As the days grow cooler, my kids and I tend to spend more and more time outside. The outdoors is the perfect learning environment for children. It is full of things to explore and do that are fun for everyone. So, when you’re outside this fall, see if any of these ideas strike your fancy!
1. Take a few books outdoors and spread out on a blanket for some fresh air and a story. A change in scenery can make a world of difference in drawing a child’s attention to something they might not otherwise do. Or, create a homemade outdoor journal. Cut typing paper in half and create a front and back cover using cardboard. Fasten them all together by punching a couple of holes at the top and tying with string. As you visit a park or nature area, let the child write about what they see or create a story based on where they are. It doesn’t have to be with words, either…pictures tell stories, too!
2. Blow bubbles outside and count them as they float by, or count them as they pop! With younger children, have them count as high as they can and then start again! Use various objects for bubble-blowing, from the standard bubble wand to straws to coat hanger rings. If you have lots of bubble solution (or can make some of your own with 9 cups of water, 1 cup of Dawn dish soap, and 1/2 cup of glycerine…let it sit overnight for best results), fill a trash can lid or other large container with bubble solution and put a hula hoop inside it. Talk about some big bubbles!
3. Open a lemonade stand! Lemonade isn’t just for summertime. Or, if it is chilly, let your kids run a hot cocoa stand for the neighborhood. With lemonade, garnish the drinks with slices or spirals of lemon, and for hot cocoa, add a cinnamon stick. Have the kids keep tabs of their profits and use the money to make a charitable donation or purchase food for the local food bank.
4. Feed the animals. Take a bagel and cover it in peanut butter, then dip it in bird seed. Hang it from a tree for our feathered friends. Put out stale bread crumbs on the sidewalk, driveway or yard to attract birds to your home and observe them from a window. How many different birds can you find? Keep a journal of the different birds that visit your home, then take advantage of your local library or the Internet for more information on these feathered friends.
5. RUN! With the cooler weather, it is a great time to play a game of kickball or even tag. Teach your child how to run a three-legged race or other relays. Grab some sidewalk chalk, draw a hopscotch and get a game going. Or, just spend some time doodling. Either one is a great motor skill workout.
6. Check into your local calendar for outdoor events, such as festivals, fairs or concerts. Many communities offer free outdoor events, so check around for those in your area. It is a great way to get to know your community and let your child explore a piece of their local culture and history.
7. Plant a fall garden. If it is getting too late in your area to plant, try container gardening inside. Squash, beans and even tomatoes make great fall plantings. Or, if your thumb isn’t quite green, try growing the top of a carrot or a potato by partially submerging them in water.
8. Plan a picnic. While the weather is still good, take an afternoon and go enjoy your local park. Or, if you aren’t close to a park, try your own yard or even your living room floor if the weather doesn’t cooperate. All you need is a blanket, your food, and a lot of fun! Let your child help you pack the lunch, keeping in mind nutrition. A picnic is a fun meal, yet it can be an excellent opportunity to discuss a balanced diet and the importance of the food groups!
As your fall gets underway, try a few of these out. Perhaps they will spark another idea for you to try. Be sure to send us your stories of what works for your family!