Let nature provide the inspiration for art projects this fall. Grab whatever paper and crayons you already have around the house and hit the outdoors. Have your kids size up the trees around them and pick their favorite tree to trace. Just place the paper over the tree trunk, grab your crayons and rub them across the paper down the center of the page — from the middle of the sheet to the bottom, replicating the shape of a tree trunk. The texture from the bark will come through on your page as you continue to fill it in with color. Then, create your own family tree by drawing branches onto your replica tree trunk and filling in family names.
If the weather has you rained in, consider an impromptu living room campout. Grab blankets, sleeping bags, pillows and flashlights to create an indoor adventure that’s all about family time. Turn off your TV, mute your phone and pretend you're cut off from the rest of the world. Pitch a makeshift tent using sheets and chairs, then gather inside and take turns seeing who can tell the spookiest story. Or, snuggle up and read books by flashlight.
Make a list of items found in nature, like pine cones, maple leaves, spider webs or streams, then head to a local park or nature trail. You can tackle the list together, taking turns to see who can find the next item, or divide into teams and meet back at a designated area to see who completed their list first. Have your smartphone handy and every time you find an item, snap a photo of it — ideally with a family member in the photo. Silly faces, overt finger pointing at the object and over-the-top looks of surprise are all encouraged. The upside of a photo scavenger hunt is that long after you find everything you set out to, your memories are preserved in pictures and you can use them in collages and scrapbooks later.
There's a reason why the last few generations grew up playing outside until the street lights came on... without spending a dime. Hide-and-Seek, Kick the Can, or a couple rounds of I Spy can provide hours of entertainment and cost nothing to play. I Spy can be played anywhere, from outdoor malls to your own backyard. Plus, all of the back-and-forth guessing can help you reinforce lessons on shapes, colors or vocabulary with your kids. Besides, if you have little ones, there are few things in life that are cuter than hearing them say, “I spy with my little eye.”
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