top of page
  • Writer's picturesarahlmauro

The Best October Pumpkin Game for Your Elementary Music Students

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

If you're a new teacher looking for something awesome to do with elementary students- heck, even if you're a veteran looking for something different- now is the time to try this fun guessing game! This is a terrific October or Halloween activity, and you can play the singing or non-singing version. Yes, it takes some materials and prep. But you and your kids will have such fun learning the song, using instruments, and trying to figure out what's hidden inside the eggs.

In this post, I'll share how to teach and play "Who's in the Pumpkin Patch?" with your elementary students. My first graders did this and it went off quite well, considering I had never tried it before. I'm so excited to tell you about it!

And if the idea of specific music teacher tips, resources, and strategies is something that excites you, you’d get a lot out of joining the ADM community. In my email newsletters, I help educators like you teach meaningfully and joyfully- but beyond the music- in your classrooms.

I got the inspiration for this by walking through the Halloween section at Target. I found these pumpkin eggs, like the kind you use for Easter egg hunts, but orange with jack-o-lantern faces.

A few ideas had been brewing in my mind for a while, and seeing these made everything click for me.

I had always wanted to fill eggs with small objects and have students guess what was inside. And I wanted to introduce barred instruments to my first graders in an accessible way that made them feel successful right away. (Remember, success first, technical details later!)

"Who's in the Pumpkin Patch?" does both!

What's the objective?

One student gets to be in the pumpkin patch. While the others are singing (I made up new words for Who's That Tapping at the Window, which are written below in the lesson plan) or playing a barred instrument, the pumpkin patch student searches for an egg with something inside that's hidden among all the other empty eggs. When the song is over, they shake their found egg and guess what's inside. Finally, they open it up to see if they were right! And the game can begin again.

How do I set it up?

Here's what you need:

  • Plastic eggs (they can be any kind of eggs, not just pumpkin eggs). You'll need a bunch, I'd say at least 15 but 20 or more would be great.

  • Little objects to go inside for students to guess. You'll need 2 or 3 sets of each- one for demonstration, and another one or two to have students play with.

I chose shells, paperclips, pennies, beads, and legos to go into 5 eggs!

  • Something to put your pumpkin patch on, like a tray or the lid to a cardboard box. This is optional. I just didn't want the eggs rolling all over as the kids picked them up and shook them.

  • Barred instruments and 2 mallets- one set for each kid playing them. They will need C and G. `


  1. Fill your eggs with the objects. Again, I used 5 objects so I used 5 eggs, PLUS I had an extra set of objects for demonstration (this set is not inside the eggs, it's for students to see).

  2. Set up your pumpkin patch. This is a tray of the object-filled eggs among the rest of your empty eggs. More empty eggs means it will be trickier to find a special egg!

  3. Set up your barred instruments and mallets. I took out the As and Bs so C and G were outlined nicely in two places in the instrument.

4. Classroom setup: I had the kids on instruments and the pumpkin patch kid

all facing the class, kind of like a performance. But everyone is

participating, not just those facing the rest- remember, there's a song too! But

to begin, everyone is in a circle.

The lesson!

1, Egg shakers

Just taking out my special eggs was enough to excite my first graders.

But before you can put any eggs in students' hands, I have some advice...

PRACTICE passing the eggs around the circle without accidentally popping them open!

Since students will be shaking the eggs to see what's inside, it's important that they don't pop open before they can guess. So you should practice passing one around the circle carefully, like holding the egg from the ends rather than the middle.

TIP: Send one egg around your circle one way, and another

egg the other way. It just saves time to have two going at once!

If students can pass it around without breaking it open at least most of the time, you're ready to move on.

2. What's inside?

This is a game where students really have to rely on their ears. So this next part can be done without any talking on your part. Your students might chat a bit- because they're excited, and that's okay!- but only shake the eggs when they're quiet.

Take your prepped special eggs and shake them for the students one by one. Use hand signals for quiet or simply wait for quiet in between. The students will probably quiet themselves.

Chances are, they've probably tried to guess what's inside. You can have them turn and talk to the people near them to share guesses.

