For many, autumn is a time when things start to slow down in the garden. But there’s no reason to head indoors yet!
The cooler weather brings relief from the heat, as well as beautiful golden leaves. This is a perfect chance to work and play in the garden with your children. It’s a perfect time to come up with games, crafts, and activities that will grow their love of nature and teach them more about the great outdoors. These following ideas come from the 1995 book “Learn and Play in the Garden” by Meg Herd.
In Autumn, plants in the garden start to go to seed. Now is a good time to learn and explore seeds with the kids! The vegetable garden plot is a great place to start. Look for seeds inside beans and peas. Look for them inside watermelons, pumpkins, and peppers. Seeds are also found in dying flowers, ripening fruit, or seed pods from trees.
Learn About Seeds
Kids of all ages can learn about seeds by cataloguing them. In order to make your own seed catalogue, all you need is:
- A sheet of cardboard
- Clear cellophane
- Safety scissors
- Adhesive tape
What to do:
Cut Out squares of cellophane. These will be the display windows for the seeds.
Mount the seeds on the cardboard and cover them with the cellophane squares.
Tape the edges of the cellophane to the cardboard.
Now, you have a board of all the seeds you found in your yard. The kids can write the name of the seeds under each cellophane window. They might be surprised at how many different types of seeds they found in their own backyard. Encourage your kids to compare the different types of seeds. Ask them how each seed is different and how they’re the same.
Did you know that different types of seeds have different modes of travelling? Maple tree seeds, for example, have papery wings so they can travel on the wind to another place where they can begin the next generation of maple trees.
Animals and birds can also help seeds travel. When an animal eats fruit with the seeds inside (such as berries), the seeds open in their stomachs and come out in the animal’s droppings – instant fertilizer to encourage growth!
The next time your child finds a dandelion, encourage him to blow all the little seeds off the flower, and watch as the seeds float on the wind to find the next place to grow.
Make Your Own Seed Mosaic
Since the autumn garden is bursting with seeds, you can spend an afternoon with your children gathering them all. You’ll probably end up with a wealth of colorful seeds of all shapes and sizes with which your kids can make creative pictures.
With the seeds from apples, corn, pumpkins, oranges, watermelons, cherries, beans, and sunflowers, you can create beautiful images completely made up of seeds.
All your kids need is:
- Craft glue
- Construction paper
- A variety of seeds
- A small paintbrush
What to do:
Paint the glue on the area of the paper where you want to put the seeds
Press the seeds into place on the glue.
Keep in mind that some of the tiniest seeds might have to be poured onto the glued area, and the excess dusted off when the glue dries.
Learn About all the Hidden Creatures in the Soil
If your kids love getting dirty, this one’s for you! There’s a whole world of living creatures under the soil that most of us never see! Kids can learn about the host of underground animals by doing some soil sieving.
Your kids will need:
- A large sieve
- Soil from the garden
- A large piece of paper
- A Magnifying glass
What to do:
Collect a bucket of topsoil from your garden. Ask your kids if they can see any creatures yet, like ants, beetles, or earthworms.
Add some of the soil to the sieve and gently shake to separate the soil from the smaller animals.
Place the small animals on the sheet of paper and use the magnifying glass to study them. What animals do you see? Make a record of them. Encourage the kids to write down what they notice.
Once you have finished, gently return the soil and the animals to the garden where they belong.
Learn About The Leaves
As the leaves are falling down, you might find that your kids are picking up the leaves and studying their beauty. Besides making huge leaf piles to jump in, there are plenty of ways to teach kids about the beauty of fall leaves (and a little science along the way!)
Leaves have skeletons just like people. The skeleton is the frame that helps support the leaf structure, and provides the network of veins that transports food and nutrients throughout the plant.
Leaves come in all different shapes and sizes. Spend an afternoon gathering all the different leaves you can find in your yard or neighborhood, and spend some time comparing the individual leaves. With these leaves, get some crayons, a piece of paper, and do some skeleton rubbing!
Your Kids Will Need:
What To Do
Place a leaf on a flat surface.
Position the paper over it and rub gently with the side of the crayon. The pattern of the leave’s veins will show up on the paper.
Encourage your kids to study the vein patterns in each individual leaf rubbing. Ask them how many different vein patterns they can find.
Autumn is a time to relax, to enjoy the bounty of the summer’s harvest, and to soak up the last of the beautiful weather before winter sets in. Take this as an opportunity to inspire your children, to encourage them to explore the natural world right in their back yard.