Dry Leaf Collage

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This is not the craft to make when the leaves are at their peak vibrant hues of orange and red early in the fall. This is the craft for late in the fall, when the leaves are dry and brown, and yet you’ll show your toddler beauty even in this underappreciated nature material!

Veronika and I came home with a bag full of just such leaves, and first we explored them on her sensory tray. She loved picking them up and letting them float down.

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I next showed her how to rip the leaves into tiny pieces. The dry crinkly November leaves are perfect for this because each rip produces a satisfying sound.

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As she tore them up, I traced two leaf shapes on construction paper and cut them out. Any fall color would make a nice background here, and we used brown and orange.

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Rub glue sticks all over the leaf shapes, and then press down your leaf “confetti”.

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As a bonus, these make a beautiful Thanksgiving decoration if you punch a hole near the top, thread with yarn, and suspend in a window.

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Indian Corn Squish Bag and Painting

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Indian corn makes a beautiful decoration this time of year. And not only does it look great on a harvest table or doorway, but it makes for fantastic sensory play, too!

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Today, I set out three ears of this multicolored corn on a tray for Veronika and first just invited her over. She wanted to smell it, one of the first ways she likes to approach a new item.

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We discovered that if we cracked an ear in half, we could then pick off the hard kernels. This left behind smooth divots underneath. She loved running her finger over the cob, feeling the contrast between these soft and hard parts.

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Next, we turned the corn kernels into part of a sensory bag. I didn’t have any hair gel on hand to fill a small zip-top bag, but corn syrup worked in a pinch. I added a little seasonally-appropriate yellow food coloring, and then some of the corn kernels we’d pulled from the cob.

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Seal tightly and pass over to your child. “It’s a squishy bag!” Veronika said with delight, now familiar with the concept. And this one was great for squishing. She could squeeze it between two fists…

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…or chase around little kernels of corn with a finger.

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With a few corn cobs still on the tray, we decided that they would be fun to paint with. I pulled out brown, red, and green, and poured a little of each color onto a plate.

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Show your toddler how to roll a cob in one of the colors and then across a piece of sturdy paper. I placed the paper in a craft tray to contain (most of) the mess.

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Note: If you do this project with red, green, and black paint in December, it would also make a lovely Kwanzaa craft given corn’s symbolism during the holiday.

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As a finishing touch, we decided to add dots of glue over the dried corncob painting and pressed on a few of the final loose kernels of corn.

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What fun play we had simply by exploring a piece of seasonal decor!

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Fall Hair Gel Sun Catchers

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I wanted to make a couple of orange sensory bags for Veronika this morning, with Halloween and autumn in full swing, only to realize I didn’t have any orange food coloring! I didn’t have yellow, either, which meant I couldn’t even mix red and yellow to make orange.

On a whim I decided to see if I could dye things the old-fashioned way (spices!) and there was orange turmeric in the spice rack. The result wasn’t perfect, but adding the spice turned out to be half the fun.

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I squirted a generous amount of clear hair gel into each of two small zip-top bags to start. In the first, I added about a teaspoon of turmeric and mushed around until it was orange. Veronika loved the smell of the turmeric, and wanted to help measure out the spoonful!

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Then I added orange leaves we’d brought home from the playground yesterday. The turmeric did make the bag slightly cloudy and hard to see the leaves, but it worked fine if in direct sunlight.

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For the second version, I drew jack o’ lantern features directly on the plastic bag with a black sharpie. Again I added 1 teaspoon turmeric, along with 1 drop of red food coloring. This made a great orange!

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Because the black features were on the outside, the graininess of the spice didn’t matter this time. Veronika loved playing with this squishy bag where I taped it against the window.

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These turned out to be so fun, and spot-on for the season, too.

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Pumpkin Scented Rice Bin

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This was easily one of the prettiest sensory rice bins I’ve put together for Veronika. And it certainly smelled the best!

To prepare the rice, you’ll want to start the night before. I didn’t have orange food coloring, but I dripped in a good sized blob each of red and yellow, then added about 2 tablespoons of hand sanitizer. Add a bag of plain white rice, along with 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, and stir until it’s all combined.