Then it's time to take out the demonstration set of objects. I put mine on the floor in front of me and briefly explained that we were going to try and guess which egg had which thing inside of it. I started with asking them to guess the pennies- the most discernible object, I thought. Start with the thing they'll likely guess on the first try. Every time I shook an egg, the students said yes or no (all together as a class), and I made a maybe pile and a no pile. Then I went back to the maybes and re-shook them. The egg that had the most votes got opened; I just passed it to a student to open.

We repeated the process for the rest of the mystery eggs. Now, students knew which object sounded like what.

3. Time to learn the song!

Explain to students that in this game, students will sing a song while someone looks for a special egg in the pumpkin patch.

The song I made up for this game is to the tune of Who's That Tapping at the Window. I also use hand motions that easily transfer to a barred instrument.

Who's that picking all the pumpkins?

(Pat left, pat right, clap clap clap clap clap clap)

Who's that in the pumpkin patch?

(Pat left, pat right, clap clap clap clap clap clap)

Teach your students the song, then model the barred instrument part, which matches the rhythm of each line:

Who's that picking all the pumpkins?

C - G - tap tap tap tap tap tap (stick clicks)

Who's that in the pumpkin patch?

C - G - tap tap tap tap tap tap (stick clicks)

I show them how to prepare the instrument by taking out the apples and bananas (the As and Bs*), then I sing and model. To have students practice this, you can ask for volunteers, or you can do what I did and set up two instruments and have two lines going so everyone can try it once before the game.

*I took out the As and Bs so C and G were outlined nicely in two places in the instrument.

4. Time to play!

Now it's time to begin!

1. Pick one student to be in the pumpkin patch, and two to play your barred instruments.

TIP: Keep track of who takes turns where, especially if you know not everyone will get a turn in one day. In my experience, kids want turns in the pumpkin patch. I use my attendance book to write down P for pumpkin patch and X for xylophone.

TIP: I did this a second time, and that time I set up two identical pumpkin patches so two kids can play at one, then move directly to the barred instruments when their turn in the pumpkin patch is done.

3. As the class sings the song, the student in the pumpkin patch searches for a special egg by gently shaking them until they find one. When the song is over (I sing it twice), the student makes a guess and then opens the egg.

4. On a rotating basis, choose students to go to the pumpkin patch and to instruments.

Some more pointers?

I have a huge class! What do I do?

Like I said above, keep track of who goes when and make sure to do the game another time when everyone else can participate. You can also just go down your roster and choose students alphabetically so there's no question of who's going today. Or, set up THREE pumpkin patches!

My students are not playing the instrument pattern correctly.

Many of mine didn't either. But they also hadn't played a barred instrument in a long time. They were curious about the sounds, so they played patterns they liked instead. That's okay. For me, this wasn't a xylophone assessment. But if I wanted them to all be able to show me accuracy, I'd reteach or use paper xylophones to practice.

The eggs are breaking.

Mine were too. I was very clear about holding the egg on the top and bottom, not at the sides. If they broke, that become a natural consequence of them holding the egg at the sides. Sometimes they still broke. But in my experience, kids just liked the idea of being the chosen ones in the pumpkin patch and being able to open an egg. I haven't had to deal with meltdowns yet.

Some of my favorite things for the same age group are:

Secret Halloween Rhythms - decoding graphics into quarter and eighth notes based on syllables using popsicle sticks or pencil/paper/whiteboards

Halloween Cut-and-Sort Rhythms - Students will cut out 16 Halloween graphics and sort them into 1- or 2-sound categories (ie. ta and ti-ti). This makes a great center, too, if you want to laminate a few copies!

And for older kids?

Candy Ostinato Project - great for grades 4-6, this composition project combines a rap element with rhythmic layering!

Have fun with this game!

If you teach the routines, how to pass the eggs, and the song expectations, this should be a fun time for everyone!

If you use this in your classroom, let me know! Reach out on Instagram or email me with your success stories, or how you modified it for use in your classroom.

Happy music making!

937 views0 comments


Music ed that switches things up while inspiring lifelong musicianship

bottom of page