Let’s celebrate fall! This low-prep acorn counting activity is a fun way teach kids about how animals get ready for winter and help them practice essential preschool math skills.This week we are officially welcoming fall! The past few weeks I’ve realized how much earlier it’s getting dark, and when I wake up in the morning and go outside, the air has that distinct crisp chill that autumn brings. My burning bushes are showing flickers of orangey red, and I’m starting to crave soup and pumpkin bread…if only it wasn’t still 90 degrees during the day.
I really realized it’s almost fall when I went in my backyard the other day and noticed hundreds of acorns littering the ground in the corner of my yard. I know that within a few months the squirrels will bustle them away, but for now I could have made a mountain out of them.
And that realization gave me an idea…
I invited my four-year-old over to look at the mass of acorns. We talked for a minute about what acorns are (seeds) and how animals will collect them in the fall and eat them during the winter when food is scarce.
“Should we gather some up to play with?” I asked him.
Excitedly, he ran off to get his bucket from the sandbox. We spent the next 15 minutes gathering as many acorns as we could fit in the bucket, with him determined to fill it to the top.
Once he declared that we had enough, we took them inside. After some free exploration and a random game he came up with where we had to roll the acorns through a “tunnel”, I told him I had an idea for a game.
I told him that we were going to be like the squirrels gathering acorns for winter. He seemed intrigued, so I ran with the idea.
We’ve done several “Feed the ____________ (shark, bunny, turkey, etc.)” before, so I thought it would be fun to make a squirrel variation of this popular activity. This time, instead of feeding the squirrel directly, we would race to see how fast we could help the squirrel fill his tree with a stockpile of acorns for winter.
I grabbed an empty container of baby “puffs” and covered it in brown paper to be the trunk of a tree. I had planned to use a paper towel roll, but I didn’t have any empty ones on hand. If you have younger kids, I would definitely recommend a paper towel roll (or even a toilet paper roll), because the puffs container took awhile to fill up during the activity.
I added a piece of green tissue paper to be the “leaves” of the tree, and we were set. Just stuff the tissue paper in the top of the container/roll and poke a hole so you can put the acorns inside and check how full your tree is getting. Nothing fancy.
Once you have your tree, go grab a die out of any other game to use for this activity. Now, you’re ready to play!
P.S. – If you don’t have easy access to acorns, you can still do this activity…it just requires a little more imagination (which preschoolers have in spades, so no biggie!). In place of acorns, you can use pom poms, pebbles, small candies…just about anything!
Here are the full instructions:
“Feed the Squirrel”
Acorn Counting Activity
WHAT WE’RE LEARNING:
- one-to-one correlation
- fine motor skills
- empty paper towel roll (or other container to be the “tree trunk”)
- green tissue/paper for leaves
- acorns (or anything else to represent them…pom poms, pebbles, candy corn, etc.)
- Create a simple “tree” with a hole in the top.
- Explain to your child that you are going to pretend to be squirrels gathering acorns for winter. Your goal is to see how fast you can fill the whole tree with acorns so you’ll have plenty of food once the snow comes.
- Have your child roll the die and place the shown number of acorns in the tree. Count each acorn as you place it in the tree.
- Continue until the tree is full. Then, celebrate your hard work!
- Your child can do all the rolling during this activity, or you can take turns rolling and counting.
- If you have several children, they can work cooperatively, or you can make multiple trees and have them race to see who can fill their tree first.
My four-year-old had a great time with this activity. I’ve been working with him on counting skills for months, and I was so pleased as we did this activity to see him carefully counting one number each time he dropped an acorn in the “tree”. It was a great way to reinforce one-to-one correlation and practice counting in a fun way. Bonus: The whole thing took under five minutes to prepare.
Have fun learning!
Want more fun fall activities for kids? Try these…
- 5 Fun Things to Do with Fall Leaves
- Fun Halloween songs your preschooler will love + learning activities
- Pumpkin Spice Play Dough Recipe
- The Great Pumpkin Race: A Halloween preschool activity
- Travel felt board: Silly Jack-o-lantern play set
- 16 Not-Too-Scary Halloween Books Kids Will Love
- Fall Family Fun Bucket List
Honest to goodness! Where was this when I was trying to teach my twins how to count!?!? I love it!
Thanks, Marta. Maybe you could still use it and up the complexity by having each of them roll a die and add the numbers together before counting them out…or something similar. Have fun!
This is a genius idea! My son would LOVE it!
I love this idea! I think it would fun to go on an acorn hunt prior to making this. My kids love being out and exploring nature. It would be cool to grab some acorns and come back and play with them.
We love going on nature walks, too! And the treasures we collect are perfect for all sorts of learning activities and art projects.