Although summer has ended and the kids are back in school, there's still plenty of great family fun to be had! Autumn is the perfect time to do activities that teach your family to appreciate nature's bounty and to take advantage of the last beautiful days before winter arrives.
Visit an Orchard
No, you can't pick your family, but there are lots of farms and orchards where your family can pick their own apples, pears, and pumpkins in the fall. A simple internet search for "pick your own apples" brings up hundreds of orchards that are all too happy to turn guests lose on their apple trees for a small fee. Apple trees are ideal for kids to climb, with lots of low, thick branches. Let the kids climb up to pluck the best fruit from the highest branches (as long as the orchard doesn't prohibit climbing). Pack a picnic lunch and make a day out of your orchard adventure. Many farms and orchards also offer petting zoos and hayrides during the fall picking season. When you arrive back home with eight bushels of apples, get the kids busy peeling and slicing those apples for pies, muffins, applesauce, and apple cider. Visit the Michigan Apple Committee website for more apple recipes than you ever imagined existed! Have kids wrap up all the extra pies, muffins and apple goodies and deliver them to neighbors, relatives, or teachers. Don't forget to store pumpkins in a cool place, away from hungry squirrels, until it's time to carve those jack-o-lanterns. And remember to save and roast the seeds for a delicious treat!
Take a Hike
The cool, crisp days of autumn are a great time for your family to take a long walk and drink in the changing colors of fall foliage. Being outside on a beautiful afternoon, far from TV and Nintendo, gives your family the chance to chat, play silly games, and even sneak in some exercise. Take along a field guide and have kids identify interesting birds or plants they see along the way. Bring some paper and crayons so they can do leaf rubbings when you stop for a break. Use the opportunity to teach kids important lessons about treating nature respectfully, making the motto, "Take only photographs, leave only footprints."
Don't know where to hike? The National Park Service website can help you locate a national park in your area, and even includes information on identifying bird and insect species commonly found in national parks. Most parks charge only a nominal fee for usage and some even have restroom and picnic facilities. For more tips on hiking with kids, visit www.outdoorplaces.com.