We made pumpkin exploration cups in preschool

Today, I am going to share with you how we made pumpkin exploration cups.  Tomorrow, I will share with you some of the other cups I made for my students just to explore…

To make exploration cups (regardless of the type of exploration cup) you need to have on hand some clear plastic cups.  I have all sizes of cups but for the pumpkin cups, I used small clear plastic cups that I purchased from Kroger (a grocery store).  I do not recommend the clear hard plastic “Crystal” cups as they tend to crack fairly easily. Instead, I recommend the softer clear plastic cups.  The clearer the cup, the better….

For the pumpkin cups, start by painting the outside of one cup with yellow and red paint (or you can just paint with orange paint).  Oh, and before painting add some glue to your paint to add a little stickiness to the paint….

Leave the “bottom” of the cup unpainted. Some of our students had to be reminded to not paint the bottom of the cup.  After the outside of the cup is painted, then stack a second clear plastic cup over the painted one…

Now twist the two stacked-together cups in opposite directions to mix the paint colors.  If you did not use two colors – then it is not necessary to do this step (the twisting part)…

After twisting and mixing the paint colors, then take the two cups back apart.   At this point, I gave each child a clean cup and then invited the children to add a few green (approximately 10 – 15) very tiny beans to the bottom of the clean cup. You can really use anything like such as rice, beans, or even green construction paper squares inside the clean cup.

Make sure you only have a single layer of beans on the bottom of each cup.  If you want the beans to shake and rattle, then don’t fill the entire bottom of the cup with the beans  – just use a few beans instead…

On the outside of the painted cup, add pumpkin eyes, nose, and mouth if you desire – or you can just leave the cup as is.  The glue in the paint will help hold the pieces together.

Now place the painted cup inside the new clean cup. (Turn the clean cup upside down with the beans inside sitting on the bottom of the cup then set the painted cup inside the clean cup).  And you have a completed pumpkin cup that shakes and rattles too.  The glue inside the paint should help the two cups stick together once the paint dries.  If not, you can add a dab of hot glue to keep them together….

I have been making Exploration Cups for my preschool class.  These cups make noise, they have color, and they can be used for exploring all kinds of seeds, beans, and other types of small materials.  I also use these cups for color mixing, sensory, music, the light table, and creative art activities. Check back tomorrow for a little more on exploration cups!

I am linking this post to: Hands On As We Grow – It’s Play Time – Spooky Halloween

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By |2011-10-12T07:36:09+00:00October 12th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Little Wonders' Days October 12, 2011 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Very cool!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm - Reply


  2. Heidi Butkus October 12, 2011 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Wow! What a neat activity, and so timely! Thank you so much for sharing that link, and I’m so glad I had time to click on it! I love it- we’ll try this one for sure!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Heidi!

  3. Laura Major October 12, 2011 at 9:46 am - Reply

    That is a super cool idea Deborah! I’ve never seen anything like it before! 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      I have been doing a little exploring myself in my free time:)

  4. Jamie @ hands on : as we grow October 12, 2011 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Well aren’t you clever Ms Deborah! 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm - Reply


  5. Rose October 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Love this idea!!!! Thanks for sharing and I think we will be making some.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      Wonderful Rose!

  6. Esther October 13, 2011 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Love the idea of stacking two cups and twisting to mix the colors. We will be trying this one.

  7. Amber October 13, 2011 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Love the process of this activity! Quite a visual way to see color mixing in action. Hmmmm. My mind’s going now…other simple cup creations using this technique of mixing colors. We’ve done the gift “flower pots” with clear plastic cups, where the children are provided with strips of paper cut to fit around a cup, they decorate. When dry, we place it around one cup and place inside of the other one and add soil and plant. Moms love these for a simple Mother’s day gift.

  8. Leigh Sperry October 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    These are so clever! Silly question, though: can you drink out of these or is the seal not tight enough?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      The seal is probably not tight enough to drink from them more than one time. – I don’t recommend washing them for sure! I honestly haven’t tried drinking out of them. You could try adding hot glue around the inside top edge – perhaps that would make it more like a drinking cup.

  9. Sarah October 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    How cool is this? We will be doing this for sure! Thank you for the great idea!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 13, 2011 at 10:47 pm - Reply

      You are welcome Sarah:)

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