Health Library: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

This Is the Reason... Fall's a Great Season

When there's just a bit of a bite in the air, it's time to get energized and have some fun. Here are some ideas for activities this fall that will get your family out and about.

Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. And you don't have to venture far from home to find interesting things to do with your kids. A walk through the park -- or even your own back yard -- can yield a wealth of seasonal fun.

Leaf collecting

A fall walk is a great way to collect, identify and press leaves. You can save your fall memories and learn about the different types of trees and leaves in your neighborhood.

To press leaves, about.com offers these instructions:

Step 1: Collect different varieties and colors of leaves while walking around in your neighborhood, avoiding any that are rotting or moldy. Do not take leaves from private property without permission.

Step 2: Make sure the leaves are flat and dry before pressing them. Place them between two sheets of newspaper and then under several heavy books. Leave them for 24 hours.

Step 3: Under adult supervision, place the flattened and dried leaves between two sheets of waxed paper. Gently press the entire surface, slowly, with a medium-hot iron. Repeat with additional leaves. Allow to cool before touching.

Step 4: Show off your collection. Trim around the edges and affix to cards, place them in albums with tags identifying them or attach a string and hang them in the window as a suncatcher.

Here are some more suggestions for fall activities, these from FamilyFun (family.go.com):

  • Give your kids a blank notebook so they can keep an "autumn journal" to track temperature and weather changes. When did the leaves first begin changing color? Provide crayons so they can make sketches and drawings of the changing leaves, or leaf rubbings by placing a leaf under a sheet of paper and rubbing over it with a crayon.

  • While taking a stroll to enjoy autumn's splendor, give your children a paper bag to collect treasures they find along the way -- nuts, leaves, seed pods.

  • You can also preserve the season by making autumn place mats. Take the leaves your children have collected and arrange them on a piece of a paper with a photo. Include the date and other information before laminating it with clear contact paper.

Hiking

For the more ambitious, a hiking trip to a local state park is a great way to enjoy the change in the weather. It's also a good time to watch the fall migration of birds. Remember to take the proper safety precautions and follow trails appropriate for the skill levels of both you and your children.

Here are a few additional hints and safety tips from the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference and the National Park Service:

  • Dress for the weather.

  • Let someone know where you're hiking and when you plan to return.

  • Wait for one another at forks or junctions in the trail.

  • Bring plenty of water.

Whether hiking or just walking through your own back yard, be sure to collect some of nature's treasures. Pick up pinecones, acorns, raffia and different types of leaves to make crafts with.

Camping

Camping is a great way for the family to spend time together -- without the distractions of the television, telephone and video games. Family campgrounds are located throughout the United States. They can often make even a 30-minute drive from home seem like another world.

Remember to take along the basics when going camping. The National Park Service, through Shenandoah National Park, offers this list of items: food, tent(s), insect repellent, maps, sleeping bags and clothing (including rain gear, just in case). And don't forget the first aid kit.

If you don't want to venture far from home, you can still "rough it" in your own back yard. The grill is a great place to roast marshmallows.

Even camping in your living room can be a treat. Unroll sleeping bags, then telling stories around a "campfire" -- several flashlights tied together. To add to the mood, serve baked beans and hot dogs for dinner.

Fairs and festivals

Autumn is the time when most counties and states have their fairs. Both an educational and recreational experience, fairs offer something for most everyone, including craft exhibits, animal exhibits and games.

In addition, cities and towns across America hold a variety of festivals to celebrate everything from regional heritage to barbecue.

Contact your local chamber of commerce or state tourism board to find out what events are scheduled for your area.

Other fun activities

Short, simple trips to farms and orchards can also be fun. What would fall be without a trip to pick pumpkins? Bring home several, and when you are finished carving them, roast pumpkin seeds for a special treat. (Roast them for 30 minutes at 300 degrees F.)

You'll find plenty of family-oriented Halloween events in almost every community, such as haunted house tours. 

Fall is also apple season. If there are apple farms in the area, a trip to one is a great time to pick your own apples. Serve them fresh, baked or cooked into applesauce.