.'
- Once the 'scarecrow' comes to life, all the 'crows' should try to run back to the 'safe tree.'
- The person who gets tagged by the 'scarecrow' or the last 'crow' back to the 'safe tree' gets to be the 'scarecrow' in the next round.
Preschoolers will have fun scaring each other and learn how to follow multi-step directions in this simple gym game.
Teach children valuable harvesting skills through the fun of a relay-style team race.
- Several ears of corn still in the husk
- Two bins of the same color for each team (use a different color for each team)
- Masking tape
Create a starting line on the floor using the masking tape. Leave a pile of corn (one ear per team member) and a garbage bin for each team, spaced about three feet apart along the starting line. Create a finish line across the room and set a corn bin for each team directly across from the garbage bin at the finish line.
- Demonstrate how to shuck an ear of corn by peeling down each layer from the top.
- Split the group into equal teams of four or fewer students. Have teams stand in a straight line with one behind another.
- When you say 'Go,' the first team member must shuck his ear of corn over the garbage bin.
- When finished shucking, the child must run to the finish line and place his ear of corn in the designated corn bin then sit down.
- Once a shucked ear of corn is in the right bin, the next team member repeats the same process.
- Gameplay continues until everyone is sitting at the finish line. The team who finishes first wins.
In this game, students will learn how to follow directions, take turns and work as a team.
The flavors of fall are magical, from apples and pumpkin to squash and all things cinnamon. Help children develop a sense of adventure when it comes to the foods they eat by offering unique, fun snacks.
Mystery Trail Mix
Be sure to check on allergies before serving food to children and only add items to the mix that all children in your class can eat. The mystery involved in making this trail mix will have kids excited to try whatever might be lurking inside their snack bags.
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
- Dried apple pieces
- Candy corn
- Mini pumpkin muffins
- Any other fall-inspired snack foods
- Small paper bags
- Plastic bowls
- Serving spoons
Place the tablecloth over the top and front side of a table, leaving one side of the table open. Fill each bowl with a single ingredient, and place all the bowls under the open side of the table. Give each student a paper bag. You can have students decorate the bags before starting the snack if you desire. Teachers should be seated behind the table, on the open side.
- Call students up one at a time to the table.
- The student should hand her bag to the first teacher who will ask, "Would you like some of my mystery ingredients?" If the child answers "Yes," the teacher will discreetly scoop ingredients into the bag. The teacher will then hand the bag to the next teacher. If the child answers "No," the teacher will pass the bag to the next teacher without filling it.
- The second teacher will repeat the process.
- If there is a third adult or teacher, she will repeat the process.
- The last teacher in line will close the bag by rolling the top down tightly.
- Each student should be instructed to shake up his bag after all the ingredients have been added.
- Once all students have their bags filled, the entire group can open the bags at the same time and start eating.
Harvest Themes for Preschool
Harvest and autumn open the door to several autumn theme options in a school or daycare setting. And you can find great activities, games, and decorations for your smallest learners.
Not only can you gorge on apple cider and donuts with kids (without allergies), but you can have your littles color and cut out apple decorations. What little kid doesn't love bobbing for apples or apple facts games?
Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween. Kids can paint pumpkins for harvest festivals to decorate a room. These can be really fun with colorful handprints or silly faces. You might also create pumpkin name tags that they can place on a bulletin board.
Autumn colors are a huge hit during fall and harvest but you can bring that joy into your decorations. You can make leave name decorations for your preschoolers to go around the room. They can also cut leaves out of construction paper to decorate a paper tree for display.
Who doesn't love a good scarecrow? Allow your preschoolers to get all hands on by creating scarecrow puppets using paper bags and construction paper. You might even have them create a scarecrow decoration or two. Don't forget coloring pages with scarecrows.
Harvest festivals are all about fall harvest and that wouldn't be the same without corn. Beyond shucking corn, maybe you can make candy corn decorations with construction paper and candy corn. They are cute and tasty. You could also play count the kernels, or create a fun corn maze printable for them.
Kids can use their frankengourds to decorate the room. Or you might have them create a colorful gourd bulletin board. Little kids will also enjoy sorting the gourds by size and color.
Acorn themes can be fun for preschoolers. Let them play squirrel and find the numbered acorns in sequence. You could also have them cut and decorate acorns to hang up on the walls. Go outside and collect acorns to make acorn mobiles.
Cornucopias are a common harvest festival theme. Not only can the preschools color and decorate cornucopias to take home, but they can play games like fill the cornucopia. Who doesn't love cornucopia decorations?
Celebrate the Season
Harvest parties are a great way to celebrate in an all-inclusive way. By focusing on the bounty of autumn rather than a specific holiday, everyone can be included. Take a look outside this fall and get creative when planning a harvest party the kids will always remember.