Fall is here. The leaves have started turning and animals are preparing for the upcoming winter season. Plants are at the end of their life cycle, scattering seeds whether it be by wind, water, or hitching a ride on an animal. It’s fun experience to see how seeds are scattered (sowed is the technical term) by taking a sock walk. This nature prompt came from A Kid’s Fall Ecojournal (public library) by Toni Albert, illustrated by Margaret Brandt, a fantastic resource for nature activities for children. Here’s how we tested out this activity in late September along with our current seed sock growing results.
MATERIALS FOR SOCK WALK ACTIVITY
– Books about seeds (reading suggestions below)
– Old socks that fit over shoes
– Sterile potting soil
– A shallow dish or pan
Step 1: First, we read a few books about seeds before going on your sock walk. This helped provide context to the day’s adventure. Here’s a booklist of a few we enjoyed reading if you’d like to start this way as well:
Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by Joann Early Macken, illustrated by Pam Paparone
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
Miss Maples’ Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
Seeds by Ken Robbins
Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
Step 2: Find some socks that will fit over shoes and pants. The girls used several of their daddy’s old socks that had lost their mate over time. Then, take a trip to a favorite walking path whether it be a dry grassy field, prairie, or meadow. Pull the socks on over your shoes and hike them up as high as they will go and then get walking! It’s a pretty silly experience walking around with socks over your shoes, so be prepared for giggles.
Step 3: It won’t take long until you see lots of little seeds sticking to your socks. Once you’ve finished your walk, take the socks off and admire all your newfound seed friends that decided to hitch a ride on your fluffy feet.
Step 4: When you arrive at home, using a shallow pan or dish, sprinkle sterile potting soil into the container evenly about 3/4 of the way full. Lay your sock on top of the dirt. This would be another good time to look at the seeds up close. Are they all the same or is there a variety of different shapes, colors, and sizes? Once the examination is finished, sprinkle more potting soil over the sock until it is covered. Don’t use too much dirt. One layer is more than enough. Water your seed sock, set it in a sunny window, watch and wait.
Step 5: Continue to water your seed sock whenever it is dry and you might notice sprouts coming out of the dirt where the sock was buried. Those are seeds from the walk that have germinated!
Optional: Place the other sock from your sock walk in another dish as described in step 4 and stick it into the refrigerator for a couple weeks. Most seeds “sleep” during the wintertime and time in the refrigerator would be like a little mini-winter for the seeds. After two weeks are up, take the pan out and set it next to the other seed sock. Keep them both watered and compare how the two grow.
My 6-year-old had such a good time with this project and continues to take care of her seed sock. Who knows what will sprout up over the next several weeks? We can’t wait to find out!
Last year I assembled this massive booklist of children’s books about autumn sorted by theme– Autumn Equinox, apples, changing leaves, harvest season, pumpkins, scarecrows, and the list goes on. This year, a handful of noteworthy picture books were released about the autumnal season that are too good not to add onto the list of favorite fall-time reads.
Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal
A followup to Abracadabra, It’s Spring, this charming, colorful book includes fold-out pages revealing the magical transformations that take place from summer to autumn. The colors in this book will make you sigh, “Ooohhh… Ahhhhhh!”, as if seeing a magician performing mystifying tricks.
Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer
This book could not have been released at a more opportune time for us here in Kansas. September is indeed a ‘yellow time’ of the year with the golden tallgrass, variety of wild, sky-reaching sunflowers, and goldenrod ablaze in the quickly dimming daylight hours. A lyrical and vibrant story about the time that comes only once a year when the world seems to glow yellow.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak
A debut book as both author and illustrator, Kenard Pak walks us through the transition from late summer to the beginning of the autumn season in this factual, stunning read aloud. Full book review + goodbye summer nature activity can be found here!
Wonderfall by Michael Hall
Fall can be described in many ways, some of which Michael Hall has cleverly discovered end in “fall”. “Peacefall”, “Plentifall”, “Beautifall”, this picture book in verse featuring a tree, two squirrels and many ways to explore word blending and the wonder of fall. This book is a must-read for elementary school teachers.
Little Frog and the Scary Autumn Thing by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ellen Shi
Little frog loves the color green. Her whole summertime life since she’s been alive has been green, green, green. When the colors start changing with the transition of seasons, Little Frog becomes quite afraid when his beloved green starts to change into unfamiliar colors. Mother Frog tries to calm Little Frog by telling her, “Most things that are scary are only just new”. Little Frog braves exploring the changing environment, embracing the change when finding comfort in the familiar. A great read for kids who have a hard time with transitions.
