As summer continues its ignoble retreat, it can be tricky for parents and kids to remember that getting outside — even in low light and cooling temperatures — is good for the body, mind, and soul. While schoolwork, bedtimes, and more rigid schedules can all seem insurmountable, autumn is actually the perfect time of year to continue the trend of being outside.
Here is a closer look at a bunch of fall fun you and your children can have, whether you’re city dwellers, country folk, or bi-coastal jetsetters.
It’s a simple premise that never fails to delight: Set up the tent, schlep out the sleeping bags, and spend a night “camping” with your kids in your very own backyard. Even if you never actually go camping in the woods or mountains, having a tent and other camping gear — whether you buy it on a Cabela’s rewards credit card for the rewards points or get it used — is an ideal way to experience being outside with your children in a familiar environment in an entirely new way.
Yard Work With Rewards
So, this one may seem at the outset like it will take some convincing, but so long as you make a game of it from the start, your little ones will love doing autumn yard work. Tell them to put on clothes they won’t mind getting dirty, and head outside. See who can pull dying and dead annuals up from around the house the fastest. Have races that involve intricate paths and obstacles before they can throw the yard debris in the compost. Rake the leaves into giant piles; jump in them, and do it all over again. Once the work is complete, and everyone is tuckered out, head inside to prizes and steaming hot chocolate.
Going fishing with your kids — even if it’s just at a creek near your house — is a great way to get outside together. Fishing is a skill that’s a dying art, and whether you’re an old hat at it or not, you and your children can learn a lot about the natural world by doing it. Find out which fish you can still catch in your region during the fall months. Involve everyone in selecting hooks, bait, and lures. Once you’ve done the requisite studying up, head out into the cooling air leaving all your electronics and worries behind. Fishing is ideal for talking, listening, and reflecting — something we all could use a little more of in our busy lives.
Especially if you have children under the age of 5, going on a color hunt is an exciting way to spend a weekend morning. Pick one color at a time, and encourage everyone in your group to find as many examples of it as possible. Give everyone a bag in which to carry their finds. Fall is an ideal time to help little ones trying to hone their color knowledge. From yellow and orange to red and green, you can spend two hours being active and engaged outside, and they’ll be learning to boot.
No matter how old your children are, bird watching is something most kids can enjoy. For toddlers, have it be enough to focus their attention on birds while you’re carrying them or strolling in a park or easily traversed forest area. Grade school-aged children can actually work on looking for and identifying particular birds. For older children and teens, grab a guidebook and a couple pairs of binoculars, and head to a place where the bird variety is substantial. Talk about calls and the changes that might be coming about in plumage. See just how many different types of birds and mated pairs you can see. Especially later in the fall, when deciduous trees have lost many of their leaves, bird watching can be a surprisingly rewarding activity for older kids to engage in.
Foraging for Mushrooms
Depending on where you live, autumn can be a great time to look for edible mushrooms. In mid- to late-October (although they can appear as early as late August or as late as mid-November), the delicious and ubiquitous Hen-of-the-woods make for a perfect fall foraging mushroom. They grow around the bases of old, but living, bur oak trees, and they make their appearance after a good rain. Harvest them with a knife just above the ground where they’re growing. They’re delicious sautéed in butter. Once you find a spot, check it each year as they tend to repeat themselves annually.
So, head outdoors with your children this fall. From foraging mushrooms to going on a color hunt, there’s still plenty of fun to be had under the sun.