Harvest season sure has crept up on us. Can you believe we're almost in the heart of fall?
We'd like to suggest a few simple and fun activities from 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca Cohen to get you and your family outdoors to enjoy the brisk autumn air. According to Cohen, 15 minutes outside creates a family stress-relief valve and a way to spend meaningful time together. Plus, outdoor adventures allow your child to redirect their energy and explore constructively.
So, what are you waiting for? Get on out there and….
• Pick apples and pumpkins. Go apple picking at a local orchard. You and your children can make applesauce or apple pie from the apples you picked. Or head to a pumpkin picking at a farm—the pumpkin patch is an incredible sight, and kids get to really pull and twist to pick their favorite pumpkin. This will make creating your jack-o'-lanterns that much more rewarding! Then toast your pumpkin seeds in the oven, or make a pre-Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
• Sit and observe. Find a comfortable, beautiful place to be still and watch nature around you. Sit for however long you and your children are able. If you think your children will get bored, bring a notebook and colored pencils so they can sketch what they see. You can watch for birds flying south, bring a favorite book to read, or simply listen to the sounds of nature. At the end of your time together outside, talk about the nature you noticed.
• Head for the water. Take a trip to whichever body of water is near you: a creek, stream, pond, lake, river or ocean. Notice how tranquil the water is as the seasons change. Take a book, sketch pad, or picnic, and find some rocks to skip.
• Listen to a little nut music. If you have oak tree around, are the acorns falling? Or do you notice other trees with nuts on the ground? Collect some nuts and see how many sounds you and your children can make by putting them in a recycled can or tying them up in plastic bags and shaking them like maracas.
• Create, then hide pumpkin faces. A great alternative to pumpkin carving! Each child will paint a face on a pumpkin with a sharpie or marker. Then, you can either print a copy of the face or take a quick sketch to record what each face painting looks like before you hide the pumpkins. Give each child the picture of their pumpkin that they need to find and they can go out for a pumpkin hunt.
• Head back to the farmer's market. Give the cool-season veggies a chance. Ask the farmers when they start growing some of your favorite seasonal vegetables that you like, and then try growing some of your own.
• Mak 'em rake leaves. This is hardly a chore! After raking, be sure to make time to play in the leaves together (and then rake again). If you don't have a yard, head on over to the nearest park.
• Play "jump the river." Take two sticks and place them parallel or across from one another on the ground. With the stick representing the edge of the river, ask your child to jump across the river. After each attempt, the sticks move farther apart (the river gets wider). Don't land in the river!
• Plant Goldenrod. October is a great month to plant this North American native flower that grows in cooler temperatures. Butterflies love these two to three foot tall sun-loving flowers. Find out from your local nursery which native plants grow best in your area; these are the ones most likely to thrive in your climate without having to do too much extra work.
• Head to the countryside. No matter where we live, we can still make it out to the countryside—where there are roads that wind, picturesque parks, and many trails to hike. Take a walk in the woods, go for a bike ride, go fishing, or watch the sunset over the foothills.
• Graph the changing leaves. Each of you can take a bag outside and pick ten to twenty leaves of varying colors. Then, with different color crayons, make a bar chart on paper that represents how many of each color you have. To make a graph, draw a grid on a piece of paper and color in vertically the number of squares to illustrate the number of leaves that color. If you don't have any paper, group the leaves vertically out in front of you in order from most to least. A much healthier option to sorting (and eating) Halloween candy!