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My neighbour has a huge chestnut tree in his yard. When I returned from a morning walk with my group, I saw him collecting tons and tons of chestnuts. I am sure you have had the chance to see these very hard tiny brown balls when you were out and about too. I asked my neighbour what he was planning to do with his chestnuts.
Many people use them to make and decorate Christmas wreaths or centrepieces. Some people believe that wearing a chestnut brings good luck.
Since my neighbour was going to throw the chestnuts he collected away, I asked him if he would be willing to give them to us. He was more than happy to, and that is how I became the proud owner of two large bags of chestnuts. I was unsure how I would use them at first. I began by depositing chestnuts here and there throughout the daycare for children to find. I observed the children in my group to see what they would do with the chestnuts. I made sure there were chestnuts in my role play area, in my arts & crafts area, in my manipulation area, in my gross motor skills area, and in my science area. Here are a few of the many ways children explored the chestnuts.
Role playOlder children had fun making "chestnut soup" and baking "chestnut pies". Younger children had fun filling and emptying plastic pots and pans with chestnuts.
Arts & crafts and manipulation
Older children used chestnuts to create a variety of shapes and items (circles, houses, a sun, etc.). Younger children simply had fun manipulating the contents of large bins I had filled with chestnuts. The sounds produced by the chestnuts hitting against each other intrigued them somewhat and encouraged them to explore them further. Suggested activity: Press chestnuts in paint and then on paper to make prints.
Gross motor skills area
Older children competed to see who could throw their chestnut the farthest and rolled chestnuts between their friends' legs and through various obstacles. They also used the chestnuts to create paths. Little ones simply had fun throwing chestnuts up in the air. Suggested variation: Use chestnuts for a lawn bowling activity.
Science areaChildren planted chestnuts in small containers filled with soil. Note that I had previously soaked the chestnuts in water for 48 hours and cut small grooves in each one. We will observe them throughout the upcoming weeks and months, but I have a feeling we will have to be extremely patient!
We are also planning to plant a chestnut tree in our yard!
Note that chestnuts fall to the ground during autumn, but they cannot be planted outdoors until spring. To soften them and promote germination, layer chestnuts in containers filled with moist sand and set them on the northern side of your daycare. When spring arrives, collect the chestnuts and keep only those that have germinated. Plant them directly in the ground. This technique is called "stratification".
We had great fun exploring chestnuts. At the end of the day, we even used them for relaxing massages. If you would like to give it a try, simply sit on a chair and roll chestnuts under your feet. What a treat for tired feet!
Claudine RichardEarly childhood educator
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