Changing Colors: Fall Leaves with Children

Child wearing fall leaf wreath

Are your children curious about the leaves changing color? Harvest time is ripe for a little science and a lot of crafts with fall leaves.

All this week, we’re going to post about changing colors—not just leaves changing but other colors as well.


The Science of Fall Leaves for Children

“Why are the leaves turning yellow, Mommy?”

Are you ready to answer? Here is a simple version for the youngest children.

Starting when trees grow new leaves in the spring, a tree makes food from the energy of the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water from the earth. This process of making food is called photosynthesis. The sun’s energy is absorbed by a chemical called chlorophyll. Leaves get their green color from chlorophyll.

As the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, trees stop making food and the green chlorophyll breaks down. The leaves change color as the green goes away and leaves yellow, orange, and brown.

For an older child, you could explain that the leaves were always yellow and that the green, the chlorophyll, was just the dominant color until the tree stopped making it.


Children’s Crafts with Fall Leaves

It’s always fun to use natural materials to create season-specific decorations. As you are surrounded by fall leaves, you have an abundance of colorful craft materials.

We create strings of leaves as a garland to celebrate fall. Bring bouquets of leaves into the house and put them in a vase. Create a wreath. Use different leaf colors to create a collage. Press particularly beautiful leaves in paper.

And, whatever you do, rake all of the leaves in your yard into a pile and JUMP IN THEM! This is perfect fun for a child (and a parent).


The Funny Part

Fall leaf garland

When I planned this post, it was cold during the days, and I expected it would just get colder every day. Then, today arrived and it was 89 degrees Fahrenheit, and we couldn’t find enough color changed leaves to make a garland.

Fall? Hot leaf garland

The version of the mini leaf garland without cropping context shows my outdoor thermometer. In the direct sun this afternoon, it claimed to be 120 degrees (which it was not). It will probably snow next week.


Resources

Education World has a great collection of explanations of photosynthesis just for children. They include fun fall leaf activities as well.

Wreath image © Olga Vasina | Dreamstime.com

Prepare Your Compost Pile for Winter

Yellow Leaves on Grass

It already feels a bit nippy in the mornings, and it’s time to pay attention to the garden. Even when I don’t manage to grow much food in my garden, I still keep feeding my compost pile because I feel better knowing I’m reusing kitchen waste. I am ambitious about my garden, but I just get busy. Maybe you are the same way. Even if all you are going to do is ignore your compost all winter (my personal method), just take some time, maybe 30 minutes, to tend to your bin before you lose it under a layer of snow.

Spread it around. If you worked your compost enough during the year that it is dark brown and earthy smelling, spread it on the garden. You will dig it in come Spring. If you do spread your compost, start a new pile.

Turn the pile. You probably add more kitchen waste (nitrogen rich green material) for a while then more sticks, leaves, and paper (carbon rich brown material) for a while. Turning the pile evens out the mix.

Give it a sniff. Does it smell earthy or is it more like ammonia? If you smell ammonia, you probably have an abundance of green, kitchen waste. You need more brown material, like dried leaves. Fortunately (or unfortunately), you probably have an abundance of leaves right now. Layer the leaves and other materials keep a good mix. You need more brown than green material, probably 2/3 brown to 1/3 green, but this really depends on the specific ingredients in your compost pile. If you add too much brown material, your compost will take longer to break down. It will still break down, just more slowly. Understanding the right balance between green and brown is one of those skills you will develop over time.

Spread it, turn it, sniff it. Done. You are ready for winter. My lazy method of composting fits even the busiest schedule.


Need more help?

If you are up for the challenge of composting all winter, check out the Compost Guy’s Winter Composting information. He’s in southern Ontario, but he gives tips for keeping your compost active further north as well.

If you need Composting Basics for the Beginner Gardener, read our earlier post.

Image © Ben Goode | Dreamstime.com.

Best Baby Carrier for Cool Weather

Moby Wrap Chocolate

With a nip in the air, baby needs more than a T-shirt and a diaper to go out. I have two suggestions for the best baby carrier to keep you and your baby warm enough in cool fall weather.


Moby Wrap Keeps Baby Warm

Start with a baby carrier that holds your baby snugly without a lot of open spaces for cool winds to whip in. A wraparound baby carrier keeps a baby well covered. The same characteristics of a baby wrap that might make you hesitate in the summer make this a good choice in cooler weather.

Of all of the wrap carriers, I choose Moby Wrap as the cool weather baby carrier of choice because it is made from a heavier cotton interlock than the soft Cuddly Wrap. It gives a bit more warmth and a bit sturdier support when you use it with a bigger baby or toddler.


Dress Your Baby Warmly

Second, dress your baby with long pants and long sleeves, but don’t add a coat. Your baby probably won’t need shoes, but you may find that it helps to use Baby Legs leg warmers since a chid’s pants can ride up while in a baby carrier.


Do You Need a Special Babywearing Coat?

