I love autumn since I was a child and I remember so many days and evenings when I just gazed at trees changing colors, watched the bird preparing for migration, contemplated the delicious fruits and vegetables in our garden becoming ripe and full of sun. Autumn invited me to just be. At that time I did't know that what I was doing was to mindfully contemplate the change of the seasons. Children can naturally do this, if they are given the time and space.
But autumn can be such a busy season: it's the harvest season, the beginning of school or kindergarden for some families, a change in the rhythm with new activities for others, the beginning of new jobs and the settle in new countries for families who live a nomad life...
In our family we will be very busy as well this autumn. We will welcome a new member, so much waited and anticipated. Having many things to do in autumn is exciting but sometimes, when we focus on "doing", we forget about "being". We can jump from one activity to another without truly living in the moment. I want to keep the awareness I had as a child.
So here are some ideas to mindfully celebrate autumn...
... by BEING:
- grateful for who we are, what we have, for the little moments in life that remind us that we are alive
- grateful for what nature has to offer us (during our nature walks, during the Harvest Festival, while we are eating seasonal fruits and vegetables..)
- present to ourselves, to our children, friends, family, strangers on the street; fully being here and now and mindfully noticing the little details: a ray of light in our child's hair, the colors of the leaves they are gathering, the sound of their laughter in the forest, the sound of the crunchy leaves under our feet when we walk the street,...
- mindful about the change of the seasons, about the arrival of autumn and how this impacts our rhythms, the rhythm of the whole family and each of its members, our sleep, all our biological rhythms, our mood, our children's mood...
... by DOING mindful activities like:
- jumping in the puddles! Something that all kids like (and some adults including myself enjoy too :)
- having a candle lit diner. There is something magic about eating at a table lightened by candles. We do this in our family for the Mid- Autumn Festival (the Harvest Festival) and other celebrations or without any particular occasion
- create a vision board about what Autumn Celebrations mean to you, or an Autumnal Mood Board; write a letter to yourself or a manifesto about this new season and how your life should be this autumn. For vision and mood boards you will need scissors, paper and a pile of magazines. For your manifesto, try writing to your future self as if you are already where you want to be in your life. Always use present tense. I'm giving you these tips as a life coach ;)
- gather nature treasures (acorns, leaves, pebbles, rocks, pine cones, sticks, chestnuts, ..) Nature is so generous in autumn and most children love collecting these little things and marvel at them
- .. and start or change your nature table. We love changing our nature table slowly, slowly so that we can feel the transition between the seasons. Our nature table is work in progress all the time
- use these nature treasures as loose parts. Put them into baskets and add them to your children's play-space. They will make wonderful resources for building, imaginative play, open-ended play, pretend play
- decorate your home with autumn flowers and leaves. They will bring the energy of autumn into your home. Make a leaves wreath
- lit beeswax candles: at breakfast, teatime, during meals, when you read, before going to bed... They will create magic in your home and a very special mood, especially on those dark rainy days
- watch the Harvest Moon- We have adopted this tradition in China where we lived for two years. This year you can watch the Full Harvest Moon on the evening of September 24th. You can decide to have a special meal on this occasion (in China and other Asian countries people organize picnics and diners with special ingredients) but you can decide to "just" mindfully watch the moon, being aware about its light, beauty and energy.
- go harvest in a local farm
- gather mushrooms (if you can safely recognize the edible ones) or chestnuts (less tricky) and grill them in a wooden fire
- attend farm's festivals and celebrations: grape harvest, apple festivals, farms anniversaries, there are many events organized in autumn. You can find information online, in schools and kindergartens, local shops and farms, ...
- if you live in Germany or elsewhere and you have a Waldorf school or kindergarden closely, ask if you can attend their Autumn Celebrations. Waldorf/ German schools and kindergarten celebrate Saint Martin and they sometimes organize festivals and handicraft markets that are open to the public. You will learn more about the Waldorf philosophy and pedagogy. On these markets you will find beautifully hand-made Waldorf objects and books and this is also a wonderful way to support local communities.
