It’s a crisp, 65-degree fall day. The cloudless blue sky opens wide above in all directions. A light breeze teases at the cool weather ahead. It’s perfect. Picturesque, even.
On a day like this, the last thing you want to do is stay inside and watch your child play Minecraft.
So how can you engage your complex learner in the fall season and have some outdoor family fun while the weather is still agreeable?
There is lots of fun to be had in fall, so begin to enjoy the season as a family by:
- Looking for events and activities that suit your child’s temperament
- Selecting activities that are not too structured or crowded
- Connecting events with your child’s interests
- Choosing options that allow for freedom of thought and movement
Here are some favorite fall activities that fit the needs of children with complex learning challenges:
#1: Head to the farm for apple and pumpkin picking.
Fall is the perfect time to explore nearby farms that offer pick-your-own produce or other lightly structured activities. Many farms also have animals, mazes, tractor rides, games and food (like my favorite, cider donuts!).
Prepare for farm fun by previewing the farm’s website with your child and explaining what the day’s activities will include. Once there, allow your child to follow his interests. He may want to do the corn maze 25 times, or spin the weather rock endlessly, instead of picking a single apple. And that’s ok! You’re simply there to help your child enjoy the outdoors and the gifts of the season.
#2: Pack in the fun at fairs and festivals.
Fall is filled with festivals that cater to every type of interest. Have a child that loves video games or Star Wars? Check out a Renaissance Faire nearby. (There’s even a Harry Potter festival near us here in Philadelphia!)
These unique events provide the perfect opportunity for your family to dress up and dive deep into your imaginations together – all while spending time outdoors. Just remember to follow your child’s lead: if the excitement is overwhelming, stay only for a little while and move on to another, more peaceful activity.
#3: Get back to nature with a walk in the woods.
The fall is, in my opinion, the best time to explore the unruly outdoors. Plan a family walk through a wooded area, up a mountain or along a stream. Start small, and remember that it’s about the walk, not the destination.
On a family walk, let your child help plot the path. Your child may not care about reaching the summit and instead may prefer to skip rocks in a lake. It’s ok to encourage your child along, but also allow him to wander and enjoy the sights and sounds of fall in his own way:
- Is he a collector? Encourage him to gather leaves or rocks or bugs – whatever gets him excited.
- Does he like to sort? Help him classify his findings.
- Does he enjoy projects? Take home your bounty and create a fall craft, like a leaf collage or, my favorite, a leaf turkey.
#4: Search for family fun on a scavenger hunt.
A simple way to get the whole family outside and working together? Create a scavenger hunt. I do this often with my children and our TQS students, and I’m always amazed at the places our kids take us.
Here’s how to create your family adventure:
- Think of common fall items found in nature, and create a list tailored to fit the interests of your child.
- Write down your list of items, or draw them in picture form. (You can also find simple images of your items by doing a Google image search.)
- Familiarize your child with the list, or give him his own copy.
- Set out on unfamiliar paths to see what you can find!
#5: Get your head in the clouds.
There is no better time for stargazing or cloud watching than in autumn. Lie on the ground, look up at the sky, and talk about what you see as a family. Ask your child:
- What does that cloud make you think of?
- Can you find the Big Dipper?
- How many different shades of blue can you spot?
Want more ideas? Check out KidsAstronomy.com for games, a free sky map and tips on observing the night sky.
These are just a few of the ways you can enjoy fall’s cool temperatures and clear skies with your family – but there are many more! Let us know: what is your family’s favorite fall activity? Share your ideas in the comments below.