Why I Built This Kit
Autumn is my favorite season. Perhaps it is my upbringing in New England, or maybe you’re more inclined to like the season you are born into, and I was an October baby. But when the air turns a bit cooler, the foliage begins to change colors, the sidewalks rustle as people shuffle through fallen leaves, and the occasional fire and/or sweater in the evening keeps a deepening chill at bay, I feel myself renewing and ready for adventure. Here are some books and ideas to inspire your own fall adventures!
Spark Their Interest
Fun Facts About Fall
On the first day of autumn (which shifts about 24 hours every year), you can stand an egg on its end! You can only do this two days a year, the other day is on the spring equinox.
How much do you weigh? The largest squash on record weighed 1,486.6 pounds! That’s more than the average horse weighs! The squash belonged to Joel Jarvis.
Have you ever bobbed for apples? The apple bobbing champion, Ashrita Furman, from New York bobbed for 34 apples in one minute!
In the fall (depending on where you live), animals get ready for the next season: winter! Bears fatten up because they will sleep all winter long. Frogs and snakes also hibernate. Some birds fly south for the winter.
When leaves change colors in the fall, they are actually becoming their true color! When they are green it is because chlorophyll, the food they eat, fills them up.
- Autumn by Gerda MullerThis is one of a series of four books without text, which lead the young child through the seasons of the year. Full of fun, active illustrations, this chunky board book shows the joys of playing in leaves, collecting chestnuts, flying kites and making jam. (Publisher)
- Thanking the Moon by Grace LinUnder a full harvest moon, a Chinese American family unpacks their car, sets out a drop cloth and lanterns, and enjoys fruit, moon cakes, and tea at a “nighttime picnic.” They honor the mid-autumn moon with moments of quiet thanks and private wishes as they celebrate the traditional Chinese holiday with other families. In an appended note, author Lin describes the thanksgiving tradition, citing moon stories and explaining the symbolism of round-shaped cups, fruit, and lanterns. (Booklist)
- Fall Ball by Peter McCartyMcCarty distills a crisp essence of late fall into a few familiar images: a bouncy ride home on the school bus, an impromptu game of football (the American kind) amid piles of leaves, the first flakes of snow in early dusk and the cozy warmth of the house after play. A slightly diverse group of pink-cheeked and well-scrubbed primary-grade children (two girls and eight boys, including Bobby with his football and Jimmy, whose attempt at creating a tidy pile of leaves is certain to be thwarted) looks sweetly like an array of young hedgehogs. (Kirkus Reviews)
- Autumn is Here by Heidi Pross GrayCelebrate the coming of autumn with your child as you cuddle up and enjoy a sweet look at how the world changes along with the season. With beautiful watercolor illustrations and charming descriptions, you and your child will be wishing it was autumn year round! (Publisher)
- The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy TafuriSquirrel is too busy getting ready for winter to nibble a pumpkin with Mouse, run in the field with Dog, or otherwise play with any of the other animals. The leaves have started to fall. The air is cold. Squirrel needs to get ready for winter. He cannot nibble with the mice. He does not have time to hop with the frogs or run with the dogs. But there is one thing he can do! (Publisher)
- When Autumn Falls by Kelly Nidey, illus. by Susan SwanSimple language and colorful cut-paper illustrations are perfectly matched to provide an engaging look at an appropriately named season. The poetic text emphasizes all of the things that "fall": "The temperature falls,/bringing cooler weather./Grab your jacket or your sweater." Other spreads describe how "Leaves fall," "Ripe apples fall," and even "Football players fall." Varied seasonal activities reinforce the mood, including children bobbing for apples, selecting pumpkins, and playing in crisply hued leaves. Sure to please young readers, this title rises to the top. (School Library Journal)
- Count Down to Fall by Fran Hawk, illus. by Sherry NeidighBold, full-spread illustrations with inset details feature a variety of trees and woodland animals in this informational picture book. As the facts about trees count down, the images represent the numbers 10 to 1, while corner insets show the tree, spring and fall leaves, a seed, and occasionally the flower of the specific tree pictured, such as birch, dogwood, oak, and maple. Children will be drawn to examine the expressive images of animals and find additional ones along the detailed border featuring close-ups of the tree's bark. (School Library Journal)
- Barn Dance! by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illus. by Ted RandIn an old farmhouse, bathed in the light of a full moon, a young boy creeps to his bedroom window and looks outside. Was that a voice he just heard, or the hooting of an owl? There it is again: Come a little closer...Come a little closer...Listen to the night...There's music in the air… Beckoned by the voice, the boy sneaks downstairs, out the door, and walks toward the barn. As he gets closer he hears the sweet sound of a country fiddler and the rhythmic thumping of dancing feet. But who could possibly be having a barn dance in the middle of the night? (Publisher)
- Leaves by David Ezra SteinIt's a young bear's first autumn, and the falling leaves surprise him. He tries to put them back on the trees, but it doesn't work. Eventually, he gets sleepy, and burrows into the fallen leaves for a long nap. When he wakes up, it's spring and there are suddenly brand-new leaves all around, welcoming him. Graceful illustrations and a childlike main character offer the perfect way to talk to children about the wonder of the changing seasons. (Publisher) I love the way this book captures the wonder, curiosity, and concern a young child has over things like falling leaves, as well as the autumnal hues of the illustrations.
