While September marks the official beginning of fall, October stimulates our senses. Dive into all that autumn has to offer, giving group members the opportunity to benefit from sensory stimulation. Our ideas this month can easily stand alone as small or large group activities, or you can add the sensory opportunities to other celebrations that you have planned during this busy season. Participants of all abilities can enjoy, and benefit from, a bit of sensory exploration – have fun celebrating the senses of the season together.
A JAR OF AUTUMN – Gather a group of participants for a make-and-take craft opportunity that will bring the scents of the season right to their apartment or room. Give each participant a small mason jar and add a few tablespoons of baking soda. Next, sprinkle a few drops of orange essential oil right onto the baking soda. Finally, add a few cinnamon sticks, cloves, or star anise to the jar to complete the autumn scent. Use a square of beautiful fabric to cover the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band. Add a ribbon to cover the rubber band and participants can enjoy the smell of autumn in their home all month long.
HERBS IN ACTION – Participants can use multiple senses when working with seasonal herbs. Head to your local farmer’s market, grocery store, or outdoor garden to gather sprigs of rosemary and sage. These two herbs not only smell great, they also have different textures that hands will love to work with. Ask participants to tie a few sprigs of herbs together and secure at one end with a rubber band. Use a ribbon or piece of lace to cover the rubber band, then tie it in a bow. Hang these herbs upside down, ribbon side up, throughout the community.
SIFTING FOR SEEDS – After your pumpkin-carving social, ask the participants to stay for a pumpkin seed treasure hunt. You will already have scooped out the insides of the pumpkin for your carving festivities, so you will have a pile of pumpkin “guts” that are full of delicious seeds. Sifting through the pumpkin pulp for the seeds is excellent for fine motor skills, as well as sensory stimulation. If participants are hesitant to use their bare hands to sift through the pulp, offer rubber gloves or spoons.
CLASSICAL SEASONS – Take participants on a trip through all seasons by listening to Vivaldi’s classic “The Seasons.” Listen to one season at a time and then discuss how the music sounds like the season it is named for. Save Autumn for last.
PUMPKIN SPICE CELEBRATION – Some people love autumn simply because you can find almost any food or drink in the pumpkin spice flavor. Take advantage of these delicious – and sometimes downright weird – seasonal specialties by hosting a Pumpkin Spice Social and Taste Test. Bring in a few pumpkin spice beverages and a few pumpkin spice treats to sample with participants.
SCAVENGER HUNT – Hit the road with a sensory trip this month, taking your usual Fall Foliage Drive to another level by adding a scavenger hunt list to riders. Ask riders to look for different items (burning leaves, a pumpkin on a porch, a hay bale, etc.) and mark them off on their sheets. Give a fall-themed prize to the rider who spotted the most.
FEED THE BIRDS – Make bird feeders with all-natural ingredients. This is a great intergenerational activity. Cut two-inch slices of an acorn squash and hollow out the seeds so that you have a shape similar to a circle. Smear sides with peanut butter and press into bird seed. Hang on a tree with string or ribbon.
GUESSING GAME – Pull together a few seasonal items (a handful of hay, small gourds, pieces of Halloween candy, a Halloween mask, etc.), covering each one individually in a paper bag, box, or bowl. Ask participants to reach a hand in and guess what each item could be.
CELEBRATE PASTORAL CARE – October is Pastoral Care Month and a wonderful time to gather participants and show appreciation to the spiritual leaders who work with your community. Plant succulents (easy to find this season and easy to care for) in mason jars with soil. Add a small card that expresses appreciation and pass out to spiritual visitors all month long.
CAMPFIRE TREATS – Host a Campfire Social in your patio area with a crackling fire in a fire pit. Pass out sticks to roast marshmallows, see if you can spot the last of the season’s fireflies, name evening bird songs, and eat s’mores. (Place a Hershey bar and a roasted marshmallow between two graham cracker squares.)
SENSORY KITS – Use this month to try out sensory kits with participants of all abilities, using each item to start up a conversation. Use your fall-themed kits, a baseball kit (celebrate the World Series), and an Oktoberfest kit.
A LITTLE COMPETITION – Host a fun competition pitting participants against dining staff in a “Name that Cooking Scent” contest. Use items such as vanilla extract, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and other seasonal scents. Ask each player to take a whiff before guessing what it is. Keep score, and provide a fun prize for the winning team.
- The full moon in autumn helps farmers work late gathering the rest of their crops. What do we call this moon? Harvest Moon
- According to Halloween legend, which creatures come out during a full moon? Werewolves
- Which animals are known for howling at the moon? Coyotes
- What lyrics follow these: “Oh, Mr. Moon, moon, bright and shiny moon…”? “Won’t you please shine down on me”
- How many phases does the moon go through? Eight (new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, gibbous, full, gibbous, third quarter, waxing crescent)
- Complete this Halloween phrase: Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me… Something good to eat
- In which book do you find the monster with bolts on his neck? Frankenstein
- What is the name of the infamous vampire who hails from Transylvania? Dracula
- What is the name of the tri-colored candy, shaped like small triangles? Candy corn
- Which fruit is sometimes put in tubs of water to be bobbed for during autumn parties? Apples
A SENSE-SATIONAL THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” ~ Emily Bronte
“A Sense-sational Month” was written by Haley Burress and Sue Hansen. Copyright 2017 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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