Memories of times and places from my childhood flood my mind this time of year whenever I toss on a light jacket and grab a rake. I remember jumping in piles of newly raked leaves on a Saturday morning, and the smell of burning them by the curb at day’s end. It was legal to do that then, even in the city.
I also recall sitting on the front porch with my friends, weaving colorful leaves into crowns just as we had done with dandelions and daisies the previous spring.
Years later, in a dorm at North Park University in Chicago, fall’s leaves arrived early, in a box mailed by my friend’s mom from Massachusetts. Carefully layered between sheets of waxed paper were dozens of the biggest, most brilliant red and orange maple leaves I had ever seen. We taped them to the walls, one by one, just like kindergartners decorating an elementary-school hallway.
Leaves and the memories they evoke are treasures for many families this time of year — even in Orlando, Florida. Amy Anderson, mom of two girls ages 2 and 8, says that leaves just keep on falling in her yard long after the snow begins to fall in states “up north.” “Sometimes it takes extra effort to motivate my family to do the constant raking, so we’ve turned the chore into a game,” she says. “We estimate the number of bags we’ll fill with leaves in any given session. Afterward, we go out for ice cream — bragging rights and extra sprinkles on top of a scoop go to the best estimator. A simple game not only motives the kids to help, but it has become a great family tradition.”
Here are a few leaf activities you can enjoy with your kids this season, even if you don’t have a giant oak in the backyard:
— After a rainfall, find a stick and use it to poke under a pile of fallen damp leaves. Look for bugs, worms and other critters.
— Press leaves and use them for decor around your home. Spread them out between sheets of smooth paper towels. Place heavy books on top and let the leaves dry for about one week. Remove books and gently remove leaves.
— Draw pictures on pressed leaves using nontoxic paint pens or permanent markers. Draw a fall scene of pumpkins, a colorful tree or a simple design. Set on a plate for a festive place card at a special gathering of friends and family.
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© 2021 Donna Erickson
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