Exploring Autumn Nature with Your Child
By Julie Harris, Master Gardener
Summer may be over but winter isn’t here yet. Now is a great time to have some outside fun with the children in your life. Take advantage of these last days of fall to show your children how to enjoy what autumn nature has to offer. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of this time of year.
Summer may be over but winter isn’t here yet. Late autumn is a great time to have some outside fun with the children in your life. Take advantage of these last days of fall to show your children how to enjoy what autumn nature has to offer. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of this time of year.
Some of that autumn fun can also be productive. Raking and bagging leaves with your kids can make the job more fun for all. Hand your children a child-sized rake and show them how to make a pile of leaves. Make a game out of raking by making a leaf maze. If you are with more than one child, have them race to see who can make the largest pile or who can bag the most leaves. They may not last very long in the actual raking activity but they will love to jump into that big pile of leaves!
Children love the interesting shapes and sizes of the brightly colored leaves. Gathering leaves together provides you with the opportunity to teach them about why leaves turn colors and fall from the trees in the autumn. Kids also love to collect the leaves. Follow up your raking activity with an arts and crafts project such as leaf pressing, tracing or cutting. And later in November, here is an idea for using fallen leaves to create some Thanksgiving art.
Let your children get their hands and knees dirty as they help you plant your spring blooming bulbs (you can still plant those bulbs in November as long as the ground isn’t frozen). Your children can help you pick out a good spot to plant the bulbs. They can help you rake the area clear to dig your holes. And, they can take their child-sized trowel and help you dig the holes, drop in the bulbs and cover them up. Watch their happy faces as they see the bulbs they helped to plant, pop up in brightly colored tulips, narcissus, hyacinth or crocus in the spring.
One of the most pleasurable sensory experiences for the whole family is going for a nature walk when the leaves have turned color with some still on the trees and others fallen to the ground. Few things in nature are more beautiful than fall colors. And, can’t you just hear the rustle of crispy fallen leaves on the path as you walk through the autumn wonderland? The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has many easy hiking trails that will delight both you and your children. And, Dakota County is lucky to have the many trails of Lebanon Hills Regional Park right around the corner.
When my grandson was younger, he loved to collect “coconuts” (acorns) fallen from the oak trees in our parks. Use this interest to provide an easy math lesson as you walk by having your children count the acorns or leaves that they collect along the way. Or prepare a scavenger hunt for your children. See how many different types of leaves they can collect and then match them to the type of tree they fell from. And how about seed saving during your nature walk. After you have collected seeds, there are many different crafts and activities you can use them for, such as making seed balls, making musical instruments, curing and eating pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and on and on.
Read About Nature
And finally, read books with your child about autumn and the change of seasons. Here are some book ideas that are available at the Dakota County Library.
Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter, Kenard Pak
Woody, Hazel and Little Pip, by Elsa Beskow
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, by Lois Ehlert
Better still, take a trip to the library and have your child pick out the books that interest them.
Nature in the fall is one of life’s beautiful gifts. Take your child’s hand and enjoy it with them.
Photo credits: Julie Harris (1,4), Megan Kohoed (2), Pixabay.com (3)