Which simple autumn pleasures do you enjoy: gazing at the vibrant orange colors in a pumpkin patch, catching the scent of a burning wood stove, tasting the first apple pie of the season, hearing the rustle of dried leaves, or tending a fall garden? The autumnal season is a delight to the senses. Here are a few activities that will trigger special memories of fall and provide a sensory experience for your group. You can adapt them to the needs and abilities of participants.

  • Read Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple-Picking” and share a favorite line or image. Reminisce about the family tradition of going to the apple orchard. Sample varieties of apples and vote on a favorite. Ask your group to list 20 ways to use apples.
  • Display an old spice box and spice tins. Identify fall spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger) by scent. Ask: Do you prefer apple or pumpkin pie? Tell us about a favorite recipe using apples or pumpkin. What other kitchen spice smells do you like? Sample spice cake or gingerbread and mulled cider.
  • Put a colorful fall cornucopia on a table for your group to view. Use a variety of items such as flowers, fruits, nuts, berries, Indian corn, gourds, leaves, and grain to fill the centerpiece. Remove the arrangement and ask participants to name the items in the cornucopia.
  • Learn how to weave wheat stalks. (You can get directions on various Internet sites.)
  • Reminisce about Oktoberfest activities. Tap your toes and clap your hands to some lively polka music. Demonstrate the Chicken Dance. Sample some popular desserts such as Black Forest cake or apple strudel. Ask: Does anyone in your family have a German heritage? Have you ever been to an Oktoberfest celebration? Name some of your favorite activities at the event.
  • Highlight the vibrant color orange. Ask participants to wear something orange, like a tie, socks, shirt, or hat. Display orange-colored fall items – pumpkins, leaves, gourds, mums, squash. For fun, guess the weight of some pumpkins. Snack on candy corn.
  • Show some photographs of Canadian geese during their fall migration. Learn about their habits and why they fly in a V-formation. Imitate a goose call.
  • Celebrate Halloween with a simple costume contest – silly hats and crazy wigs. Vote on funniest. Ask participants to talk about some of the Halloween costumes worn by their children or grandchildren.
  • Make some autumn leaf rubbings or decorate pumpkins with tempera paints.
  • Sample fall fruits from a local farmers’ market or stand: pears, apples, grapes. Make a simple fruit cobbler with your group.
  • Display some football equipment. Listen to the sounds of a school band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Share favorite fall football memories.
  • Show vintage photographs of past World Series championship teams. Invite participants to talk about memorable players in the playoff series. Make pennant flags for this year’s contenders.
  • Sing a favorite seasonal song, such as “Shine On, Harvest Moon.” Encourage recollections of harvest time. Ask: Have you ever attended an old-fashioned barn dance? Name some favorite potluck supper foods. Do you know how to square dance? Did your family enjoy listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night?
  • Gather swatches of colorful fall fabrics – with antique gold, crimson, scarlet, purple, maroon. Ask participants to name the colors in the fabric. Reminisce about attending a fall wedding. What colors did the bride use?
  • Watch a travel video on favorite places to view fall tree foliage. Describe an autumn drive on an Indian summer day. Make a simple wreath from colorful fall leaves.


  1. If you travel to New England to see fall foliage, which six states might you visit? New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island
  2. Which organization collects pennies for children in orange boxes at Halloween? UNICEF
  3. In which European country did the world-famous Oktoberfest originate? Germany
  4. If you attend a college football game between the Nittany Lions and the Fighting Irish, which two teams are you watching? Penn State and Notre Dame
  5. Acorns fall from which kind of tree? Oak
  6. If you attend the opening season of Broadway, where will you go? New York City
  7. During the 1950s, which baseball team won the most World Series? New York Yankees (six titles)
  8. Which type of dancing features calls such as allemande left, promenade, and do-si-do? Square dancing
  9. If you pick varieties such as Granny Smith, McIntosh, Jonathan, and Rome from an orchard, which fruit will you enjoy? Apples
  10. From which kind of vegetable is sauerkraut made? Cabbage

“AUTUMN: SIGHTS, SCENTS, AND SOUNDS” written by Sue Hansen. © 2009 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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