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I ended up really liking the striated effect this achieved, since some pieces were more yellow, some more red, and some a perfect blend of orange. All the fall colors! Spoon the mixture onto a shallow tray so it can dry overnight.

In the morning, I laid out the rice for Veronika, along with pine cones and whole cinnamon sticks. Feel free to add other whole spices if you have them, like nutmeg or star anise.

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Veronika loved the bin right away, first wanting to get her hands on the cinnamon sticks. “Can I smell them?” she asked.

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I also added in a few orange pipe cleaners so she could thread the cinnamon sticks onto them, almost like long beads.

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Cinnamon bracelets!

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Then she started sprinkling handfuls of rice over the pine cones. She loved the sound it made!

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It was fun to bury the pine cones in the rice and then unearth them. And of course she paused often to lift the rice near her nose and take a deep breath in. There’s nothing better than the smell of pumpkin pie!

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This one kept her busy for a while!

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Spaghetti Spider Web Craft

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Thanks to some recent sensory play with Veronika, I’ve learned a few tricks about how best to make sculpture from spaghetti. I realized the same method could be used to add to our Halloween decor, because it would result in perfect “spider webs”.

To start, mostly this activity was just spaghetti sensory play again. This time, I tinted a big batch of spaghetti a witchy green hue and instead of adding glue, I added corn syrup.

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Just pour it on until you have a nice coating over the noodles. This not only means the noodles won’t clump together as your child plays, but also means the final artwork can still dry like glue, but stay edible.

And good thing, because Veronika was in the mood to nibble on pasta today! I gave her a small dish of plain noodles, but she ate big handfuls of the green stuff right from the pot!

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Eventually I diverted her attention from eating noodles to making the spider web craft. Lay out squares of wax paper and help your toddler arrange noodles in a circle. The thinner the overlap of the noodles, the faster and better these webs will dry.

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Being a toddler, of course she also wanted to make big gloppy piles of noodles, which was half the fun.

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She loved calling them webs, though, as she worked.

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Once we had three neat web shapes, I placed them on a baking sheet and put in the oven at 175 degrees F for 2 hours. This was sort of a guess, but it worked perfectly. The webs came off from the wax paper without tearing or breaking at all.

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Thread yarn through the top of each “web” and hang in spooky corners or windows. Bonus points for plastic spiders to live in each web!

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Pumpkin Craft for Toddlers

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This pretty suncatcher craft was a nice alternative to playing with real pumpkins!

To start, I taped a large piece of contact paper on to our craft table, sticky side up, and then set out a tray filled with squares of cut tissue paper. We had squares in red, orange, and yellow.

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Veronika immediately loved pressing the tissue paper onto the sticky surface and seeing that they got left behind when she lifted her hand away.

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I helped a little so that we could completely fill in a roughly circular area.

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Cover with a second sheet of contact paper, sticky side down, then trim into a pumpkin shape.

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For a stem, I simply taped on a rectangle of green construction paper. Hang in a window or doorway and watch the sun play tricks through the colors.

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You’ll get a neat double dose of orange, first from anywhere your toddler has actually attached orange tissue paper, and second from any place that yellow and red overlap!

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Pumpkins with Mustaches

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It was time to get silly with some of the pumpkins we brought home from the farm stand!

You can start with pale or white pumpkins for this project, saving yourself the step of painting. But since painting is half the fun, we used orange pumpkins and first pulled out the white paint.

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Veronika loved slathering it all over two pumpkins. I recommend at least two coats of paint if you don’t want any orange peeking through, and would have done a third coat had there been time.

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Once the paint dried, we glued on mustache templates that I found online. Travis got to pick which shapes we’d use! You could also draw them with marker, but the 3-D effect is so fun.

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Silly and unexpected pumpkins like these are sure to delight those who see them on your doorstep.

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Toddler Color Chart with Colorful Fall Leaves

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We turned a beautiful stroll among the leaves into a chance for a little color review this morning.

