Fall activities abound for young families

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In this piece for the Chester County Independent, I give some fun ideas for autumn activities with your family:

It is that magical time between summer and winter when the sky is the color of a robin’s egg and leaves range in shades of orange, brown, red and crimson. Darkness comes early and nights have a nip in the air—but days remain sunny and somewhat warm. During this brief season, plan time for family activities. Use these suggestions for building family relationships and making memories for your clan.

• Choose a warm, sunny afternoon for a nature hike or bike ride. As you get off the beaten path, point out the names of trees whose leaves have turned into a tapestry of many colors. Can your children identify hickory trees by their deep yellow leaves; sweet gum by their crimson foliage and star-shaped pods; and oak trees by the acorns that litter the ground?

• Build a campfire in a safe area and make an old-fashion treat. Roast marshmallows on a wire coat-hanger. Using a graham cracker, place a toasted marshmallow on top and square of chocolate candy. Place another cracker on top and press down. The hot marshmallow will melt the candy. Adult supervision is necessary when around an open fire.

• Collect and identify fall leaves. Look for unusual shapes, such as sassafras which resembles a mitten; sugar maples which reminds us of stars; and the oaks which come in black, northern red, southern red, pin, scarlet, blackjack, water, shingle, willow and live oak. Cut rectangles of wax paper, place a leaf on one side and fold over. Pressing the wax paper with a warm iron seals the edges and protects the leaf. Using a Sharpie pin, write the name of the leaf on the outside. Learning the names of trees is something your child will carry with them throughout life.

• Plan a Nature Scavenger Hunt. Make a list of items related to fall that your child can collect and bring back home. Provide a plastic bag for carrying. Always have adult supervision with young children if they are away from their yard or near a street. Items might include: acorns, pine cones, piece of bark, bird feather, moss, small rock or pebble and other appropriate objects found nearby. Allow 30-minutes to collect these items. When they return, serve mugs of hot chocolate and simple cookies. Avoid desserts that may contain peanuts as some children have an allergic reaction to this food.

Parents are their child’s best teacher! Think of ways you can have fun together while learning about nature.

Carolyn Tomlin is a Jackson, Tennessee-based author that has been writing and publishing since 1988. She has authored 19 books and more than 4,000 articles in magazines such as Entrepreneur, Kansas City Star, American Profile, Tennessee Home & Farm, Home Life, Mature Living, ParentLife and many others.  You can purchase her full-length works here.

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