Autumn is here, and for parents of children with anxiety and focus challenges, it’s one of the best seasons to help them put down that video device and discover the world around them. There’s much to explore this time of year, and as the weather cools off, it’s even easier to get outside.
We’ve put together some ideas to help you and your child spend time together, learn together, and have fun together this season:
Explore a National or State Park
Public parklands can provide some of the best outdoor experiences for adults and children of all ages. And fall may just be the best time of year to explore a park you haven’t visited in while—or ever before.
With the summer rush over, many National or State Parks are less crowded, making them easier to explore, especially for kids dealing with anxiety issues.
Take a hike, watch for migrating birds, or explore the open play spaces.
Fall Animal Bingo
The fall is full of opportunities to observe the natural world around you, even if you’re in a more urban environment. Migrating birds cross the sky, settle in local lakes and ponds, and crowd feeders. Mammals, too, have some interesting fall behavior, like squirrels storing acorns and deer with antlers in full regalia.
Make fall a time to intentionally keep your head up and be on the lookout for interesting animals by creating a game of Fall Animal Bingo!
Spend a little time online researching the migrating birds and and other animals in your local area, how to identify them and their fall behaviors.
Make a list of animals you hope to see during the fall season.
Create a bingo board, listing or pasting an image of an animal on each square.
Throughout the season, when someone spots an animal, they get to close a square. The first to get BINGO is the winner!
Include your child in the research and creation of the board, too. This way they’ll learn more about the animals, while also helping them identify the ones they see.
Perhaps one of the most quintessential parts of the fall is warm, baked food. Pumpkin loaf, apple pie, ginger bread, and everything in between. What better way to counter the nip in the air than with baked goods fresh from the oven?
When you bake with your child, you have the opportunity to reinforce their education in math while standing shoulder to shoulder as you create. Any time they spend mixing or measuring will be formative and bonding, stirring their senses.
While it’s fun to bake together, remember that if your child struggles with focus issues, it’s important to limit the sugar they take in. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sweet fall treats. There are plenty of healthy, low-sugar baked goods recipes out there.
Recycle Halloween Costumes Into Theater
Halloween. You spend all that lead up time preparing a costume for one night. And when it’s over, then what? Some families store those costumes in a closet for use next year, others throw them away. There’s another option: recycle the costumes for a little living room theater.
Coordinate with a couple of your child’s friends before halloweenHalloween, inviting them to keep their costumes and set a playdate for after Halloween. There’s no need to coordinate the costumes by theme, let each kid come as they are. Spend some of the playdate imagining the story of the eclectic characters, and then have the kids dress up and put on a show for the adults.
Visit Children’s/Science Museum or Zoo
Not all fall days are ideal for being outdoors. When the weather’s not cooperating, take the opportunity to visit a children’s museum, science museum, zoo, or other interactive museum space. Often, these museums have seasonal exhibits, too, so they can fit right in on your autumn bucket list.
These kid-friendly places can provide your child with the ability to explore and let loose, without the worry of having to be quiet or still.
Plan a Night Under the Stars
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, take advantage of the darkening sky to learn about the cosmos.
On a clear night, dress warmly and step outside. Take a moment to identify some of the common constellations like the Big and Little Dippers and Orion. Of course look at the moon, and point out any planets. Earthsky.org/tonight will help you quickly point out notable celestial points of interest if you’re unsure what to look for. It’s also a great resource for your child’s questions about astronomy.
Have a pair of binoculars? Be sure to bring them along. Not only will they make the experience of looking at the moon so much more exciting, but you can also get some bigger thrills: like spotting Jupiters’ biggest moon, or the andromeda galaxy.
Fall is one of the best seasons of the year for your child to be active and discovering the world around them. These are the months to plot out weekend activities that will help you bond and engage their imaginations.
If you and your child spent time together this fall, we’d love to hear about it, and especially how it helped your child as they cope with anxiety and focus challenges. Let us know your story here.