Are you planning a soiree for the little people in your life
this fall? Whether your upcoming event is a "back-to-school" party,
birthday celebration, harvest festival or Halloween party, let
nature be your guide. During these autumn months, Chicago is
literally bursting with beautiful fall foliage and foods that make
it easy to make nature's bounty the focus of your party.
Begin your event with a "nature walk," where little guests can
gather interesting fall finds like pinecones, leaves or
If a "nature walk" isn't practical, gather up some of these
items ahead of time. Using a cornucopia or basket, let your little
guests assemble a centerpiece for the table using various natural
elements. This project also works well with farmer's market finds
such as gourds, mini-pumpkins and unusually shaped squashes (such
as a Hubbard squash).
Using some sturdy string and a hole punch, string different
types of leaves together to make a fall garland for decoration.
Choose activities that will keep squirmy bodies busy and also
give them something to take home when the party is over (and skip
the traditional gift bag).
Your party guests will love to make their own placemats to use
at the party and then take home with them. Give each child a
self-laminating sleeve or two pieces of contact paper. Use a
variety of leaves and small twigs to decorate the bottom half of
the placemat and then carefully press the top sheet down until it
adheres to the bottom half.
If you are looking for a fun group activity, fill a galvanized
tub with water and apples and let the kids bob away. Set up a
dip-your-own caramel apple station (be sure that an adult monitors
children around hot and messy caramel).
Lay out pumpkins, paint and paint brushes so that each child can
decorate their very own pumpkin. Let your partygoers help separate
out pumpkin seeds for roasting. Give each guest a little bag of
salted and roasted seeds to take home as a snack.
When planning your menu, think of the delicious foods that
typically remind us of fall: apples, squashes and pumpkins (among
Use apples to make applesauce, cinnamon baked apples or an apple
Turn hard squashes into delicious dishes like butternut squash
soup, acorn squash baked with maple syrup or roasted spaghetti
squash with brown butter and sage.
Pumpkins are good for more than creating beautiful
jack-o-lanterns. Use canned pumpkin puree or baked pumpkin pulp
from a sugar pie pumpkin to make chocolate chip pumpkin muffins,
pumpkin bread with raisins or pumpkin squares with cream cheese
For more fall recipe inspiration visit www.foodtv.com or
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.
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