October is my favorite month. I know I’m not alone in that sentiment, but living in the South brings more than just the beauty of fall. Around here it’s the time when what seems like an endless, humid, bug-ridden summer finally shows signs of dying. Though it’s still warm, there are days that have a cooler touch when the breeze blows. When warm, wet weather starts sometimes at the end of April, the hope and anticipation October brings is blissful. Where I live, we know that by the end of the month, the bugs could be dead or hiding and we’ll probably be able to wear long-sleeve shirts or maybe even sweaters!
For now, though, you can see that it's still hot enough around here for this.
My friends and I get so excited about these prospects, we whole-heartedly embrace Fall foods the minute they hit the shelves. It’s not unusual to get a text at the end of September showing some food a friend has scored. It’s emotional eating really. As we consume these things, we tell ourselves, “If I eat this pumpkin spice cookie butter, cooler weather will come faster.” Therefore, eating the entire jar or package isn’t wrong. It’s our duty to our fellow citizens.
Recently, I had a friend text me about an amazing pumpkin cake another pal of ours had made. She was lamenting that I didn’t get any, as she knew I was a fellow lover of all things pumpkin. I responded that someone should have a pumpkin party as an excuse to get together and eat a sampling of pumpkin treats. As soon as I wrote it, I thought, “Well, why not me?”
So, a couple of weeks later friends arrived with children and pumpkin food in tow. The kids played. The moms ate. We had the pumpkin cake that inspired it all, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin bars, chocolate chip pumpkin loaf, pumpkin cupcakes, and pumpkin marshmallows among other things I can’t recall at the moment.
Little Mama looks concerned about that jump. Evidence of why I call her Little Mama.
While that in itself is something to write about, other aspects of the day inspired this post.
As the kids were playing, I went to take some pictures. Watching them reminded me of the value of unstructured, unplanned play. They were turned loose to do as they pleased, so long as they avoided serious injury. I’m convinced children have the most fun and develop the best memories within these parameters; it’s natural play.
My husband says that a kid dirty from playing is the sign of a happy kid. She must be ecstatic.
There was no bickering over toys or turns. No stress. There’s a peace that comes to parents as you watch your kids in that environment. They run, jump, scream in happiness, and laugh, and you smile inside and find contentedness. As I write about it now, it’s bittersweet. I don’t want them to grow up and deal with the burdens of this world. I want every day to be a pumpkin party play day for them, but I know that it can’t.
Notice how Little Mama's pal is offering to catch her in the first picture and then fleeing in terror in the second picture when she actually jumps. Hilarious!
While the big kids were running around, there were quite a few babies who needed supervision. I thought this would be a good time to put a sensory bin I had recently made to use. It’s got a farm-in-the-fall theme going on. I used corn kernels as the filler and added fake leaves, pumpkins, wood slices, cinnamon sticks, and farm figures (see the end of the post for a supply list).
Obviously, giving something like this to babies requires constant attention to make sure they don’t put things in their mouths. Fortunately, there was only one attempt. Otherwise, this thing was HIT! I thought the little ones would enjoy it, but I didn’t know how much. From the time I brought it out until they left, it was in constant use.
While they enjoyed all the components, the corn was clearly their favorite part. My porch is still showing evidence of this via the corn kernels stuck between the deck boards. I’ll get them out with a butter knife...one day.
The bigger kids never cared to see what their little brothers and sisters were doing. But when all the company had left, The Boy and Little Mama discovered the bin. They spent a long time on the porch playing with the figures, using the wood slices, cinnamon sticks, leaves and pumpkins to create scenes for them. They didn’t seem to care for the corn kernels in the same way the babies did, so rather than being a sensory bin they used it in a small world way. Either way, it was a success.
I had to include this generous cutie (my niece) offering me her pumpkin.
To wrap this up, I just want to offer a reminder to us all. There’s nothing wrong with toys, participating in team sports, or structured play. They all offer benefits of their own, but let’s not sacrifice free play for these things. Perhaps some evaluation is needed if time can’t be found to simply let them do their thing. Natural play requires children to come up with their own ideas, use their creativity, and, in a group setting, learn cooperation skills.
Sadly, I think a lot of young adults today don’t possess good decision making or coping skills because from early in their life everything was scheduled for them and they were always told what to do. It might seem counterintuitive to us adults, but free, true play prepares children for adulthood.
And makes happy kids.
Supply list for the sensory bin:
*This list contains affiliate links. If you click on them and ultimately make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. This costs you nothing and helps keep this site running. You can read my full disclosure policy here.*
Container: Any container will do. The specific bin I used is the Sterilite brand (15 quart, with stadium blue latches, 16.5" long X 13" wide X 6.625" tall). I got it at Wal-Mart in their plastic storage bin aisle. I have found that in-store prices beat online, but it may be different for you. Generally, the Sterilite brand is cheaper than it's competitors. I have also used these Rubbermaid food containers (specifically this kind) I think they are the most cost effective, if you need to purchase new bins. I had to go with something larger for the bin highlighted in the post because of the amount of stuff it had to contain.
Corn Kernels: I got mine at Aldi for a little over a dollar. They only carry them seasonally, but any grocery store will have them.
Leaves: I don't remember where I got my leaves. The most likely candidates are Dollar Tree or Dollar General around fall time. I'm not even sure what year I bought them. Here's a selection of similar leaves. You can use real leaves, too. I didn't because I had these, and real leaves crumble.
Cinnamon Sticks: You can get these at the grocery store, but they are much cheaper if you purchase them as a craft item when buying in-person. I got mine in the Christmas area of Hobby Lobby when it was all 40% off (which is basically every day). I just happened to notice them and knew it was a descent price and I needed some. I'm sure Michael's and other craft stores have similar deals. Here are some, if you can't make it out or don't have a craft store close by.
- Pumpkins: They came from Hobby Lobby. The fall stuff was 40% off the same day as the Christmas stuff (of course). Here are some cute alternatives. There are some pumpkins shown in the link that look just like mine. Here are some other nifty things I stumbled upon when trying to find those pumpkins.
- Miniature Hay Bales: Dollar Tree in the fall is a great place to get cheap sensory bin fillers, and that's where I got the miniature hay bales. I found something similar (FloraCraft straw bale), if you can't or won't go to Dollar Tree or they're not currently carrying them.
- Wood Slices: Another Hobby Lobby Christmas find. It's cheapest to just cut your own or go get some twigs, but I liked the way these looked and the sides are planed (less likely to give babies splinters). Here are several alternatives, but be sure to read the descriptions and pay attention to the size and finish.
- Farm Figures: I used Safari Ltd.'s Farm, Farm Babies, and Down On The Farm Toobs. I got at least two of the sets at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon; I can't remember if that's where I got all of them. They are much cheaper than most other places when using the coupon. I'm sure Michael's offers a similar deal. I've also found some good deals on Toobs online through Rainbow Resource.
For more sensory bin inspiration, see my Pinterest board.