Summer Into Fall: How to Enjoy it With Children

nature walk 2Here in Ohio, we’ve entered that in-between season of not quite summer, not quite fall (my husband’s favorite frugal time – we don’t need the air conditioner or the furnace). It is the perfect time for outdoor activities: the heat and mosquitoes have largely abated, but there’s no need for heavy coats and snow pants yet. We’re simply enjoying gorgeous, eye-popping blue skies, the gradually brightening colors of the leaves and a curious, hurried feeling in the air, probably because we all know what’s coming. In our family we take every opportunity to savor the last days of summer while welcoming fall as it arrives. Here are some simple ways you can, too:

nature walk 1

Nature Walks – Even in Your Own Yard! – There’s a lot going on out there. Depending upon where you live, there are animals preparing to hibernate, leaves changing and falling, fruits and nuts ripening and much to discover, collect and examine. Don’t have a nature preserve nearby? Visit a local park or explore your own neighborhood.

I sent my three, along with a neighbor friend, around the yard with our Maine Garden Hod and instructions that whoever found the most unusual nature item would receive a prize. They got completely engrossed, and in about 20 minutes, they’d found or observed an amazing array of natural wonders, including butterflies, moths, dragonflies, chestnuts, buckeyes, leaves, seeds, moss, rocks, clover and wildflowers. Not bad for an in-town backyard.

veggie skewers

Cook Up the Harvest – Don’t put the grill away yet. Gardens are bursting with vegetables galore, but sometimes it’s a challenge to get children to actually eat those veggies. We’ve discovered what parents have known forever: getting the children involved in cooking makes them excited for mealtime. This summer we’ve loved making simple vegetable kabobs on wooden skewers.

Even preschoolers can help put chunks of peppers, squash, zucchini, onion (we like red onion best) and cherry tomatoes onto the skewers. Experiment with fun patterns and color combinations! Drizzle with some olive oil and your favorite seasonings – we’ve even tried barbeque sauce – and grill. Or, place the skewers into a baking dish and roast in the oven until vegetables are tender (turning once). Serve with some rice and fruit and you have a bona fide healthy dinner you’ll all enjoy. 

Don’t have a garden? It’s the perfect time to hit up farmer’s markets or better yet, friends and neighbors with gardens. They’re literally giving those zucchinis away.

OK, you're allowed to eat some unhealthy treats at the fair - it's once a year, after all!

OK, you’re allowed to eat some unhealthy treats at the fair – it’s once a year, after all!

Fairs, Festivals, Orchards and More – There’s no better way to celebrate this in-between season than attending a good old-fashioned county fair. And yes, the kiddie rides, snow cones, corn dogs and ring toss games are ALL a must. But beyond the sugary excitement, be sure to steer your little ones into the buildings featuring the weirdly shaped, giant pumpkins, perfect purple eggplants, carefully crafted flower arrangements and grand champion pies. This is rural America at its finest, all on display.

girl picking apple

It’s also a great time to seek out “pick your own” days at local orchards and vineyards. How invaluable it is to help a child reach up into a tree and pick his own fruit off the branch! Take your treasures home and turn them into homemade applesauce or grape juice, and you’ll relive that memory enjoy all winter long.

This time of year is all too fleeting, so revel in it with your children. You’ll be instilling in them a deep love of nature and the good, simple things in life that will stay with them for years to come.