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Pumpkin Patch Pals

October 16, 2008

Similar to the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, the Pumpkin Patch Pals are seasonal visitors that are fun to share with your child. Children love writing letters to the Pumpkin Patch Pals because somehow they write back. Giving children an authentic reason to use the letters sounds that they know to write their own letters is a very powerful motivation.

Prerequisite and Goal For This Lesson

Prerequisite: Some understanding of letter sounds. If your child is not familiar with some letter sounds or is unsure how to start, you can have him dictate the letters to you. It will be important that you still write the letter in the proper letter format for your child to get an added benefit from your modeling of the activity.

Goal: Having your child motivated to write on his own and using the letter sounds he knows. At this point, focus on the content not the actual spelling. Have your child read the letter he wrote to the pumpkin patch pal to you (so you can answer his questions in the letter you write back to him). The purpose of writing is to communicate with others. When your child sees that he can write to the Pumpkin Patch Pals and get a letter back, he will want to write again.

Prepare Pumpkin Patch Pals

Materials:

  • plastic pumpkins or real pumpkin/gourds
  • Introduction letter from the Pumpkin Patch Pals, use ours WORD or create your own
  • trinkets to include with your letter (optional)
  • paint or markers

Gonzo Gourd

A few weeks before Halloween you’ll want to make your Pumpkin Patch Pal so your child will have time to enjoy their arrival.

Painting the outside of the pumpkin or gourd works well and adding a hat or other accessories really gives it a personality. The advantage of choosing a plastic pumpkin is once you decorate it, you can use it every year. You might want to add different characters each year.

Choose a name for your Pumpkin Patch Pal. Some great names to give them are: Barty Bat, Wanda Witch, Gerty Gourd.

Write letter to your child from your Pumpkin Patch Pal:

You can use this letter and insert your child’s name or you can write your own.

In the letter you’ll need to explain their arrival.

Also explain that they heard that your child likes Halloween and it wanted to spend time with him for the fun day.

You’ll also have to tell him that the Pumpkin Patch Pals will write him back if he writes to them. He just needs to leave his letters beside the pumpkin.

If you can do it on the computer, your observant child, won’t recognize your handwriting.

Children are delighted by them and will ask many questions about how they got here, where they came from and, one of my favorites, do they have any brothers and sisters!

Some Pumpkin Patch Pal examples:

The Ghost Family

Little Jack

Lightning Lady


Silly Sue

Surprised Stan


Pumpkin Patch Pals

Materials:

  • journal paper: lines only or lines and space for drawing PDF
  • pencil

The Pumpkin Patch Pals can be an annual visit by painted plastic pumpkins or you can use a real pumpkin and they can be different every year. Children love the magically way they show up one day and spend some time with them before they leave for another year. You can place them on the front porch for your children to discover, beside them in bed to wake up to (if they are the plaster ones), or wherever would be a good location for their arrival.

When you are ready to set out your Pumpkin Patch Pal: Decide on a day and place that works well to introduce them. You can have one or a whole group. As in any gathering, the more the merrier!

Your child will be intrigued and ask you many questions. One approach that has worked well is that you don’t know where they came from either but there is a letter that seems to have come with them that might explain more. Explain how your child can send the Pumpkin Patch Pal a letter and in the letter she can ask her questions.

You can show her the proper form of a letter, use this paper for your sample:

Date – day she is writing the letter.

The heading – with the name of the person or in this case Pumpkin Patch Pal name.

The body of the letter – where she can ask a question and tell the Pumpkin Patch Pal something about herself.

The closing – where she signs her name.

Date

Heading (who are you writing),

Body ( ask questions and tell a little bit about yourself).

Closing,

(your name)

Even young children can be introduced to the format and will become familiar and comfortable with it in time.

Your child might want to draw pictures for the Pumpkin Patch Pals PDF or make her own stationary.

In addition to answering your child’s question you might add some of these examples to the Pumpkin Patch Pal’s reply:

Math problems – For example: if you had 3 spiders and 2 spiders, how many would you have all together?

A treasure hunt with a rebus (using words and pictures to convey message):

(drawing of legs jumping) four times,

go to the sink (picture of a sink) bend down (arrow down),

walk like a crab (picture of a crab) to the door (picture of a closet door)

open it (picture of an open door) and

find a clue (picture of a treasure box).

Inside the box (picture of box opened) and find a Halloween surprise!

You could reply to your child’s letter and ask her some questions.

As an extra bonus, you might want to include some trinket from the Pumpkin Patch Pal in your letter (Once I was writing as a mummy and sent pieces of gauze in the letter. They thought it was cool and carried the pieces around with them). You might go to Oriental Trading to locate small items that would be fun for your child or Smilemakers for encouraging your child to keep up the good work. They both offer a variety of inexpensive toys, stickers and stuff that children enjoy.

Whatever works for your child, do things that she would enjoy.

Assessment

For young children, did they enjoy the activity? If children are allowed to write without worrying about everything being perfect, they will make more attempts to do it. As your child gets older, the letters serve as a wonderful way to take a look at her sentences, punctuation and letter set up. Does she understand the basics of grammar? What skills do you need to go over again? You might also get some insight into your child’s thinking.

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