With autumn upon us, don’t shy away from enjoying the colorful foliage with the kids.
My 20-month-old son Jasper sees his surrounding environment each day with new eyes as he grows and learns.
It is continually important to me to help him in his development by giving him opportunities to experience the outdoors in every season, even in the rainy, wet months. Children are incredibly observant creatures who have growing brains ready to be stimulated by their environment. It continues to amaze me how many times I will hear my son say “caw-caw,” indicating a bird he heard or saw that I wasn’t aware of.
Now that autumn is here, the air has a cooler quality, the light of the sun is less intense and more angled, and the smells of wood smoke, fermenting fruit and crispness fill my nose. Perhaps the most obvious of all these changes in the turning season are the trees. Here in the Northwest, our changing native trees might not be as striking as on the East Coast with their deciduous forests of brightly colored leaves. However, in the city of Eugene, we are blessed with hundreds of species of trees that make for a spectacular fall.
There are many fun activities that families can do with their children to get kids outside exploring, touching, feeling and being outdoors during the autumn months. Because the trees are such an incredible part of our landscape, here are some activities that can incorporate the life of trees into your child’s everyday experience.
- Find a tree in your neighborhood that hasn’t completely turned color. Visit the tree as often as possible and help your child(ren) take pictures of it until all the leaves have fallen. Make a photo time sequence of the changing tree.
- Collect fallen leaves and make fall-themed art projects.
- Paint leaves and press on paper for collages.
- Create leaf critters using different types of leaves to make owls, foxes, crows and more.
- Glue or tape various leaves onto construction paper and identify the leaves for a fun, quick look at “Tree Leaf ID.”
- Create a leaf pile in your yard and jump in! Great for little ones. Do teach them to stay out of piles in the street, however, as this can be a safety issue.
- Find nuts and seeds from trees. Which trees do acorns come from? How many different kinds of acorns can you find? How do the animals in our environment use nuts and seeds in their diets? How do we?
- Take a walk around the University of Oregon campus to find leaves and to see the incredible variety of species of trees. In contrast, go to Mount Pisgah Arboretum where you will find some non-native trees and also a natural native forest and talk about the differences.
- Fall is also the season of abundance. Look up and down and find trees whose fruit is falling from which no one is harvesting. For families with older kids, find an apple tree, harvest the apples, then go home and make applesauce.
The easiest activity you can do with your kids is to just go outside! Go for walks in the daytime or evening. Use all your senses to interact with the amazing environment around you. For me, it helps on these walks to turn my mind to gratitude.
Many of us associate autumn with thanksgiving, but feeling gratitude daily can actually change the brain’s chemistry to healthiness and happiness.
When you are outside, look at the trees and all that is around you and take a moment to ask your family — what are you grateful for? You may be amazed by the results.
Anna Bradley is a clinical herbalist, musician, and co-founder/Development Director of the local nonprofit Whole Earth Nature School. She and her husband, Matt, have a 20-month-old son named Jasper and live in Eugene. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization offering groups and workshops so that all children are raised by nurturing, skilled parents; www.parentingnow.org and 541-484-5316.