By Beth Pinyerd
Lee County and Opelika will be welcoming fall on Sept. 23! Children absolutely love the coolness and beautiful colors of fall. As leaves begin to turn colors, squirrels bustle around for acorns and cooler air begins to creep in to lower temperatures, this season of change offers many teachable moments for young children and their families.
Notice how the sunflowers seem to celebrate this season with their bright yellow petals and truly the landscapes – even close-by rivers, lakes, streams and ponds begin to reflect a change, but you have to take the time to observe those changes. It doesn’t take a lot of money or going far to observe changes to teach your young child life lessons and do family projects with what the fall has to offer.
Young children can take a nature walk just around the house. Point out nature items they can put in a bag such as fall leaves in many colors, nuts, acorns, pine cones and other items. In helping your young child to glue their found items, you can teach your child to classify, like these are leaves versus these are seeds, sort from largest to smallest or sort like colors together of leaves and sort into categories of different shapes.
One thing young children like to do is to help mom and dad rake up leaves in the yard. Mountains of leaves and straw offer many teachable moments as well as playing moments. Let their little imaginations express themselves as well as maintaining a safe environment.
As you drive, walk or hike with your little ones, point out the birds, ducks and geese gathering in flight as they migrate to other places. You can see this happening on a daily basis in Lee County and other areas. Talk about migration and how it means that the birds are moving to a warmer environment in preparation for the winter.
One project I have loved to do for my students as well as my own child is to throw bread morsels to the birds. As the birds fly in for a meal, point out the different colors of birds, the different kinds of birds and how they feed. Young children will be fascinated by the different birds flying in.
Point out to your children how the bushy tail squirrels rush about to gather acorns and nuts. Sit back, relax and observe the different places the squirrels climb and rush to. Your child can use his or her counting skills as they observe the number of acorns and nuts the squirrels collect. They also exercise their memory skills by recalling with you where the squirrel has been. You can draw a simple little map and have your young child point out the routes the squirrel has traveled by their observations.
When we think of fall, we think of apples used in all different kinds of way, apple sauce, apple butter or apple pie. Because I usually have apples all over my bulletin boards, I love to cut a big juicy red apple horizontally and show them the star in the middle. Your child will be fascinated by this as they scrape out the apple seeds to plant and then eat the apple to the core.
As you plant apple seeds, include pumpkin seeds as well. Point out differences in the seeds as you plant them. Roasting apple slices with a little butter, sugar and cinnamon makes for a sweet smelling and delicious, healthy snack where the senses of smell and taste are emphasized.
Point out to your child that fall is a time of harvest of bringing in crops from the fields. As you ride along county roads, you can point out bales of cotton, hay and grain. You can pretend harvest at home by tying up little piles of pine straw, nuts, fruits, etc. Check in with local farmers to see if they would allow you to come out on a family field trip. These family field trips are so much fun during the fall.
One thing that is so unique about Lee County are the many fall carnivals and fairs where children and families can come and enjoy games, foods and wholesome entertainment! Advertisements are usually posted everywhere for these fairs.
Another fun, simple excursion is to take a blanket and enjoy fall picnics in the seasonable weather as you talk about what fall means to your children. The skies usually appear to be a rich blue and the sunsets are beautiful during the fall.
A lesson to be presented here is where does the sun go after it goes down. Parents, grasp those teachable moments that nature and seasonal change has to offer. You will be making wonderful memories for your children.
Children deserve the best of us
This early childhood article focuses on our young children ages infants, toddlers, twos, threes, fours and fives as this teacher looks through the eyes of a young child.
We give gifts to our children on birthdays and holidays. But, there are special gifts that are not materialistic, but fully tangible. These are the gifts that require time and a realization for our small children that they are special! Those gifts are joy, love and peace.
What is joy in the heart of a young child? Joy is an inward happiness which comes when a child senses a bonding and security with their caregivers and parents. Reaching out to your child on a daily basis is such a blessing and an appreciated gift to young children.
In our world today, we spend too much time on the run. It is more important to spend free time with our children rather than trying to schedule too many structured activities. Free play is so important for young children, it is their work where they express themselves and it truly brings them joy. Play is developmentally essential.
An optimistic spirit is contagious and it brings joy. Life is not going to be a bowl of cherries, but it is how we handle the circumstances of life that counts. Teaching children early in life how to live life no matter how rough the rough gets going is a valuable lesson not only for a child, but an adult.
Have you noticed that young children love to be around happy people? Even an infant will smile and giggle around happy people who extend their attention to them.
Love is extended to a young child when we truly realize each child is very unique! Your unconditional love toward your child is planted into their hearts when you accept them for how they are made and who they are. This is accomplished by praising and encouraging your child. Meeting the strengths of your child’s gifts, talents and enabling them to be all they can be takes spending time with your young child. Hugs and verbal praise are so important for a young child to feel and hear when they have done a good job and really tried. Developmental challenges, such as weaning from the bottle, potty training or walking deserve a lot of consistent and verbal praise. Love is in the little things!
Peace for your child is them being confident, comfortable and secure in their hearts and minds in who they are. When children are at peace, they learn better and interact better with family and friends.
Pinyerd has taught young children in the early childhood classroom for 34 years, as well as outreaching to the elderly in intergenerational settings. She has taught and outreached in the schools in Opelika and Baldwin County. She holds a masters degree in early childhood education as well as a bachelors degree in family and child development both from Auburn University. Her husband is the late Carl Pinyerd, and she has one son, Gus Pinyerd, who has taught her so much about learning. The Classroom Observer is here to serve the community in sharing the wonderful teaching programs in our local public schools, private schools and homeschools. The column is provided to enrich the education of our children, youth and families. Classroom Observer welcomes educational news, school news, pictures and events by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.