- We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger, illus. by Miki SakamotoJoin three friends on a fun leaf-finding adventure! This bouncy new version of the popular song begs to be read out loud. There are lots of beautiful fall leaves to find! Three friends have a big adventure hiking over a mountain and through a forest to collect leaves of all kinds and colors. What will they do with all their leaves at the end of the story? Jump and play in them, of course! With easy rhyming text and fun sound effects, children will delight in this rollicking autumn story. (Publisher)
- When the Leaf Blew In by Steve Metzger, illus. by Kellie LewisWhen a leaf blew in...the cow sneezed 'ah-choo!' In this engaging story, children get to read about farm animals and the silly things that happen when a leaf blows into the barn. (Publisher)
- Autumn Leaves by Ken RobbinsObserve "...carefully and see what you see..." advises Robbins in this celebration of the autumnal world. Beginning with an introduction to the wide variety of leaves to be seen, the author then presents a baker's dozen of trees and their fall-colored leaves from the rarer smoke tree, through the sassafras and yellow poplar, to the more common maples. Each variety is accompanied by a life-size, full-color photograph of one or more leaves on one page, with a photograph of the tree or some of its branches facing it. One or two simple sentences give a description or a snippet of information. (School Library Journal)
- Leaf Man by Lois EhlertFall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Is he drifting east, over the marsh and ducks and geese? Or is he heading west, above the orchards, prairie meadows, and spotted cows? No one's quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man's got to go where the wind blows. (Publisher)
- How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? by Wendell MinorEvery year, giant pumpkin contests take place at fairs across the country—the 2012 record-holder weighed over a ton! The latest craze is to carve the most enormous pumpkins into racing boats. But what’s next? Why not think really big? Award-winning artist Wendell Minor does just that as he imagines larger-than-life pumpkins decorating some of America’s favorite places—as immense as the Capitol dome, Mount Rushmore, the Brooklyn Bridge, even the Grand Canyon! This celebration of famous landmarks and landscapes plays with concepts of size and scale and is full of fun facts. (Publisher)
- Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by Anne WilsdorfOn a trip to the farmers' market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents' gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes.... What's a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble? (Publisher)
- Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell, illus. by Lizzy RockwellBold paintings in autumn hues and a simple lively story capture a little girl's joy as she shares in the excitement of the fall season — from a trip to the farm to a trick-or-treat adventure. (Publisher)
- The Baseball Counting Book by Barbara McGrathStep up to the plate with this counting book about America's favorite pastime. The count is zero to zero when the ump calls, "Play ball!" Nine innings later we've counted balls, strikes, players, fans, and more, all the way to twenty. No one strikes out with these fun rhymes. (Publisher)
- Touchdown! by David DiehlTry to take this away from a toddler, and prepare to get tackled! Artist David Diehl celebrates gridiron action in a conceptual board book that puts the spotlight on one football-related word per page. Strikingly designed, with bold graphics and exuberant colors, it brings children right onto the field. Whether it’s the offense’s “fumble,” the “quarterback” throwing, or the “snap” that starts the play, all Diehl’s illustrations capture the excitement, energy, and intensity of the sport. (Publisher) Check out Home Run! as well.
- I Can Play Soccer by Edna EckartPractice makes perfect in this introduction to children's sports that takes emergent readers step-by-step through the equipment they'll use and the skills they'll need to tackle new activities safely. (Publisher)
Hippo Seasons, from the young Scottish company, Hippotrix, is an “experiential toy” which gently enhances learning about the cycle of the four seasons for preschoolers. The quiet crunch of rolling a snowball in the Winter scene, brushing aside fall leaves, and poking a finger into the extremely lifelike pond of spring water are only a few of the many ways to interact with the vivid interface, and the complete absence of speech or on-screen text makes this app a great choice for kids with a variety of needs. (Cool Tech Mom) The freestyle of play and self-discovery in this app is perfect for the youngest users.
A cutely animated story about a squirrel and his forest friends as they look for nuts and throw themselves a party. Each part of the story finishes up with a toddler-geared activity. There is also a “play” mode with more elaborate versions of each activity, like finding and counting nuts, putting together puzzles, coloring, etc.
Watch, Listen, Learn
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Autumn
Listen to this classical piece of music. Ask your child to close their eyes at least part of the time while they listen. Can they hear the fall season in the music? Ask them to describe or draw a picture of how the music makes them feel. Here is a recording accompanied by autumnal pictures. Here is one of an orchestra playing the piece.
Music and Motion
Help your child sing the lyrics to the song Autumn Leaves Are Falling Down, which is sung to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down. Make up movements to go along with each verse: falling down, sweeping, heaping, blowing. Or get some raking done while you sing! Follow this up with Red & Yellow & Orange & Brown, sung to the tune of Skip to My Lou.