And I mean stroll literally. Veronika was determined to push her doll around in a stroller “all by self”, crunching through autumn leaves. As we walked, we started a little collection of the most vibrant ones we could find.

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Once home, I set up a quick “chart” for her. Divide a baking sheet into a 3×3 grid with masking tape. In the first column, I taped down three leaves: red, orange, and yellow.

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In the second column, I had blank white squares of paper for Veronika to fill in with colors. I asked her what color each leaf was and then to find the matching crayon. To simplify this for a two year old, I only had out the three crayons we needed. You can make this more of a hunt through the whole pack for preschoolers!

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She scribbled on the white squares for each. I also thought it was adorable that she wanted to use crayon directly on the leaves, for example, applying yellow crayon to yellow leaf.

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Just for some extra early learning, I wrote the name of each color in the final column. Of course, she’s a long way off from sight reading, but it never hurts to start early!

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This was a great project for extending a morning excursion into learning and play.

Experience the Harvest

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With beautiful fall recipes that celebrate the harvest in Travis’s latest Raddish Kids, we wanted to make sure we ticked all the boxes for fall family fun. All of the following activities are ones we try to do every year. Start now and make them a tradition for your family, too!

Go Through a Corn Maze

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Corn mazes range from the easy to the truly harrowing. Aim for one-acre or less if your kids are young like mine. Meanwhile, big kids can tackle the biggies… Or the haunted ones!

Attend a Local Harvest Festival

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This was harder this year, under COVID-19 regulations. But we did go to a local farm, where the kids got to see animals like goats and sheep, and help feed them, too!

Pick Pumpkins at a Patch

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We headed to the pumpkin patch on a day where proceeds benefited the pediatrics department of our local hospital. The kids got to take home goodie bags, and three proudly picked pumpkins.

Hop a Tractor for a Hay Ride

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Bummer, the hay rides are closed this year, too. But the kids can still sit in the tractors at least. Vroom, vroom!

Drink Hot Apple Cider

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After holding his own apple cider stand (!), we made sure to save enough to enjoy mulled cider back at home. The kids marveled at how a little heat and spice transformed a regular cup of cider. It was the perfect pause for some Raddish Kids’ Table Talk cards, too.

Visit an Orchard for Apple Picking

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We lucked out with a gorgeous afternoon to pick apples from a local orchard. Travis was really into finding the best apples and carefully twisting them off this year. Veronika loved standing under the trees and staring up at the apples in glee.

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Everyone loved it.

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Need a recipe for your haul? Try Spiced Baked Apples!

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This recipe is great because it works best with a mix of sweet and tart, taking advantage of multiple varieties from your picking excursion.

Ingredients:

  • 6 apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  1. Slice the apples and toss with the lemon juice in a large bowl.
  2. Add the cornstarch, brown sugar, water, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Spoon the apple mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Cut the butter into small pieces and arrange over the apple slices. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  4. Uncover, stir, and bake an additional 15 minutes. The apples will look almost like a chunky applesauce. Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving.

Happy Harvest!

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No Carve Nature Pumpkins

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It was a brisk fall morning, perfect for one of our nature walks to collect treasures. This time, I specifically kept my eyes open for items that we would be able to later glue onto pumpkins. We came home with sticks, leaves, pine cones, and acorns. I had hoped to spot some maple keys, but didn’t see any.

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I arranged all of our treasures onto a craft tray, and Veronika loved sorting through the items.

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As she simply explored with all her senses, I arranged the items with more purpose to see what would work where on each pumpkin as facial features.

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Our first orange fellow soon had acorn eyes, a stick nose, a leaf mouth, and a big branch of multiple leaves for hair.

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He was soon joined by a second orange friend, this one with acorns for eyes and nose, leaves for mouth and ears, and a fun little pine cone headdress. I tucked a few leaves behind the pine cone so it almost looked like one of those fancy fascinator hats!

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Veronika was clearly delighted when she saw that our pumpkins now had eyes, noses, and more.

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They look quite jolly and happy on our patio. As with our recent pumpkin mask craft, this is a great way to decorate pumpkins a ways out from Halloween, since they won’t rot before the big night.

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