Fall Activities: Explorations and Discoveries

Fall Activities
Fall is a great time to open the doors and let your kids out to explore – with sweaters on, of course! The changes that happen in nature around this time of year are not only beautiful, but can also teach kids a lot, and it’s only a couple more months before our kids will need to stay inside more because of winter weather, so lets let them make the most of being able to head outside on beautiful, crisp fall days!

I have always believed, and always will, that kids learn best by exploring, experimenting and evaluating their findings. There can be a lot of flexibility in HOW they explore – some kids will tend to hit the books, while others will want to move around and observe things first hand, or talk to someone they think can explain things. All these ways of exploring require active participation and thinking on the part of the child, and that:

  • engages their natural curiosity
  • leads them to study topics of interest in greater detail
  • taps into their long term memory
  • helps them apply concepts in real life

So, I’ve put together a list of fall activities focused on things kids can actively explore and discover during the fall. These ideas are pretty versatile, in the sense that most of them could work for young children (ages 3-5), as well as children considerably older. Kids can revisit these topics several times over a period of years, learning more each time they come up. I hope your kids enjoy some of them!

What are signs of fall? What do you see, feel, hear and smell on a fall day?

Activity: Send your kids outside to just observe. Give them a sheet of paper and ask them to write down things they perceive through each of their five senses. Young children might pick up the basics, like the change of temperature and changing colors of the leaves; older children can pay attention to more detailed signs of fall, like changes in animal behavior or wind patterns. You could turn this activity into a nature hunt at the same time, encouraging your kids to bring back objects that reflect the changing season in one way or another. Instead of giving them a list to find, tell them they can bring back anything, as long as they can explain to you how it reflects the changing season. See what they come up with. You could even have a large poster board labeled “fall board” or “symbols of fall”, and let them make a collage of the things they bring home from their nature hunt, including written explanations of what each object tells us about the new season.

If you don’t have any pumpkin to make pumpkin pie, what can you use as a replacement? 

Activity: Of course, if pumpkins abound in your region, this is a hypothetical situation, but can still be a fun one to explore. Your child should try to come up with a pie recipe that is as similar as possible to pumpkin pie in taste, texture and appearance. They can experiment with a variety of replacement ingredients, including different types of squashes (such as butternut, calabaza, acorn squashes) and sweet potatoes before drawing their conclusions. If you have young children, this is something you’ll really have to do with them, allowing them to help as much as they can, and be the taste-testers! For older children, you can let them research the pumpkin alternatives themselves, telling them that they need to try at least three or four alternatives as part of their exploration. You can turn this activity into a fun family, neighborhood or homeschooling group event by having your kids prepare one pumpkin pie and the three or four substitute pies and then bringing over friends and family to vote on which pie is closest to the pumpkin pie. You could even do blind taste tests, blindfolding all the participants, giving them a taste from each pie, and then having them guess which one was the real pumpkin pie and which one was the most similar alternative. After everyone has tasted the pies, your kids can reveal the results by popular vote, as well as the real results.

What are scarecrows, and what are they used for? Are they effective?

Activity: It would be great if your kids could learn about this through hands-on experiments after turning to books or other knowledgeable sources to find out the basic purpose of a scarecrow.

  • If you have an actual garden, for example, divide it into three areas. Let your kids make a scarecrow and place it in one part of your garden. In a different area of the garden, allow them to use more modern means for keeping pesky critters away from the plants and compare the results. Leave the third part of your garden on its own. Your kids can observe the different areas of your garden each day and then compare the results. Did the scarecrow seem to have any effect? Was it as effective as more modern means of pest control?
  • If you don’t have a garden, encourage your children to contact a few local farmers to see if they can get a tour of a few different farms during autumn. Make sure they look out for any scarecrows and talk to the farmers about whether or not they use scarecrows. If so, why? If not, what other tools are they using to protect their crops? Your kids can also make the most of these visits to learn other things about farms in the fall, such as what is harvested this time of year, and how farmers have to prepare for winter. After your kids have visited at least two or three local farms, ask them to analyze the similarities and differences they observed in terms of both scarecrow use and other fall happenings on the farms.

Why do the leaves change colors? 

Activity: This topic will usually take more research; it isn’t self-explanatory. Younger children can grasp the simple concept that the leaves loose their color when they die; leaves are only green when they are alive. Let your young child regularly observe two trees: one deciduous tree (which they will see gradually changing colors and loosing its leaves), and one coniferous (evergreen) tree, which will not change during the fall. Explain to them that the leaves on the coniferous tree stay alive (green), while the leaves that turn colors than fall off because they’re dying. Older children can take their study to a deeper level, learning about the breakdown of chlorophyll and other chemical changes that cause the leaves to change colors and finding out why leaves on evergreen trees don’t break down the same way.

How would you feel if there were no autumn?

Activity: This is more of an opportunity for self-discovery. There are often many things we think and feel without necessarily recognizing it. Bringing up this question allows your children to focus on all the things they enjoy, or don’t enjoy, about the season. Encourage your children to also think not just about how autumn affects them personally, but how it affects the workings of the world around them and what would be missing in their lives if there was no fall. You could ask your kids to write a paper about this, or make a picture representing their conclusions, or just talk about their ideas.

* Don’t forget to download these 13 Fall Coloring Pages too for more fall fun!

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