For fall, when it’s just a bit cooler and you don’t have snow to deal with yet (sorry to bring it up), you shouldn’t need to change much about the comfortable babywearing habits you developed over the summer. You probably don’t need any new gear.

You may find that you can fit your maternity coat around you both while babywearing. I always swiped my husband’s coat to cover baby and me. This will work when it’s just a bit cold, but it is not an elegant cold weather solution. If you have a favorite soft pack carrier or mei tai carrier, you can easily adapt to cold weather with a slightly bigger coat than you would normally wear—IF you use a front carry.

If you and your baby prefer back carry, the Peekaru fleece vest covers you both and lets your baby still see the world through a peek-hole in the back of the vest.

Peekaru babywearing vest

Minor adjustments should keep you and your baby warm while babywearing through the fall. Keep warm!

Changing Colors: Fall Leaves with Children

Child wearing fall leaf wreath

Are your children curious about the leaves changing color? Harvest time is ripe for a little science and a lot of crafts with fall leaves.

All this week, we’re going to post about changing colors—not just leaves changing but other colors as well.


The Science of Fall Leaves for Children

“Why are the leaves turning yellow, Mommy?”

Are you ready to answer? Here is a simple version for the youngest children.

Starting when trees grow new leaves in the spring, a tree makes food from the energy of the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water from the earth. This process of making food is called photosynthesis. The sun’s energy is absorbed by a chemical called chlorophyll. Leaves get their green color from chlorophyll.

As the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, trees stop making food and the green chlorophyll breaks down. The leaves change color as the green goes away and leaves yellow, orange, and brown.

For an older child, you could explain that the leaves were always yellow and that the green, the chlorophyll, was just the dominant color until the tree stopped making it.


Children’s Crafts with Fall Leaves

It’s always fun to use natural materials to create season-specific decorations. As you are surrounded by fall leaves, you have an abundance of colorful craft materials.

We create strings of leaves as a garland to celebrate fall. Bring bouquets of leaves into the house and put them in a vase. Create a wreath. Use different leaf colors to create a collage. Press particularly beautiful leaves in paper.

And, whatever you do, rake all of the leaves in your yard into a pile and JUMP IN THEM! This is perfect fun for a child (and a parent).


The Funny Part

Fall leaf garland

When I planned this post, it was cold during the days, and I expected it would just get colder every day. Then, today arrived and it was 89 degrees Fahrenheit, and we couldn’t find enough color changed leaves to make a garland.

Fall? Hot leaf garland

The version of the mini leaf garland without cropping context shows my outdoor thermometer. In the direct sun this afternoon, it claimed to be 120 degrees (which it was not). It will probably snow next week.


Resources

Education World has a great collection of explanations of photosynthesis just for children. They include fun fall leaf activities as well.

Wreath image © Olga Vasina | Dreamstime.com

Fresh from the Farmers’ Market

Farmers' Markets build healthy communities

Farmers' Markets build healthy communities

September is boom time at farmers’ markets. Other than a few berries and spring crops, you can get nearly all of the summer and fall produce. There are more squashes this week than last, and winter squashes are starting to show up (though the pumpkins in my garden are only just starting to look like pumpkins). Many farmers’ markets post what’s fresh at the market that week on their websites or in newsletters.

It seems clear that when people know their food producers, they have more trust in the safety of the food. After the egg recall a couple of weeks ago, farmers’ markets saw much higher sales of eggs, and they sold out much earlier in the day. One market manager interview by MSNBC said, “At the farmers’ market, you can shake the hand of the farmer who collected your egg that morning and I think that is much more reassuring.”

We try to reduce our impact, so food miles (the number of miles your food travels to reach you) matter. We look for nutritious foods that haven’t been drained of their goodness by suspicious chemistry in the field and processing after harvest, so organic matters. But, far more important in my mind than the broader environmental impact and nutrition is the safety of our food. Buying food that is grown locally by people whose hands you shake when you buy is not just a personally satisfying experience but an implied relationship of trust that they aren’t selling you a product that is going to make your children sick.

Beyond that implied relationship, you can build relationships that keep local producers accountable. You can observe food safety at the market (are meat and eggs chilled?) and you can take steps to keep your food clean (by washing fruits and vegetables well) and safe (by keeping dairy products cool). You can’t necessarily see how the food was treated before it arrived at the market, but you can talk to the farmer, ask what they think about food safety in the news, and ask how they handle food at the farm. Farmers’ markets are governed by food safety rules—rules that giant food corporations would like to use to squeeze small farms out of business—and they will most certainly have opinions about food safety that they are willing to share.

Farmers’ markets are an essential part of a larger system of health and safety not just of food but of community and earth. What’s fresh at your farmers’ market this week?


Resources

  • Farmers’ Markets Canada lists provincial farmers’ market associations, which will lead you to your local market.
  • Local Harvest (“real food. real farmers. real community.”) lists farmers’ markets in the U.S. along with a lot of other local food producers.

Image © Lee Snider | Dreamstime.com