Fall fun is just outside your door

Don’t let the chill in the air keep the kids inside. If you ask Kathy Johnson, fall is a great time to spend even more time outside with your kids.

“Fall is so full of sensory experiences: the smell of the leaves, there’s the feeling in the air, the cooler air and the warm sun, the sights—a dramatic change in the landscape as the trees drop their leaves, the sounds,” says Johnson, manager of the Children’s Garden at the Morton Arboretum.

“It’s a really good thing for children to be outside and playing in the fall.”

She offers three simple activities to make that playing fun:

• Go on a leaf hunt. Take your children on a simple walk around the neighborhood to collect colorful leaves. When you return home, dry and flatten them to make a collage or table decoration. Here’s how: To preserve a leaf (flat leaves that are not already dried out work best), put the leaf between two sheets of wax paper and place on a generous piece of newspaper. Parents should then use a iron, set on low to medium, and iron by applying pressure to the leaf for one minute. When cool, let the kids get creative.

• Head out to a pumpkin patch for a great day with the kids. Once your pumpkins are decorated, dry the seeds by leaving them out to dry or baking them (250 degrees for an hour). Create dice from six pumpkin seeds: One dot on one side of a seed (decorate the back or leave blank), two dots on another, three dots on a third, etc. For fun based on a Native American game, have the kids shake and throw the six seeds. Add up the dots and whoever has the most wins.

• Make a wreath. Have the kids collect leaves and tree seeds such as acorns and pine cones. Wind three fall-colored pipe cleaners into a ring for the base of the wreath. Use cut-up pipe cleaners to tie on the nuts, leaves and other bits of nature to the ring. Add a ribbon if you like.

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