Autumn in Action

The season's colors and textures provide a harvest of natural playthings to collect, observe, and manipulate.
By Ellen Booth Church



Autumn is a time of changing rhythms and patterns that provides a lovely opportunity for children to learn about the cycles of our planet. Kids can interact with its unique wonders by strolling through leafy lanes, admiring the rough texture of pinecones, and helping you carve pumpkins and other gourds that are abundant now. The activities on this page invite your child to engage in autumn’s splendors in simple ways that inspire imagination.

1. Search for seeds. Hunt around outside for seeds or seedpods that come from trees. Your child might find pinecones, maple tree “helicopters,” or acorns, for example. How do they compare to each other? Bring them home, and explore them with a magnifying glass. Identify each using a book or information on the Internet.

2. Carve a squash. Most people only carve pumpkins for Halloween, but why stop there? Take a trip to the grocery store, and have your child examine squash — acorn, butternut, spaghetti — then choose one. Carve or decorate it using a theme of your choice. It’s a neat way to encourage thinking outside the box.

3. Make a fall collage. Invite your child to collect leaves, pinecones, pine needles, etc., and arrange them on a large piece of poster board. She can organize them by color, create patterns, or separate and label each item individually. It makes a unique Thanksgiving decoration.

4. Weigh the benefits. Invite your child to compare the weights of her favorite fall treasures. Which looks heavier, and which is heavier? A small pumpkin or a large apple? How many apples weigh the same as a large pumpkin? Your child can check on a bathroom scale. He will be practicing observation and prediction skills.

5. Pass the gourd. Play a “hot potato”-style rhyming and rhythm game. Pass a small gourd around the table as you chant: one gourd, two gourds, three gourds, four — five gourds, six gourds, seven gourds, more! When you get to the end of the rhyme, whoever is holding the gourd gets to describe one of its characteristics and then begin the chant all over again. 

6. Look inside fall fruits. Examine pumpkin, apple, and pomegranate seeds. What do they look and feel like? What about corn, cranberries, or sweet potatoes — where are their seeds? Plant the ones you find. You’re helping develop your child’s curiosity, investigative skills, and knowledge of the growth cycle.

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