Getting Your Whole Family Outside This Fall

Tomorrow marks the first day of autumn, my favorite season. As Carol Bishop Hipps put it, it's “the mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.”

I hope you all take the time go out and enjoy this most splendid season. Getting outside and into nature is an important part of keeping everyone in your family happy and healthy. In fact, a University of Illinois study found that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were able to raise their attentiveness scores simply by taking a walk outside. Not surprisingly, walks in natural settings had an even more significant impact than walking on city streets.

Being in nature can benefit your whole family's mental, emotional, and physical well-being, so here are some ideas to get you and your whole family outside this fall.

Visit a farm. Check out LocalHarvest.org for farms near you.

Try a hay or corn maze.

Go apple picking or search for the perfect pumpkin. Check out pickyourown.org to find a pick-your-own farm near you.

Go on a hay ride.

Jump in the leaves.

Create artwork from the leaves, acorns, and pine cones available in your yard or a nearby park. Click here for fall craft ideas and directions.

Round up the neighborhood for a game of touch or flag football.

Play outdoor games like freeze tag, Red Rover, hopscotch and Kick The Can.

Fly a kite.

Visit a local park.

Plant a tree. Many people don't realize that planting isn't just a springtime activity. The fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs as well as flower bulbs like daffodils, crocus, and tulips.

Visit the zoo. Fall (and even winter) is a great time to visit the zoo. Summer's heat keeps many animals hidden in their cool, shady spots. Cooler temperatures means more animals roaming about for easy viewing.

Visit state and national parks in your area. Many offer great family friendly activities.

Go on a nature expedition at a local park, in your yard, or around your neighborhood. Bring along binoculars, a magnifying class, and a journal (young children can draw pictures of what they see) and teach your kids how to observe, enjoy and appreciate nature without disturbing it.

Make a nature journal. Have your kids decorate a notebook they can carry with them to note what they observe when they're outside. Even young kids can keep a nature journal by drawing what they see.

Explore the wonderful world of bugs. Check your local library for books about bugs and then head outside with a magnifying glass to see what you can find and identify.

Learn about birds. Check out some library books or use the online bird guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Then get outside with some binoculars and that nature journal and see what you can find.

Set up an outdoor scavenger hunt. The Love The Outdoors website offers a great guide to setting up your own scavenger hunt for kids, along with a few sample lists to get you started.

Have a picnic (even if it's in your own yard).

Start an outdoor hobby together. The options are limitless – biking, fishing, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, horseback riding, etc.

Build a fort. Use these simple directions from wikiHow or get fancy with these instructions from This Old House.

Go letterboxing. Letterboxing is an outdoor activity that dates back to the 1800s. It combines elements of orienteering, hiking, art, and puzzle solving. Participants search for letterboxes hidden in public places, such as parks, by following clues from a catalog or web site. These letterboxes usually contain a notebook and a rubber stamp. Finders stamp their personal journal with that stamp to record their find and then leave their personal stamp in the letterbox's log book. Your own local parks and recreation department may have a program or you can check out one of the many web sites available to help you get started. If you'd prefer a more high tech treasure hunt involving gps tracking, try Geocaching.

Learn about the solar system. Kidsastronomy.com has several great resources you can check out before heading outside to connect the constellations together.


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