Use the beauty of fall to reconnect your family. These suggestions include two free fall family activities to relax and begin the conversations. Also there are fall craft activities families can easily do to create holiday décor that will last, creating lasting holiday memories.
Start a fall tradition with a backyard bonfire. Plan a bonfire dinner: hot dogs, brats, roasted vegetables wrapped in tin foil, and marshmallows. (You can even make s’mores). After dinner, relax around the bonfire, talking about the day’s events, tell a ghost story, or light a few oil lamps and help the kids with homework. It’s a perfect way to spend a family evening.
Fall nature walk
Enjoy the crisp fall weather on a fall nature walk in Creve Coeur Park, Babler State Park, Busch Wildlife or smaller wooded neighborhood parks. To jump start the excitement of nature, plan a scavenger hunt for beautiful leaves, pine cones, buckeyes, acorns, and well shaped small branches you can clean and shellac or paint for autumn décor.
Pressing leaves for placemats
Use the leaves you collected on your fall nature walk or take a walk around your neighborhood and gather flaming colored fall leaves. Choose thinner, drier leaves that have kept their shape. If the kids bring home moist leaves, lay them between two paper towels and set a book on top of them for about ten minutes to remove excess moisture. Cut sheets of waxed paper to the size you like. Heat the iron and prepare the ironing area: you can use an ironing board or a thinner bath towel laid out on the table. Place one sheet of waxed paper on the board or towel; arrange the leaves on the waxed paper, then place the second sheet evenly on top of the leaves. Place a thin towel or ironing cloth on top of the waxed paper and iron softly until the wax begins to melt. After the wax begins to melt you can press firmly until the mat is sealed. Place the mat on a counter to cool (as the mat cools the leaves become clearer. Repeat until you have made the number of placemats you want.
To permanently preserve the placemats so these can be used year after year, laminate them.
Scented pine cones
- Spread out your pine cones onto a cookie sheet and bake them at 200 degrees for about 45 minutes to make sure there are no outdoorsy creatures lurking in the pinecones.
- To scent with oil only: Place pine cones in a large ziplock bag, add a few drops of scented oil and shake the bag to coat the pine cones. Let these sit for a week, then enjoy the scented pine cones throughout your home.
- To scent with wax: Melt one pound of paraffin wax in a double boiler or in a bowl using the microwave at 50% power. Stir often until paraffin is completely melted. Remove from heat. Heat the wax until completely melted, stirring with a spoon frequently. Once melted, remove from heat. Add 1-2 ounce of fragrance oil and stir until the oil and paraffin are blended.
- Or you can use scented wax melts, heated in a microwavable bowl.
- Let the wax mixture cool for about 5 minutes, and then dip the pine cones. Use a bacon turner to coat the pine cones. Place the dipped pine cone on waxed paper and allow to dry.
For the bird feeders there is no need to bake the pine cones. Just keep the pine cones outdoors until you are ready to make the bird feeders. You will need a large jar of peanut butter, a knife or spatula, paper plates, ribbon or wire, and wild bird seed. Cover your table with a disposable vynl cloth or use newspaper. Cut the ribbon or wire to size and tie gently around the top of the pine cone (tie about three layers down from the top of pine cone. Use the knife or spatula to spread the peanut butter on the pine cone, pushing some peanut butter gently into the folds of the pine cone. Pour the bird seed onto a paper plate and roll the peanut butter covered pine cone in the bird seed until covered. When you are done, hang the pine cones outside and watch the birds that visit often.