Helping children and families connect with the natural world

"In a Nut Shell" Blog

Penny Folsom shares her thoughts on a monthly basis with those interested in helping children and families connect with the natural world.

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What's So Wonderful About Fall?

Another Michigan summer is wrapping up. I hope you enjoyed some nature explorations with your family or friends. Now is the time to observe some spectacular fall changes! Look at your favorite tree; what is happening? Do you notice that some of the leaves are beginning to change color? Have you hugged “your” tree and thanked it for cleaning the air you breathe?

Fall is a great time for exploration. Children and adults can develop a deepening care for and connection with the natural world. As you and your child(ren) explore, support their interactions, develop questions, investigate and test hypothesis. Use your local library to find answers.

Fall is also time for birds and butterflies to migrate. Watch for groups of monarchs and unusual birds to pass through. Take notice of how other outdoor inhabitants are preparing for winter. 

As summer transitions into fall, consider what you can make — artwork, stories, songs, collections, games, etc. — to “remember” this season long into the cold of winter. Find some freshly fallen leaves and glue them onto colored construction paper. Customize it with markers and/or crayons. Cover both sides with clear contact paper. You have made a placemat! Vary the color of the paper as well as the size and shape. Make coasters. When was the last time you tried leaf rubbings? Be sure to use the backside of the leaf for the best effect. Place it under light-weight paper, or wax paper, and use the side of an unwrapped crayon, carefully rubbing over the whole leaf. What else can you do with leaves ? Create math games by sorting, graphing, counting and comparing. The possibilities are endless!

Why not grab a basket and head outside for a nature scavenger hunt. Gather pine cones, acorns, sticks and other treasures. Make a miniature village. Glue sticks together to create houses or fences. Make nature blocks from the larger stick you found. Have an adult cut the stick into a variety of lengths. Sand if necessary. Create animals from acorns. Green acorns are still soft enough to poke holes into. Put in small sticks and make your own farm or forest animal set. 

There are many great ideas to help spark the imagination. Don’t feel like you have to make “exactly “ what is presented. Encourage self expression. Praise all attempts. Ask your child if they would like to name their creation. It is okay if they do not want to say what it is, or give it a name. The important thing is to encourage individual creativity, and support exploration. Follow their ideas. Ask for their suggestions and follow them. Enjoy this wonderful time of year!