This post may contain affiliate links that means I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.
My kids were all born in Florida, which meant fall wasn’t the same as it is for most of the rest of America where the weather actually requires a sweater as the temperature drops. When we moved to the Midwest we had endless discussions about the definition of fall and how it could be summer one day and winter the next. We also had the chance to finally experience fall sensory activities for ourselves.
By definition, fall or autumn is the transition season between summer and winter. A season of transition is not an easy thing for many outside the box kids who prefer routine and no surprises. A season where the weather surprises you every day is not fun and can be a source of anxiety.
And if the constant weather changes don’t cause anxiety, consider the gravity and intensity of many of our seasonal traditions. When you look at some favorite fall activities through sensory eyes, you can see what can be hard for some kids about the season and the importance of making the best of each tradition for your Outside the Box kids.
4 Favorite Fall Sensory Activities
#1- Carving Pumpkins
Pumpkins are the first fall tradition we see in the season. We see them in the store and use them to decorate at home. Making a Jack-O-Lantern can be a messy activity and one that can easily overwhelm some Outside the Box kids. First there are new smells as you cut the gourd and expose the flesh. And second there are the seeds and wet stringy pumpkin guts. Some kids may enjoy playing with the unusual slimy texture, but others will be repulsed by it. And third, when you place a candle in the finished pumpkin and turn down the lights, the new shadows can make familiar places scary to some anxious kiddos.
The first time I took my kids to a real pumpkin patch where we had to cut the gourd off the vine, they quickly lost focus on finding the perfect pumpkin and instead were mesmerized by rotting pumpkins that were already decaying. It was a sight they had never seen before, because in the parking lot pumpkin patches they were used to in Florida, there was nothing but pallets of perfect pumpkins lined up in a row.
After trying the pumpkin carving experience a few times with my own kids and them running away during the process we gave up on the carving. We enjoy painting or decorating them for gifts and cooking our own fresh pumpkin for seasonal treats. We also enjoy having a large one on our porch for the season and watching the squirrels come and eat it long into the winter.
#2- Sweater Weather
Fall is the weather transition between summer and winter, which means we can be wearing a wide variety of clothing during the season. To routine driven kids it can be unsettling when you go to bed hoping to wear a special outfit and discover in the morning that you have to wear 3 extra layers than you did the day before. This added invisible layer of anxiety it adds to our kids requires our patience and grace. Having a family plan for what layers are best for what temperature ranges can be helpful.
After a season of warm summer weather where sandals and no socks are the norm, getting used to wearing socks, gloves and hats can be a challenge. Finding gloves that fit just right, are easy for putting on independently, and are made of a comfortable fabric is a challenge. When we find something that works for my child, I buy several pairs. Socks can be a similar challenge with seams and materials feeling different in their shoes.
At our house we meet these challenges by taking each child shopping and letting their preferences lead what we purchase. Only they know how something feels and fits to their body. We also talk a lot about the changing seasons and the weather forecast.
“This week will likely be colder than last week, let’s make sure we wear long sleeves each day.”
“No, summer isn’t back, just because it’s warmer than yesterday. Let’s enjoy being outside today while it’s warm because tomorrow it will be cold again.”
#3- Picking Costumes
A favorite fall event for our family is being creative in determining their Halloween costume each year. For us it’s more about the creativity of cosplay than finding something spooky or scary. Many costumes have unusual fabric textures that can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. Masks and face paint are especially uncomfortable at our house and get quickly tossed to the side.
We enjoy being creative with our everyday clothes and finding ways to mix and match their everyday clothes to build costumes with a few fun accessories to make it easily identifiable. When my child was younger we found a red zip-up sweatshirt with Red the Angry Bird details on the hood and back and red sweatpants for his Angry Bird costume. A white quilted vest and orange pants and shirt made a Star Wars X-wing pilot costume. Another child asked for motorcycle boots and a leather jacket to dress as their favorite character from the Kane Chronicles book series. A bonus for mom and the budget is that these everyday items get worn much longer than the one night of trick or treating fun or fall festival.
#4- Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving ends the fall season as Christmas is just around the corner. It can be a wonderful time to see far away family and make memories. It can also be a time of new and different flavors and people for our kids. What we consider cherished traditions may not always seem like it to our kids.
When our kids were little we lived not far from the Atlantic coast of Florida. One side of the family came down each year for a very short visit for Thanksgiving and also wanted to spend time at the beach so we started a tradition during those years of eating at a seafood beachside restaurant instead of at home. When we later moved to the midwest and closer to family, we went back to a more traditional thanksgiving dinner, it was brand new to our kids, not a return to an old tradition. To them, thanksgiving was going to the beach with family, not a turkey dinner.
When we add unfamiliar people to an unfamiliar meal it can be even harder for some Outside the box kids and their desire for sameness. Having distant family travel for the holiday is great but it can seem very new to our kids if they don’t have a strong relationship with their far away relatives. Using technology and printing pictures of the relatives they will see can help prepare them for “new” family members.
Make a plan ahead of time for when everyone is together and your outside the box kids need a break. Bring some toys or activities that they find calming and know where they can hide away from the group for a break. We always pack a Sensory Toolkit when we know we will be in these kinds of situations and now that our kids are older they pack their own toolkits with the tools they need to make the best of the situation when they need a break. Sign up below to get a list of suggestions for packing your own Sensory Toolkit.
There are so many great fall sensory activities to be had during the season. When Outside the Box kids we just need a little more patience and understanding to make it a memorable season for everyone!
Looking for more?
Here are some more fantastic Fall and Thanksgiving themed tips and resources I’ve gathered for you from around the web. Check them out and let me know which one you plan to use this year!
Teach Gratitude and Thanksgiving through Praise and Worship from In All You Do
Free Thanksgiving Coloring Pages and Activity Printables from Blessed Homeschool
Thanksgiving and Kids – Learning and Playing All Season Long from Hess UnAcademy
History Behind our Thanksgiving Traditions from Homeschool On the Range
Gratitude Journal for Kids from Homeschooling 4 Him
Thanksgiving Music Lesson with Thanksgiving Printable Set from Music in Our Homeschool
Five Thanksgiving Traditions That Bring Families Together from Geez, Gwen!
Free Native American Unit Study from With the Huddlestons
Thanksgiving Homeschool Resources for a Low-Prep, Mini Unit Study from Whole Child Homeschool
Being Grateful When You Don’t Feel Like It from Julie Naturally
Thanksgiving Homeschool Activities + Unit Studies from Homeschool with Moxie
Thanksgiving Morning Basket from Heart and Soul Homeschooling
Thankful Morning Time Plans from Everyday Graces Homeschool
Free Printable Games and Activities for a Fun Family Thanksgiving from The WOLFe Pack
4 Fall Traditions and A Sensory Look at the Season from Inside Our Normal
How to Homeschool During the Holidays Successfully from Some Call It Destiny
Thanksgiving Games: Spot the Difference from The Homeschool Cafe
Thanksgiving Theme Preschool Lesson Plans from Simple Living Mama