Bella’s Fall Coat by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Susan Gal
Do these illustrations look familiar? Susan Gal is the same illustrator of Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! (see above)– She’s had a busy book release season this autumn! Bella loves her too-small coat and wants to keep wearing it forever, but she quickly learns that just like the autumn season change is inevitable. As we approach the days of changing out warm weather wardrobes for cool weather clothing, many children will find themselves in a similar predicament. Another fantastic book about coping and learning from change!
It’s the last weekend of summer! With the official first day of autumn next week, it’s time to bask in summer’s last hurrah and send the season a fond farewell by reading the new picture book, Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak (public library) about the transition of the seasons. After this fall-ish read, take some time out of your final summer days to go on a walk and preserve bits of summer by pressing wildflowers (tutorial after the book review!).
Author and illustrator Kenard Pak first came onto my radar with his stunning illustrations in the picture book The Dinner That Cooked Itself by J.C. Hysu (read this book if you haven’t yet!). So, when I learned he was publishing his debut book both author and illustrator about the exchange of the seasons from summer to fall, I was eager to read it and it did not disappoint– What an impressive book! Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn begins on a summer morning with a girl greeting the day: “Hello, late summer morning”. The reader follows her along on her walk as she greets animals in the woods, flowers, a passing storm, each reply with the actions of their autumn preparations. As she makes her way into the town, she continues to address nature’s elements in a quiet, back-and-forth conversation observing the sensations of the day.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn is rich in color, softly transforming from vibrant greens of summer to the end of the books’s blazing burnt oranges. The text reads as smoothly as a poem, like a sweet lullaby to summer. What I appreciate the most, what this book does so well, is demonstrate the practice off looking closely and taking the time to notice the world around us wether it’s observing a butterfly or acknowledging a friendly passerby on the street. Afterall, what we observe today might change tomorrow. It’s part of the magic and nature of the seasons and when we notice, we can fully enjoy the show.
END OF SUMMER FLOWER PRESSING
Hold onto the last bits of summer by pressing the end-of-summer wildflowers and leaves. In Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, the main character picks late blooming flowers and then hands them out do memebers of the town she walks through. I loved this simple act of kindness, so one way to expand from this book is simply mirroring this action of gifting end-of-summer blooms to people you happen to come across on a walk or throughout your day. But you could also create a token of the season to keep regardless of the time of year by pressing flowers. It’s a straight forward activity that makes a wonderful gift or decoration in the home.
The first step of this project is to take a walk outdoors. Notice the colors all around, smell the flowers, and notice the animals Make sure you only pick flowers where it is permitted.
Next, using a flower press or heavy books, press your flowers. Follow the instruction of your flower press, making sure to use the blotting paper on both sides of each flower. If you’re using books, open a book to it’s midsection and line with parchment paper on both open face pages. Place your flower on one side and carefully close the book, sandwiching the flower. Place several heavy books on top of the book with the flower in a place it won’t be disturbed. Whether you used a flower press or books, allow about a week for our flowers to fully press.
This project doesn’t have to be strictly for the end of summer- It can also be enjoyed into the following season! Press colorful leaves you find in the fall their color. This same project can be done with leaves as well. Just make sure you use leaves that aren’t already dried out or you will end up with leaf confetti when pressing, or what my girls call “leaf glitter”.
After a week, retrieve your pressed flowers. This part is a bit like opening presents. It’s an exciting surprise to see how they’ve transformed! You can be done after this step or further preserve them by arranging and mounting them to a piece of watercolor paper. On a sheet of watercolor paper, arrange flowers. You can try to glue them down to hold their place on the paper with a glue stick, but it isn’t necessary.
Then, separate a piece of facial tissue down to a single ply and mix a concoction of equal parts school glue and water in a small container (We only used about a tablespoon of glue and water each). Lay the single ply facial tissue over your floral arrangement and with a paintbrush, carefully dab and brush the facial tissue with the glue mixture covering it entirely.
Once finished with the glue process, leave to dry or several hours or overnight. Trim any access tissue around the sides or crop and the whole thing entirely with scissors. Write a message on it, give to a friend, frame, or add as decoration to your home nature table.