- bake with organic local fruits and vegetables. There is something about the smell of bread that grounds us and mindful cooking is a wonderful way of feeling more present. Using seasonal fruits and vegetables helps us to get closer to nature and mindfully celebrate a new season. You can find some of our seasonal recipes here. I wrote these posts when my daughter was not even 2 years old so you can really make them with children of any age. I will share more (vegan) recipes on the blog this autumn
- start a mini vegetable garden or plant again (if you have already started one in spring). You can still grow vegetables like spinach, lamb's lettuce, carrots, broccoli, etc in autumn. You don't even need a garden, some plants and vegetables can grow in pots beside your windows
- if you do have a garden, spend time raking up the leaves, being present and mindful about your task, about the colors, the sounds, the smell, ..
- have a "leaves bath". Rank up plenty of leaves in a pile, then jump in and throw the leaves in the air. Your children will love this. Notice the smell, the texture, the colors, the sound of the dead leaves
- go on mindful nature walks: walk in the forest or even in a park or your street and mindfully watch the trees changing colors, the signs of autumn, ..
- help birds and animals find food. This is something we do with our Forest Playgroup. When the days are cold, animals can have troubles getting food. We hang some apples, carrots and pines cones with different kind seeds in the trees
- enroll in a Forest playgroup or create one. In this article I wrote, you will find all you need to take with you when going on nature exploration
- make lanterns with paper and leaves. This is a German/ Waldorf tradition for Saint Martin, a holiday celebrated on the 11th of November every year. In Germany, each city or small village has its own procession of children and adults walking together with candles in their lanterns
- improvise a shadow theater. This has become a little family tradition that we do for Saint Martin but I also use it to improvise other stories. This year will be our third years doing a "shadow theater".
It is not complicated, it just takes a bit of time to prepare it. But once you have the setting, you can use it over and over again. You can use a cardboard box or a wooden wine case to make the "theater". You will need to remove one side and replace it with white silk paper or rice paper. Then you can draw or print the setting you want. I use black paper to give the setting have a white-black contrast. You can glue the black decorations of your scene on the white paper if you want to. For the characters, I use Grimm's, Ostheimer and Holztiger figurines. Before you start your play, you will need to turn off the lights and place a light source behind your cardboard box. I usually tell Saint Martin's story and play the characters and then we listen to some traditional German songs that celebrate Saint Martin. My daughter loves this shadow theater so much
- walk with lanterns in the woods when the sun goes down. Last year we did this with our Forest Group. We usually meet in the afternoon and the sun sets very early. We made our Saint Martin lanterns in the woods and then the children walked around in the dark with lit candles in their lanterns. This will always stay with me as one of the most beautiful moments I have spent in the woods
- create your own family traditions and celebrations. In this article I wrote you will find how to create and prepare authentic celebrations.
... by READING
Reading is something we enjoy so much in our home, especially on cold rainy autumn days, snuggling on the sofa under a wool blanket and with bee wax candles lit on the table, with flavors of cinnamon and ginger surrounding us, coming from the oven where we are baking bread and cakes. I'm so much looking forward to these days.
For now we are still enjoying some sunny, warm late summer days and we are currently reading our "End of Summer Books" to gently transition between the seasons. Nevertheless, I'm preparing already for the Harvest Festival (that we have adopted as the Mid-Autumn Festival in our family, after celebrating it when we lived in China). So we will soon bring out our Harvest Moon books on our bookshelves.
As for the Autumn books, you can see what we were reading when my daughter was almost two years old. Our books to celebrate Autumn are still among her favorite books and since I write this post, we have added some gorgeous books to our collection. I will soon write about them!
For more ideas about celebrating autumn, especially with toddlers, you can read about how we said Hello Autumn with my daughter when she was only 18 months old.
I would love to know how you are celebrating autumn in your family. You can either leave a comment here, on Instagram or email me at email@example.com. I love reading your stories!