I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for the fall weather to move in! After a fun-filled (and HOT) summer, I’m ready for the crisp mornings, changing colors, and incredible scents of autumn. Thankfully, we don’t have long to wait. Saturday, September 23rd, marks the autumn equinox and the start of the fall season.
Why is it Called the Fall Equinox?
Also called the Autumnal or September equinox, the fall equinox marks the beginning of fall and occurs on September 22 or 23 each year in the Northern Hemisphere. Derived from the Latin term for “equal night,” the equinoxes mark the two days throughout the year (one in fall and one in spring) when the sun shines directly on the equator. This makes the length of day and night approximately equal. The days following the fall equinox will become shorter as our hemisphere tilts away from the sun’s rays.
While the end of summer can spark disappointment for some, fall can bring some of the best and most beautiful outdoor adventures. From the changing colors, cooling temperatures, and harvest activities, there are plenty of ways to welcome the coming of fall. Check out these activity, craft, and book suggestions to help you celebrate the coming of fall with your family.
Activities to Celebrate Autumn
Celebrating the autumn equinox is a long-standing tradition for numerous cultures across the world, from the Japanese Buddhist festival of Higan to the “Serpiente de Luz” (Snake of Light) phenomenon observed at Mexico’s El Castillo pyramid in Chichen Itza. Here are some fun ways to celebrate the coming of fall a little closer to home with your family:
Go On a “Signs-of-Fall” Walk or Hike
Encourage your family to search for changes in nature that indicate the start of fall such as leaf color, acorns and pinecones on the ground, an abundance of mushrooms and other fungi, etc. You may see birds starting to migrate to warmer climates or hear the mating calls of bats, elk, and other animals. The air may also smell different due to these changes along with the blooming of fall flowers such as mums and chrysanthemums. Consider finding a spot to stop and take it all in with all your senses. Close your eyes. You may be surprised by the new smells and sounds you discover in the fall.
Whether you plan a camping trip at a favorite campground or simply pitch a tent in your backyard, camping is a great way to celebrate the changing of the seasons. This is especially true if you choose a location that shows epic fall foliage! Worried about camping in lower temperatures? The Morrison Sleeping Bags are a great option to keep your kiddos (and yourself!) toasty warm on those crisp fall evenings. Check out this post for tips and tricks for keeping your family warm during chillier adventures.
Visit an Orchard, Pumpkin Patch, or Local Farm
Nothing says fall quite like taking advantage of the ripening of fall harvest plants such as apples and pumpkins. Create a family tradition by visiting a nearby pick-your-own apple orchard or pumpkin patch each year. Many places also sell farm-to-table goods that are sure to put a special twist on the changing of the season.
Create a Fall Nature Table
My kids LOVE switching out our nature nook each season. Creating a space where your kids can place items that remind them of fall is a great way to kick off the season! It can be as small or big as you want, and the items that you place on it can vary wildly. You can include leaves of different shapes and colors, acorns or “helicopter” seeds, fall crafts (see below), etc. Or better yet, following the principles of “leave no trace”, you can take photos of these items in nature to include on your table.
Fall Craft Ideas
Do your kiddos love to make crafts? Here are some fun fall-themed craft ideas to consider for the equinox.
Take advantage of the gorgeous leaf colors while also teaching kids a lesson on chlorophyll and the life cycle of a leaf. There are so many craft options with leaves, including creating a wall hanging, making “leaf men” (see book list below), and even constructing a leaf wreath. Check out this link for inspiration. Don’t live in an area with an abundance of leaf change? You can also make these crafts with fake leaves found at a craft store!
Acorn Cap Creations
If you live in an area with an abundance of Oak trees, acorn caps can make the perfect craft supply! With the vast amount of fallen acorns this time of year, creating jewelry and ornaments or decorating peg people or peg animals is a fun and easy way to recycle their caps. Here is an easy tutorial using acorn caps to make necklaces and ornaments. For this craft project, you just need acorn caps, colorful marbles, string/twine, and a glue gun.
Pinecones can be used in numerous craft projects. Here is a tutorial that only requires pinecones, googly eyes, a glue gun, and any other craft scraps you may have lying around (such as felt or pipe cleaners). Have your kids design their own “pets” and place them around the house as fun fall décor.
Okay, this is more science experiment rather than craft, but the results are pretty awesome to watch. You will get to see the separation of the different pigments in the leaf as they travel down the coffee filter. This is especially cool in fall since pigments other than chlorophyll (the pigment that makes leaves green) become more prevalent as the days get shorter and the leaves change color.
Books to Celebrate the Coming of Fall with Your Kids
My kids love to have an array of books available to delve deeper into whatever topic we happen to be covering. The following 5 beautifully illustrated books are a great launching point to help kids understand what happens as summer turns to fall.
Through a series of conversations with every flower and creature and gust of wind she encounters, a young girl greets all the signs of the coming season while on a walk through a forest and town. This gorgeous book introduces kids to some of the changes they see as the year progresses. If you enjoy this one, you can also find the books “Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter” and “Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring” by the same author.
This book follows three friends as they hike over a mountain and through a forest to collect leaves of all kinds and colors. The easy rhyming text and amusing sound effects make this a fun story to read and listen to. Fair warning, it will get stuck in your head, and you may find yourself reciting the words on your next hike through an autumn forest!
Looking for a book to go along with the leaf chromatography experiment listed above? This non-fiction book is a wonderful resource to teach kids the science behind the eye-catching, gorgeous colors they see in the fall. It’s also gorgeously illustrated and includes additional scientific facts and links to hands-on activities in the back of the book.
Join the narrator as they imagine where the leaf man may travel as he blows along with the wind. The die-cut pages reveal gorgeous landscape vistas and aid in sparking a child’s imagination while celebrating the beauty of autumn. The book encourages kids to use their imaginations to create their own leaf people and animals (which goes along with the leaf crafts listed above).
Are your kids constantly asking questions like “Why do the seasons change?” or “Why do the days get shorter as it gets colder?”. If so, you’ll want to pick up this fun, educational resource to use all year long! It will answer those questions and more as it walks through the science behind seasonal shifts and the changes observed each season.
Celebrating the Autumn Equinox with Your Family
Whether you prefer books, crafts, or adventures, we hope you’ll find some inspiration in the ideas listed above. Celebrating the equinox with your family can be both fun and educational, and you may even find a new family tradition to look forward to each year. Do you have a fall equinox tradition with your family? Send us a message and let us know!
Rebecca is a transplant Coloradoan living in Virginia with her husband (Derek) and their two boys. She’s a teacher turned freelance writer/ homeschool mom working towards exploring as much of the east coast as possible before the next move takes her family elsewhere. You can follow her family hiking, kayaking, SUPing, geocaching, camping, and all things outdoor adventuring on Instagram @frazzlednaturemom.