By: Paul Simon, Landscape Architect
Reprinted by permission of National Gardening Association, www.kidsgardening.org.
For many children, the fall season is one of the most engaging outdoor times of the year. Don’t miss out! Be sure to get your children out of the house and involve them with nature this season. There is so much to do, from gathering leaves, making scarecrows, creating simple holiday decorations, to harvesting and cooking some recipes in the kitchen; the autumn season can be exciting! So unplug the TV, turn off those video games, and get the kids outside!
Here are some quick and easy garden and nature activities you can do with your children.
Make a Scarecrow! Recycle some old unused clothes, rake up some leaves in the yard, and stuff an outfit together with your children. Complete the look using a pumpkin as a head!
Nature-Made Decorations. An acorn wreath, a magnolia wreath made from leaf cuttings, a snow-covered (painted) pinecone assortment as a table centerpiece, a bouquet of fall leaves, even a simple (painted) pinecone or a spiky sweet gum pod as a hanging ornament are an easy, fun, and quick activities you can do with your children. Spending time outside discovering these garden treasures and then crafting them into decorations will engage your children’s creativity and imagination. You can also use these creations for your Thanksgiving or holiday decorating needs.
Make a Leaf Maze. If you have a lawn full of leaves, like I do every year, consider raking out several pathways to form a rectangular maze or circular labyrinth pattern in the lawn. You can make two different pathways that eventually meet together at the center of your design. Once complete, kids can race from either entrance to see who can get to the center of the maze or labyrinth first. Entice them further by placing a prize or “treat” at the center of the maze.
Hike, Bike or Stroll. Take your children on a five mile hike, bike or stroll. Once you have reached a special place or destination, there’s nothing like taking a break, laying down on the ground together and looking up at a network of branches, colorful leaves and blue skies on a beautiful fall day. You can also do some wildlife and nature-watching activities together on your journey. Be sure to bring along a first-aid kit, plenty of snacks, water, and a good lunch.
Plan a Day Trip or Weekend Getaway. Even a simple family road-trip away from the city or suburbs, driving through country valley’s, winding roads, covered bridges, and experiencing the fall foliage can be visually inspiring. In addition to the pretty leaves, seek-out some fall fairs, festivals, harvest celebrations, and other seasonal activities for family fun!
Name that Leaf. Fall is the best season to gather different types of leaves and identify them with your children. Teaching them the types of trees, shrubs and plantings surrounding your home can help inspire their connection with nature. Make leaf sun catchers by placing individual leaves between two pieces of wax paper and iron together on a low/warm setting. For more colorful creations, sprinkle crayon shavings between the wax paper before ironing. Hang your sun catcher in a sunny window when done. Like flashcards, your sun catcher can be used to remind your children on the type of plant or tree they have discovered in nature.
Leaf Rubbings. You can quickly and easily decorate your home with some artistic leaf rubbings. Have your kids place a sheet of paper over a leaf and rub a crayon gently over the surface to create some quick artful decorations for the fall season. You can also have your children label each plant to help them learn the types of plants they discovered.
Cook-Up Some Fall Treats. If you love cooking, and wish to inspire your children in the kitchen, I highly recommend some creative and easy fall-cooking recipes you can do together. Whether it’s a an entrée or a simple side-dish like applesauce, spending time together in the kitchen harvesting produce and teaching your kids where food comes from is key in their connection with nature and the garden.
Removing our children from electronic stimulation and replacing this spent-time with outdoor fun can be a fulfilling, rewarding, and beneficial experience. I hope some of the tips described here can help inspire your family to spend more time outdoors this fall season.
If you’re still reading this, then you’re obviously still on the computer… time to turn it off, gather the family, get outside and experience nature! Hope you enjoy the fall season!