“Sweater” (noun): Something you wear when your mother is cold.”
It’s that time. The air is crisp, days are getting shorter, and trees just itch to change. Have you pulled out that pumpkin spice yet?
Yes, summer seemed super short, almost slipping away unnoticed.
But, thankfully, autumn is ready to work its magic.
And those comforting sights and scents are the perfect opportunity to enjoy carefree time with the grandparents—even if you need to sit several feet apart.
So why not enjoy these five most colorful activities with Grandma and Gramps.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus
Activity #1: Walking on Sunshine—Take a Leaf Walk
Blue skies, flaming trees—what’s not to love? Especially if you’re together.
So bundle up in a cozy sweater and your comfiest sneakers, and take a trip around the block.
On the way, gather leaves.
- Oak, maple, gingko, a dogwood here or there, poplar, burning bushes, …
- Small leaves, big ones,
- Reds, yellows, scarlet. For one of the crafts, you can even use a plain large green one.
Load your arms or bring a book along to press the foliage immediately.
And don’t forget to take deep cleansing breaths. Of course, it’s also a great time to ask for all those stories about walking five miles to school, uphill both ways…
“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”– John Burrows
Activity #2—Simple DIY Craft, Autumn Sun-Catchers
This one’s a classic. Grandma and Grandpa may have even made it when they were kids.
- Nicely-shaped Leaves (Leaf cookie cutters work, too)
- Wax paper
- Iron and Ironing board
- Autumn-colored crayons: Reds, yellows, oranges, greens, …
- Old cheese grater or crayon sharpener
When you get home, choose a few of your favorite shaped leaves. —Color isn’t so important for this craft.
Because you’re going to make the colors.
How You Do It:
1. Grate the crayons or sharpen them, keeping the shavings. (No grater or sharpener? Use one side of the scissors to scratch flakes long-ways off the crayon.)
2. Tear off a larger piece of wax paper.
3. Sprinkle crayon shavings on top of the paper, mixing colors for that autumn hue blend.
NOTE: Scatter just thick enough to celebrate the colors,
but thin enough to let the light shine through.
4. Lay another piece of wax paper on top of the crayon shavings.
5. Place a thin towel (paper towel, bread towel, …) on top of the wax paper.
6.With your heat on a low setting, run the iron over the towel until the crayons underneath melt together between the wax.
[Yes, you could iron straight on the wax paper without the towel, but you’ll need to be careful to use quick touches so you don’t melt the whole kit and caboodle on your iron—unless, of course, you want to add some waxy color the next time you iron those Sunday shirts.]
7. Trace some of the leaves you picked up on your leaf walk (or your leaf cookie cutter) onto the now melded and colored wax paper.
8. Cut out the leaf shapes, punch a hole in the top or bottom of each one, and lace them up with twine to hang on the window.
Want to change it up a little? Cut the two pieces of wax paper into leaf shapes first, and then add crayon shavings between them. (Be sure to heat it long enough to seal the paper together.)
“The heat of autumn is different from the heat of summer. One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.”– Jane Hirshfield, The Heat of Autumn
Activity #3—Simple DIY Craft, Autumn Candles
For a craft that takes warming the heart literally…
- Simple pillar candles, small, medium, or large. (White works well)
- An old candle or wax that you can melt (White, again, is perfect)
- Paint brush
- Autumn leaves, sized to fit on your pillar candles
- Double boiler (or a can or pan that fits over another pan)
How You Do It:
1. In your double boiler: Fill one pan with two inches or so of water, and heat it on medium so it gently boils. Place the other pan on top of the first so the rising steam coats the higher pan without it actually sitting in the water.)
NOTE: NEVER place a pan of candle wax directly on the burner. It could explode. (Not something you want to experiment with.)
2. Carefully place the old candle or wax in the top pan and let it melt.
3. With a paintbrush, place a dollop of melted wax on the side of your new candle, and lay a leaf over the melted wax so the leaf sticks.
4. Now paint more liquid wax on top of the leaf.
- A thin wax layer lets the leaf shine through.
- A heavier layer makes it look like the leaf is in the candle itself.
5. Add more leaves as you like.
6. Light the candle and enjoy.
Sounds like the perfect ambience for a little hot cider and a pumpkin muffin.
“If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour.”– Victoria Erickson
Activity #4—Simple DIY Craft, Autumn Paper
For art that’s a little more abstract–but still catches all the vibrancy of the season–
- Crafty Tablecloth—Yep, this might get messy
- Shaving cream (“cheap” works great)
- Food coloring (the liquid bottles are perfect)—Autumn tints, of course
- Straw or popsicle stick
- Plain paper or cards
- Pan, large enough to fit your paper
How You Do It:
1. In your pan, squirt a two-to three-inch-high mound of shaving cream. Go ahead—Load it up.
2. Dollop three to four drops of each color of food coloring to the mound. For fall, that means heavy on the reds, yellows, oranges, and green. But also add deeper scarlets, burgundies, and purples. And for contrast, throw in a dash of blue.
3. Mix gently with a popsicle stick or straw, using a swirly, figure-8 action, just till you have threads and ribbons of color. (Don’t do too much mixing or, as your elementary art teacher explained, you’ll get browns.)
4. Lay a piece of paper on top of the concoction. Tap the paper gently all over the top onto the shaving cream to make sure it’s settling in.
5. Carefully remove the paper and flip it over, shaving cream side up, onto your tablecloth.
5. Place your finger on one corner of the paper to hold it down, and using a straight edge like a ruler, scrape the shaving cream off in one quick motion.
6. What’s left on the paper should be a marble explosion of autumn color.
7. The same batch of swirled coloring can decorate four to five pages. But if you notice the color getting lighter? Just add a few more drops of dye.
You can use the paper for stationery, greeting cards, bookmarks… And, yes, all your friends will be jealous and want you to make them some, too.
“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”– Stanley Horowitz
Activity #5: Getting Cozy with a Book
Shorter days and chilly nights beg for spiced drinks, blankets, and a great story.
And Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson is an incredible one.
Yes, I’ve mentioned it before in Great Movies and Books to Read with (or without) the Grandkids. And I’ll probably mention it again in another post.
Because it’s Just. That. Good.
The message of the sweet squirrel trying to save his friend the tree? So touching! And the illustrations by Tiphania Beeke are truly stunning.
You won’t be disappointed.
Or, for a bit of fun and crazy imagination, you could also try this oldie-but-goodie, Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley. (It may even be in your public library.)
“Anyone who thinks falling leaves are dead has never watched them dance on a windy day.” –Shira Tamir
Autumn—Perfect Both Indoors and Out
There’s no doubt we’re in unprecedented times. But it doesn’t mean we can’t still look for ways to connect.
Let us know in the comments which of the ideas you tried.
As we’ve seen, time together is precious. Especially when nature is coloring things so heartwarmingly beautiful.
“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of Autumn leaves.”– Joe. L. Wheeler
Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.