Pass The Pumpkin…Fall Therapy Ideas for Toddlers…Therapy Tip of the Week 11.13.17

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Do you need to find a fun way to teach:
  • social interaction,
  • developing an attention span,
  • participating in a small group activity,
  • receptive language,
  • imitation, and
  • expressive language?

​Have I got a game (or two!) for you!!

Even though Halloween is over, you may still have some pumpkins hanging around. If so, I have two super cute social games for toddlers! Both activities are more fun with groups of toddlers in daycare or preschool settings or even with a mom, a therapist, and a child.

Your primary goal is to help a toddler who has difficulty with social interaction and sharing experiences (or toys!) with other children. I’ve also used these little games to teach toddlers to participate in a circle time routine when they usually don’t show much interest or have any “staying power.”

(If you’re more of a reader, a written summary is below the video.)

Pass the Pumpkin…Fall Therapy Ideas for Toddlers

Everyone should sit on the floor in a circle. Be sure kids are spaced closely enough to easily pass the pumpkin from person to person.

Introduce the game by enthusiastically telling the group that you’re going to play a fun game by saying, “Look! I have a pumpkin! Pumpkin!”

Explain the rules by saying something like, “Let’s play a game! Our game is called “Pass the Pumpkin!” Here’s how we play… pass the pumpkin around our circle while we sing the pumpkin song! When it’s your turn, take the pumpkin from your friend, and then give it to the next friend beside you. Are you ready? Let’s play!”

Begin the game as you sing these words to the tune of “Frere Jacques” or “Are You Sleeping?”


Pass the pumpkin. Pass the pumpkin.

All around. All around.

Fall is coming. Fall is coming.

To our town. To our town.


Be prepared to step in to provide quick physical assistance if a child doesn’t want to pass the pumpkin to the next child. Place these kinds of kids beside you or another adult so that the game moves along like it should without too many verbal disruptions. Don’t ruin it for everyone by constantly stopping to cue (or reprimand!) a child who hoards the pumpkin. Expect it and have your plan ready! If you’re really desperate, hold that child in your lap as you play so that you can teach him to take the pumpkin and then pass it to the next person.

When you begin to sense that a child’s attention and interest is waning, move on to the next variation…


Roll the Pumpkin

In this game, a child rolls the pumpkin to someone seated across from him.

To begin, hold the pumpkin and excitedly say, “Let’s play a new game. Let’s roll pumpkins to our friends.” (Or to our family if you’re at home.)

Say something like, “I roll the pumpkin to ____!” or even something simpler like, “Roll to Mommy.”

Initially, choose the child who is most likely to play appropriately. If the child you’re working with needs to see a few turns before he will understand the game, roll the pumpkin between two adults to model how to play. Again, if necessary, be prepared to provide physical assistance so the child catches the pumpkin and then rolls the pumpkin to someone else.

If you’re working on gestures, have a child point to the person he will roll the pumpkin to next. Ask, “Who will you roll to? Mommy? Where’s Mommy?” Model pointing and help him point if he doesn’t.

If a child is already talking, ask him the question and wait for him to say a person’s name. Calling family members and little friends by name is a HUGE milestone for late talkers!

If a child likes verbal routines or is working on early words, add “Ready, Set, Go!” to create anticipation as you roll the pumpkin. Encourage a toddler to complete the verbal routine by saying, “Ready…… Set……” and expectantly waiting for him to say, “Go!’

Don’t get too wordy in the beginning or add too many steps to the game at once. Your initial goal should be to encourage the child to participate and play with others. When a toddler wants to leave the game, it’s usually because you’re trying to accomplish too many things. Select what she’s most likely to like (and do!) and stick with that one goal at first. Add new goals only when she is successful.


Imitating Actions

Other variations include modeling actions for a child to imitate or verbal directions for him to follow. Try pat the pumpkin, kiss the pumpkin, rub the pumpkin, sit on the pumpkin, hide the pumpkin, etc…

Imitating any action is a big step for many late talking toddlers!



Therapists email me often (as in every day!) with questions about documentation for games like this. Include goals like…

  • participating in a structured activity. (Did he sit through several rounds or did he leave? Will he come back with verbal cues or did you have to go get him and bring him back? What cues did you use?)
  • following directions during a group activity. (Did he receive/pass the pumpkin on command? Does he roll the pumpkin? Did he complete other requests?)
  • social interaction skills like joint attention and eye contact. (Did he “follow” the pumpkin as it moves around the circle? Does she make and maintain eye contact with other kids/adults as she takes and gives the pumpkin?)
  • gestures. (Did he point to the people he picked when playing the rolling game? Can he imitate waving to the pumpkin? Did he nod or shake his head to answer yes/no questions?)
  • imitating actions. (Does she copy your actions on request?)

These areas are prelinguistic skills that all toddlers learn before they begin to communicate. When a child isn’t talking yet, you can trace it back to one of these 11 areas.


Let me help you!

I’ll teach you these 11 skills in my new therapy manual Let’s Talk About Talking…Ways to Strengthen the 11 Skills All Toddlers Master Before Words Emerge. 

It’s filled with TONS of great therapy activities tied to those prelinguistic skills. There’s no more guessing what your goals should be or how to work on them in fun, developmentally appropriate activities! I’ve done the hard work for you! All you have to do is read! : )


If you’d like more information, check out details in this link.

See other fall therapy ideas for toddlers:

All the Leaves

Brown Squirrel

Hello Mr. Turkey






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