A full length episode in which monsters and kiddos alike learn about autumn, leaves, and trees.
Cut a couple of apples in half and insert a popsicle stick in the middle to give your little one an easier grip. Put different colors of paint on small plates or bowls large enough to fit the apple halves. Show your tot how to use the stamps, dipping the cut half of the apple into the paint and then putting it to paper. Have fun!
Stuffed Paper Apples
Follow these easy directions to help your child make a stuffed apple. First have them trace two large apple patterns on to paper bags. Then they can sponge paint the apples. Once the paint is dry punch holes around the edges of the apples so they can lace yarn through the holes to secure the apple sides together, leaving a small opening. Stuff cotton balls, crinkled up newspaper, etc. into the opening then finish lacing the yarn around. Make a stem and leaf out of construction paper, and ta da!
Pumpkin Sun Catchers
I love this idea for making pumpkin sun catchers. The materials you’ll need are clear contact paper, orange tissue paper cut into squares, orange and green craft foam and/or pipe cleaners, and googly eyes. Lay it flat sticky side up and tape it down so that it stays down. Have your child pile up the orange tissue paper onto the contact paper. Then add the outline of a pumpkin using the craft foam and/or pipe cleaners. If you want a jack-o-lantern look, add the googly eyes. Hang the pumpkins on a window and see them catch the orange autumn light!
Use a similar contact paper strategy to make a collage of leaves: all you need are leaves, clear contact paper attached to a wall or table, and glitter. What a beautiful decoration! Make collecting the leaves ahead of time an activity on its own. Afterwards, have your child describe the colors they see in the leaves as they create their collage.
Have your child guess how many seeds there are inside a pumpkin. Then count them. To make this easier for very young children, make grids that have 100 squares each so they can place one seed inside each square. Get as far as you can, then roast them!
Read Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault’s Barn Dance! and make a scarecrow! I love this toddler-friendly scarecrow craft that will also help little ones learn shapes, colors, and textures.
Going On An ABC Leaf Hunt!
This is a fabulous idea to get your child moving around, practicing their abcs, and thinking about the fall! Create colorful fall leaves out of cardstock or foam, and write a single letter from the alphabet on each leaf. Stash them around, indoors or out, and have your child go on a leafy literacy scavenger hunt!
Make A Leaf Man
Read Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man, and then make your own leaf man! Have your child gather leaves, pinecones, sticks, acorns, and other natural materials. Then they can glue them onto a piece of sturdy cardstock or cardboard and bring their own leaf man to life.
Fall is a wonderful time to get out and explore. You might take a walk around your city or neighborhood and ask your child to observe how being outdoors now is different than in the summer (people wear coats, the trees are bare or leaves are falling, people eat more warm food, there is smoke coming out of chimneys, people rake leaves, kids are in school, etc.). You might go apple picking or pumpkin picking or visit a corn maze. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a spot where you can create your own leaf pile to jump in. Perhaps there are woods or places to take an easy hike or walk near you. Whatever you do, get out and enjoy! Ask your child to tell you stories about what you have seen and done afterwards.
Fall is my season for baking and fall pies are among my favorites: apple, pumpkin, sweet potato… yum yum yum. The next time you get ready to bake a pie, set aside some pie dough (which is usually if not always egg-free) for your little one. Put together a tray for them with pie dough, a measuring cup or two, some raisins, a small rolling pin or pastry wheel for cutting or even just a fork, some flour and cinnamon, and a small amount of water. Putting materials together in a large jellyroll pan can help contain the mess. Now let your kiddo go to town with this sensory tray making their own creations. Meanwhile, you’ll have a little bit of time to assemble your own pie!
Try this chant with your child and make up some hand motions to go with it:
“The Sounds of Fall” by Ken Guilmartin from Music Together for the Fiddle Collection
Listen to the leaves falling one by one, chh chh chh chh
When we rake them up, we’re gonna have some fun! Shh shh shh shh
Listen to the birds in the tree so high, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp.
Don’t you wish that you could spread your wings and fly? Hoo hoo hoo hoo!
About Alexandra H.
Greetings from central Maine! Things you should know about me: I am the mother of an inquisitive, active toddler who keeps me on my toes. I work in a small, independent children’s bookstore where I get to help kids, teens, and their grown-ups find books that will keep them up reading all night long. Just kidding about that last part, they go to sleep eventually, I swear. Well, I don’t swear, but I assume. But matching people and books? My favorite way to play matchmaker! Before moving to Maine I worked as a historical researcher for American Girl, where I learned about everything from steamboats to wars to parrots. I am also a children’s book author myself, with my first picture book due to come out in 2015! When I’m not knee-deep in books or blocks or a sandbox, I bake a lot, avoid cleaning at all costs, and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. For the record, I would love to be a neat and orderly person, it just doesn’t seem to be my style. I’m working on it.