It is autumn, a season full of poetry that stimulates our imagination and our desire to be in contact with nature: the magic of woods full of multicolored leaves, a sun that is still warm, fresh air which invites you to play outside, the smell of the first fires, of burnt chestnuts and mushrooms. . .
Autumn can truly be discovered and appreciated by all five of our senses: from observing the leaves turning yellow, listening to them crackling under our feet, experiencing the wind on our skin, the scent of damp earth and the feel and taste of chestnuts, not forgetting the rain and jumping in puddles! How do your children feel about wearing sweaters and closed shoes after months of bare feet and sandals, or the shortening of the days? Autumn provides a great excuse to do something out of the ordinary: making a pumpkin cake, going to pick up and roast chestnuts, learning about mushrooms and truffles.
Let children experience autumn through art: drawings, paintings, music and poetry. Help your children experience familiar phenomena with new eyes: read together what poets say about autumn, how painters paints it, how photographers portrays it, what music the season inspires. Introduced to new stimuli, the children will find their own channels of expression. There are many such stimuli, from Vivaldi’s compositions to Arcimboldo’s paintings. I recently showed children how they can interpret Autumn through the styles of Van Gogh, Klee and Mondrian; discovering how artists unearth their own unique way of representing life can help children become more adventurous in their approach to drawing.
I also recommend finding time for the “scientific approach”, as children have an innate tendency to experiment and formulate hypotheses. Leaves can be collected, catalogued by shape or colour, or left to decompose; seeds can be planted to encourage an appreciation for the circle of life.
Autumn, like Spring, is a season of change; changes in the natural world can prompt children to wonder about change within them: routines change after the holidays, daily rhythms become more pressing, the morning alarm tells us it’s time for school. Thinking about ourselves against the backdrop of the natural world can be grounding; there is a simple principle at play: ‘as things happen outside, so they do within us’.
Children use analogies to help them understand both the world and themselves – they provide a way of visualising themselves in different situations. Returning to school is an opportunity to find an analogy which motivates them and gives meaning to what they do; rather than suggesting they have to go to school, just as you have to to go work, why not encourage them to identify with a seed that moves away from mother plant to start its new adventure on the way to becoming a tree.