The air is cooler, the leaves are changing colors, and the days are growing shorter, it’s fall. William Cullen Bryant said it best when he wrote, “Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” Before the colder temperatures arrive and your group is stuck indoors, make the most of this sensational time of year. Take your group on a nostalgic journey through the harvest season using the activity ideas below.
HARVEST PAINTINGS – Use fall produce to create fall paintings with your group. Shuck an ear of corn and then discard the husk. Ask participants to roll the corn in tempera paint, then roll it on their paper, creating corn images. Let the paint dry for a few minutes. Slice apples, potatoes, and/or small gourds in half and use as stamps. Instruct participants to dip the slices in paint and stamp on their painting. Talk about what their picture looks like.
MUSIC OF OUR ROOTS – Lead a sing-along that features music of your members’ heritages. Make corn shakers out of recycled mini water bottles. Clean and dry the water bottle, then fill with dried corn kernels. Give the corn shakers to participants and invite them to shake along with the music.
FALL BINGO BUS RIDE – Take your group on a social distancing bus ride to search for signs of fall. Before the bus ride, create fall bingo cards filled with items that members might see on your ride, such as squirrels, red leaves, a tractor, apple orchard, pumpkins, or Halloween decorations. Give each member a bingo card and a pen that they can use to mark off their card. If possible, stop by an apple orchard to pick up apple donuts and ciders that you can give to members upon your return.
SPROUT A PUMPKIN SEED – For this activity, you’ll need a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag, paper towel, masking tape, a Sharpie marker, and raw pumpkin seeds. Give each participant a bag, a piece of paper towel, and a pumpkin seed. Dampen the paper towel, fold it and place it in the bottom of the bag. Place the seed on the paper towel and seal the bag. Use the Sharpie to label each participant’s bag with their name, then secure the bags to a window that faces the sun with the masking tape. Seeds should face the inside of the room so that participants can observe. Once the seeds have sprouted, plant them in small pots and try to grow a small pumpkin vine.
NATURE SELF-PORTRAITS – Take your group on a short nature walk around your facility to collect items found in nature, such as leaves, acorns, pine cones, etc. If you can’t take your group on a walk, gather items yourself before the activity. Invite participants to create a portrait of themselves using the nature items. Acorns can be eyes, leaves can be used as hair, a pine cone as a nose, and so on. Use glue to secure each item on a piece of paper. Display finished portraits in a location where others can guess which portrait represents which person. At the end of the month, reveal the artists.
HARVEST BREADS – Dig out your bread machine and bake fall breads throughout the month. Search for your favorite recipes online and invite your group to help you pour ingredients into the bread machine. Follow the instructions on the recipe and let the aroma fill the room. When the bread is finished, let it cool and serve it as a snack in the afternoon. Try a pumpkin spice bread, honey oatmeal bread, or an applesauce bread.
LEAF PRINTS – Use fall leaves to create artistic prints with your group. There are several fun ways to do this. Place a leaf underneath a piece of paper and use a crayon or color pencil to do a leaf rubbing. Paint leaves with paints and stamp onto a piece of paper. Finally, tape leaves in a pattern on a piece of paper, securing all along the edges of each leaf. Use a small craft paint roller to roll over the leaves, then remove the leaves for a silhouette painting.
HARVEST MEMORIES – Reminisce with your group about harvest memories. Prompt conversation by asking open-ended questions about harvesting gardens, farm life, canning produce, bonfires, Halloween, and other fall activities. Ask if anyone remembers making a corn dolly out of barley or wheat. To take this activity one step further, make a corn dolly with your group.
GOURD BIRD FEEDERS – Use small gourds to make miniature bird feeders for your outdoor space. If you want them to last, you’ll have to be patient and let the gourd completely dry out. Leave them in a dry place until they feel light and you can hear the seeds rattling around inside. This can take a month or longer. Once dry, halve the gourds and scrape away the seeds. Poke three holes evenly around the rim of the gourds and then tie heavy-duty twine through each hole. Bring the twine together and create a hanger for the bird feeder. Hang outdoors on trees, bushes, or shepherd’s hooks. Fill the gourds with birdseeds and wait for the birds to visit.
TABLETOP FOOTBALL – The football season may not look like it usually does, but that doesn’t mean your group can’t enjoy a friendly game of tabletop football. You can purchase official goal posts and ball at most hobby stores, or you can make your own goalposts out of popsicle sticks and stand them erect in play dough. Here are the official rules of the game, as well as instructions on how to fold a paper football.
HALLOWEEN CANDY TASTE TEST – Halloween might look different this year at your facility, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the candy. Host a Halloween Candy Taste Test event and invite your group to rank the best and worst candies this season. Purchase a variety for members to try and include sugar-free options for those with special diet needs. If you can’t gather your group, make sample treat bags and plan a reverse trick-or-treat day. Ask staff members to dress in costumes and deliver the treat bags to members, instead of members giving treats out to visitors.
“MASK”-UERADE PARADE – Plan a different kind of Halloween costume competition this year by asking members to incorporate a handmade mask into their costume. Provide plain masks and fabric markers that participants can use to decorate their mask. Plan a time for participants to parade around so other members can see and vote. Award prizes for scariest, most creative, silliest, and so on. If you can’t host a parade, arrange time slots where members can come dressed in their full costume and take a photo of them. Print the photos and display in a place where everyone can see and vote for their favorites.
FALL HARVEST TRIVIA
- Americans typically refer to the fall season as fall, whereas the British generally refer to this time of year as what? Autumn
- Historically, fall was called “harvest” because of what lunar event that occurs close to the autumn equinox? Harvest moon (the full moon that takes place closest to the autumn equinox)
- What determines the vibrancy and color of leaves in the fall? The amount of sugar the leaf stores (This is why maple trees are so vibrant.)
- It was believed that ghosts roamed the earth on a particular night in the fall, according to Celtic tradition, so the Celts wore disguises to avoid doom. Over time, this tradition has evolved into what popular holiday that is celebrated in the fall? Halloween
- What do many birds spend their time doing during the fall season? Migrating
- Which U.S. state has the warmest temperatures in the fall? Florida
- What are the three Zodiac signs of autumn? Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius
- The feast day for the patron saint of animals and environment happens during the fall (October 4). Can you name the saint? Francis of Assisi
- Which weed pollen causes the most fall allergies? Ragweed
- Although most varieties can be purchased all year, which fruit is freshest in the fall? Apples
FALL HARVEST THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“Your character is the harvest of your habits.” ~ Adrian Rogers
“Fall Harvest” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2020 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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