Fall is here! When most adults think of Fall, they think: colder weather, sweaters, colorful foliage, and football season. Nannies, however, are a different breed; when we think of Fall, we think: pumpkins, apple picking, and no more sunscreen! For children, Fall brings some serious fun: Halloween, jack-‘o-lanterns, and jumping in the leaves! Fall is officially here. The brisk weather is coming, so let’s make the most of it!
Even when you want to be bundled up and inside to stay warm on the windy days to come, it’s important to spend time in the fresh air with the children. Dress in layers and keep moving to stay warm. Here are some great outdoor activities to help the children keep learning; you’ll never get bored with these ideas! Remember that when you use some of these activities below, you should always try to incorporate the child’s current interests so that they stay engaged and take in even more knowledge!
- Don’t just gut out a pumpkin for a jack-‘o-lantern, but instead use all the pumpkin parts. Take the seeds out and turn them into a cooking activity. Have children over three years of age (due to choking concerns) help you clean and coat the pumpkin seeds in seasoning before roasting them in the oven. A quick and easy, but oh so delicious recipe is olive oil, salt, and black pepper; I also have a friend who seasons them with salt and vinegar like the chips. Then, take the rest of the insides that you spooned out of the pumpkin, and refrigerate them overnight to use as a sensory activity for the following day. Remember to include the child while making the jack-‘o-lantern. Although knives are too sharp for them to use, they can be creative and draw the design they want you to cut out. What else can you do with parts of the pumpkin?
- Rake those fallen leaves as a way to build gross motor muscles. Make it fun by turning raking into a game. What kind of game you ask? Well besides jumping in to them, you can make Halloween decorations out of the colorful leaves. Help the children stuff orange trash bags (found at Home Depot or amazon.com). After they’re as full as possible, tie them up, and let the children draw jack-‘o-lantern faces on them.
- Apple Picking is a learning experience in itself. Children learn new words such as: fruit picker, Macintosh, hay, and even more depending on their age. Continue the apple experience when you get home. Ask the children what they want to make with the apples. If you think it’s a good idea for your child, give him options. For instance, before offering a recipe to your child, ask him what he thinks is needed to make apple muffins. Include your child and discuss 1/2 cup versus 1 cup. There is lots to learn in the kitchen!
- Have the children noticed the leaves changing colors? Have them collect their favorite, or if you are working on colors then sort the yellow in one bucket and the red in another. When they’re all collected, glue them on to a pre-cut paper plate (cut out a circle in the middle). Look: a lovely decoration for the household, a colorful wreath! Another activity you could do with the leaves is have children arrange them on the sticky side of contact paper with other outdoor items the children choose (acorns, grass, or anything of their choice). When they’re finished, place another piece on top to seal the nature items inside.
- On some days, it will inevitably rain or be too cold to stay outside for hours and hours, like you could in the summertime. When leaving the park, stop by the library for some indoor play time. If there is a coloring center, ask children to draw the colorful trees they saw outside or a scene from their family apple picking trip. Promote literacy and find some Fall-themed books to help your kids learn about leaves changing colors, why people dress up on October 31st, and animals preparing for hibernation.
What else can you do in the Fall with your children? Be creative and comment on Facebook to let us know your ideas and suggestions. Before it gets too cold, take advantage of as much outdoor time as possible. Remember, you can even just bring art to the park. Enjoy and keep the learning going!
Kelsey Plimpton is currently a nanny in Boston and has been nannying for five years. She started as a part-time nanny while earning her associates degree in Early Childhood Education. Kelsey has worked with ages 2 months to 15 years in both nannying and babysitting positions, since the age of 13. While working with children she follows their interests to help create activities targeting developmental goals. She blogs with SitterCycle.com and is the Early Childhood Coordinator.