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Outdoor Late-Summer and Fall Activities for Families: Tips to keep you and the kids outside

With the onslaught of back-to-school sales, soon to be gone are the lazy days of summer. Homework and textbooks will once again clutter the kitchen table, and parents will find themselves at any variety of extra-curricular activities. As we transition from weekends poolside to life indoors, there is still a bounty of pursuits outside. As a break from the homework and shuttling kids to and fro here are some gardening and outdoor activities for your family as we get back to school.

Plant Fall Vegetables

Autumn is typically not thought of as a season for vegetable gardening. After all, what else is there besides summer tomatoes and peppers? Some of my favorite crops are best grown in fall such as leaf lettuce, butterhead lettuce, kale, turnips, spinach, chard, carrots, and so much more! The cooling fall temperatures concentrate the sugars in plant tissue, heightening the flavor of vegetables. Last autumn my kids planted and harvested our Thanksgiving salad. It was a lot of fun, and we made a video on our little project. You can check out our video HERE on YouTube.

Make Art from Natural Materials

Nature art activities get the family outside and doing something creative. The act of making whether it is art or functional is incredibly rewarding for youth or adults. Use flowers to make a smiley face, or moss and pinecones to build a miniature landscape. Encourage your family to explore different textures and colors found in the surrounding environment. Use grapevines to make bracelets or crowns adorned with flowers and different leaves. During our county 4-H fair, a creative young girl made bookmarks and greeting cards out of pressed and pounded flowers. And of course, you can always send the kiddos on a scavenger hunt to gather materials for a bouquet.

Go for a Hike

As summer wanes into fall, the humidity lessens and the air accumulates a crisp edge, perfect for hikes and walks. A majority of insects have dispersed with the summer heat. Nature puts on one more color show for the year as the tree leaves begin to turn. Pack a Sunday picnic and hit the trails. Takes breaks during your walk to listen for birds or rustling leaves. Have family members pick out brightly colored fall leaves and preserve it as a memento of your weekend. Preserving a leaf can be as easy as placing it in a thick book or go a step further and dip it in melted candle wax or beeswax. Teach kids how to identify trees by their leaves. It is especially useful when the canopy is a mix of colors. Got a question on the identification of a tree leaf? Contact your local Extension office. We are always happy to take a look.

Visit a Local Orchard or Fall Festival

In my childhood going back to school also meant crisp apples, cider, pie, pumpkins, hayrack rides, and bonfires. Visiting local orchards, growers, or fall festivals are an excellent way to get away from the house and some exercise running through a corn maze. Bring back pumpkins, corn stalks, and other material and have the kids help decorate for fall. Remember to check with municipal park districts or state parks as many offer late-summer and fall outdoor programs and events.

As our children hit the books, let's celebrate another summer in the books by encouraging all of the family to set aside some time to get in the garden and explore the great outdoors.

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