For an extensive list of seasonal children’s books, be sure to browse this autumnal booklist. If you’re looking for more nature activities to celebrate the outdoors, browse these all-ages nature activities for more fall time fun.
*A big thanks to the folks at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for providing a copy of this book for review!
War, death, despair, perseverance, hope… The weight of these topics is not easily communicated in a book for children, but The Journey by Francesca Sanna (public library) approaches these topics in a heartfelt story that couldn’t be published at a more appropriate time in the world today. I know “must-read book of the year” is a big claim to make, especially in September before the year’s end, but this is a special book. It is an important book. The Journey is about a refugee family, a family that is based on many true refugee family stories, and their adventure leaving their home and everything, for a life where they are safe and no longer living in fear. This family of a mother and her two children take a leap of faith in an escape to a new land, and they encounter many obstacles along the way, at times feel despair, yet persevere onward. While the story has a serious tone, the illustrations balance that seriousness with an element of magical realism. Watching woodland creatures, an evil giant, a friendly shadow– They’re characters that remind the reader this story is told from a child’s perspective.
Not only is it an important work in children’s literature, but it’s an important story that needs to be read to people of all ages. Turn on the radio or television and the word “refugee” is bound to come up–The Journey is a way to explain and humanize this word for a young audience. It’s a label that applies to thousands of families we may only hear of on the news, families we may know in our community, and families who understand fully this poignant topic as they’ve experienced it or are currently experiencing a similar journey together. It’s a story that serves as both a mirror and a window into an epic adventure of strength and fortitude unlike any picture book you may ever read.
*A big thanks to the good folks at Flying Eye Books for providing a copy of this book for review!
We’re going to try something a little different for this month of Wild Things. Instead of recapping my families nature explorations throughout the past month, for this post I’m highlighting natural events to look forward to in the coming month. Feel free to share a natural occurrence that’s happening in your neck of the woods. I’m located in the midwest (Lawrence, Kansas to be specific!) and will do my best to make a general seasonal list for North America, BUT if you share a natural event occurring over the next several weeks from your region, not only will other readers from your area be informed, but readers who are from an entirely different environment can learn a bit about a place they aren’t familiar with.
WILD THINGS SEPTEMBER 2016
WILD SUNFLOWERS are native to North America and are currently living in their glory days for the year. We live 20 minutes from a stunning cultivated sunflower field that we’ve been enjoying as much as we can the days these beauties are in bloom. Look closely and you’ll see a beautiful double spiral pattern in the flower’s florets– That’s a natural mathematical phenomenon called the Fibonacci sequence. Check out this video from Scientific American that explains a bit about the math behind these enchanting flowers.
THE APPLE HARVEST is in full swing in many places across the country and will be the for many months to come. Visit a local apple orchard or the farmer’s market for a local variety. Take a lazy Sunday to make some homemade applesauce.
SUMAC IS RIPENING and a variety birds can be seen enjoying its seeds, but did you know this plant is an edible for you too? Whip up a pitcher of sumac-ade! It’s quite refreshing and easy to make!
THE AUTUMN EQUINOX — September 22nd is the official first day of autumn. This is one of the two days in a year we experience an equal amount of daylight and nighttime hours. After this day the days will be increasingly darker until the Winter Solstice in December. This month notice the drastic difference in daylight from the beginning to the end of the month. The days are growing shorter, up to three minutes less of sunlight a day as the earth tilts further away from the sun.
BUGS, BUGS, AND MORE BUGS! Insects are everywhere lately! Dragonflies, cicadas, katydids, grasshoppers, mosquitos (ugh), ticks (double ugh), and butterflies. So many bugs are laying eggs, mating, and living it up while the days are warm. Speaking of butterflies, the Monarch butterfly migration is currently underway. Keep up with Monarch Watch too see if theses amazing creatures will be visiting you sometime soon.
FALL COLORS will start revealing their hues in the plant life around us. Deciduous trees will start changing colors at the end of the month– Check out this map to see when they’ll turn in your region.
FEATHERS ABOUND – Many birds have molted or will molt around this time, losing their colorful feathers. This is also around the time they start their southern migration.
What do you enjoy most about this month where you’re from? For me, its the way the land turns gold with sunflowers. I could stare up at those friendly faces for days.
On Instagram? Keep up with our September adventures as amateur naturalists on Instagram.