The changing seasons provide us with special opportunities to create lifelong family memories while allowing us to slow down and honor the turning of the year. During the pandemic, celebrating each unique season can lend us perspective and put us in greater touch with the natural world and its rhythms. Throughout history and cultures, seasonal celebrations have afforded opportunities for families and communities to get together, to celebrate one another, to offer blessings, and to acknowledge inevitable outward and inward change.

My family honors the changing seasons in a number of ways. We join people around the world in celebrating the precise and dramatic moments, at each solstice and equinox when one season moves into another. We also mark the unique joy of each season with many small activities. Celebrating seasons allows us to participate in weather, time, community, generations, and place—a continuum in which we each have a role. Honoring the seasons helps ground us. It naturally slows us down, as we adapt to a schedule based more on the turning wheel of the year than on artificial markers. It allows us to get in touch with our slower, more agrarian, ancestors, and experience the satisfaction that comes from doing things in their right time.

Of course, for families, and especially for children, seasonal observations and celebrations are, above all, fun. Yes, they have historical significance and temporal meaning. But, in addition to that, the valentines made in winter and the Maypole danced in spring help provide lifelong memories and give us joyous activities to do with those we hold dear.

Fall is a particularly lovely season, with its brilliant colors, bountiful harvests, and wonderful holidays and traditions. Here are a few simple ways to enjoy fall with your family:

Make a Fall Nature Bracelet

This activity provides a wonderful way to get outdoors and enjoy and observe fall’s beauty.  

  • You’ll need:
    • 1″ or wider masking tape, enough to go around a child’s wrist.
  • Tear off a piece of masking tape, slightly larger than the child’s wrist.
  • Place it around the wrist with the sticky side out.
  • Go for a walk or hunt and look for small items in nature that can be stuck to the masking tape, such as leaves, twigs, seeds, acorns, and pods. (Generally, things that have already fallen on the ground are safe to pick. If in doubt, leave it untouched.)
  • Fill the bracelet by sticking the items onto it and wear it proudly.

Make Corn Husk Dolls

Many people enjoy making this traditional Native American and Mexican harvest craft and then playing with the dolls.

  • You’ll need:
    • Approximately 12 corn husks per doll
    • Bowl of water
    • String, twine, or raffia
    • Scissors
  • Soak cornhusks in warm water briefly, then blot.
  • Bundle four corn husks together and tie with string approximately 1” from the top.
  • Turn the bundle inside-out, so that the string is now in the inside, and shape the top of the husks into ahead.
  • Cut a husk in half lengthwise and place it over the doll’s shoulders, like a shawl, crisscrossing in front of the chest, to create shoulders and form.
  • Tie another piece of string halfway down what is now the body to form a waist.
  • Cut a husk in thirds and braid the pieces together, tying off the ends with string. Place between the front and back of the upper body to form arms.
  • Separate the corn husks below the waist into pants and tie at ends, or tie two to three additional corn husks lengthwise to the waist, wider end on the bottom, to form a skirt.

Make a Family Gratitude Tree for Thanksgiving

Feeling and expressing gratitude is a hallmark of close and happy families. While the Thanksgiving holiday allows us to focus on gratitude, this project can be done any time.

  • You’ll need:
    • Posterboard
    • Construction paper
    • Markers, colored pencils, paint, pens, or other drawing implements
    • Scissors
    • School glue
  • Think about what you are grateful for.
  • On the poster board, draw or paint a tree of any style, with a trunk and branches.
  • Make a paper leaf template that is large enough to hold writing.
  • Cut many identical paper leaves or other pieces from the template.
  • Write down something you are grateful for on each leaf.
  • Glue the leaves onto the branches.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice

When fall changes to winter, honor the year’s longest night by taking a walk or having a family game night. Celebrate the sun’s return by making or eating sun-colored foods, such as oranges or yellow cupcakes. Surprise children with gold-colored toys or chocolate coins in bags the night of or the morning after the solstice. Watch the next day’s sunrise to greet the return of longer days.

Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which grew out of her blog, Slow Family Online. Slow Parenting and the book were named a 2012 Top 10 Parenting Trend by TIME Magazine. Suz has written for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog, and many other outlets. She is the Blog Writer and former Social Media Manager for the Center for Children and Youth.