Playing is fun and learning can be too!

More Than Play – Golf Tees, Hammers, Rubber Bands and a Pumpkin

Written by Debbie Markland, November 3, 2019

This past month (October) in my classroom, we had so much fun playing with and exploring pumpkins.  We sketched them, we wrote on them, we weighed them, we cut them open and studied the insides, we used them as a container to explore reactions between baking soda and vinegar, and one of our most favorite activities – we hammered golf tees into them.  

Someone mentioned to me there was no purpose in hammering golf tees into pumpkins and no learning was happening- well…. Yes, yes, there was lots of learning happening.  Let me hammer it out for you (hee hee – I love puns):

The provocation was set out in a simple manner.  I placed one fairly large pumpkin, about 10 inches in diameter, on a small table with a bowl of golf tees and two real kid sized hammers (from Amazon, used for jewelry making).  The fact that I only put two hammers out was purposeful – only two friends could work on the pumpkin at once. By limiting the number of students that could work on this enticing provocation, sharing and self control became a focus.  My friends had to wait until their friends were finished exploring the pumpkin and tees, and communication skills kicked in as one friend would finish and then say to someone who they noticed was excited to do the activity, “I am done now, would you like to use my hammer?”  


 Self control was not only being reinforced simply because friends had to wait, but using a hammer itself teaches self control.  After all, wouldn’t it be fun to take a hammer and just pound it straight into the pumpkin making gigantic holes in the pumpkin and with it making a gigantic mess?  It crossed my mind, I know it must have passed through those 4 year old thoughts, but they had to think about what was right, and what was wrong, and they all showed self control and made the right choice to only hammer the golf tees.

It is obvious that hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills were definitely essential to working on this activity.  Some students whom had never used a hammer and nail before, asked me how do you do it. They were proud when they hammered their first one successfully. It took some concentration to hold the golf tee and carefully “get it started” with some soft taps of the hammer, and then continue to tap it into the pumpkin takes serious eye hand coordination.  I have used this activity in the past as a precursor to using hammers and nails with wood. The softer surface of a pumpkin gives them more confidence before we try out nails and wood. 


After a day of hammering golf tees into the pumpkin,  we added rubber bands to the activity – a 3D pumpkin geoboard.  My friends loved working their fine motor muscles some more as they decided where they could stretch the rubber bands.  They made triangles, lines, squares… more learning!


So much learning was happening – fun learning, and we could have gone even further with it.  I used only white tees – we could have used multiple colors and focused on patterning.  I only used wooden tees – we could have used plastic tees, or even nails, and compared the different materials.  

Hammering nails in a pumpkin? Yes!  Try it and see what learning happens!

Materials (Affiliate links):
Golf Tees


About the Author: Debbie Markland     

Hi! I am Debbie Markland, Education Consultant for Learn As You Play.  I teach with Shann in Atlanta, Georgia where I teach a class of 16 pre-k students. I have taught for 18 years total! I have worked with age 2 all the way through middle school. I have enjoyed watching the ebb and flow of educational practices since I first taught in 1991, and being immersed in these changes enables my own learning to continue.  I like to describe myself as flexible, creative, and open-minded. I strive to continuously be building curiosity in my students!

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