Pumpkin play

3 fun ways to turn a jack-o-lantern into a learning tool.

You'll Need

  • Pumpkin seeds


30 minutes

Learning Stages

After the jack-o-lanterns are carved, a pile of pumpkin guts and seeds remains, waiting to be tossed. Here are some tips for using the gooey leftovers for science, math and art activities.

First, separate the seeds from the stringy goo. Toss the goo into the compost bin for recycling. Thoroughly wash the seeds in a colander and spread them out in a single layer on paper towels or wax paper. Once dry, take your pick of the following activities:


Drop a few pumpkin seeds into zipper storage bags with some soil, water and a puff of air to make the bag fill out. Hang the bag at your child's eye-level. Over the next week or two, observe the seeds as the roots creep down and the sprouts grow up and make leaves. Experiment with placing terrariums in different areas of your home that receive different amounts of light. Once finished with the pumpkin seeds, why not try other types of seeds? Your child can chart the progress of different seeds and compare the results. It might be fun for your child to hold a “race” by planting several different seeds at the same time to see which seeds sprout the quickest or which roots grow deepest.

  • Some seeds may be “duds” and won’t sprout. Place a few seeds in each bag to ensure successful sprouts.
  • Keep terrariums out of direct sunlight. You want to sprout the seeds, not cook them.
  • If the bag gets foggy, you might explain that a terrarium is its own little ecosystem. The water evaporates from the soil and then forms condensation, just like the clouds in the sky. The condensation will trickle down the sides of the bag, just like the rain falling down.
  • Adding charcoal or special terrarium soil will help limit mold growth.
  • If you decide to transplant the starts once the plant outgrows the bag, keep in mind that pumpkin vines can reach lengths of 10 to 15 feet!

Seed counters

Dry pumpkin seeds make great counters for math activities. You can also make counting and number recognition exercises for your child. Take some index cards and write a number on each one. For each number on the card, ask your child to paste that many seeds on the card. Conversely, you can glue a number of seeds on cards and ask him to count them and write that number on the card.

Seed mosaics

Divide the seeds into groups and paint them different colors for making mosaics. Ask your child to draw a picture on a piece of paper, then “color” the picture by pasting the colored seeds on the paper. Simple pictures without small details work best: rainbow, flower, sunburst, tree and so on.