What to do during this magical season
What does autumn in Ayrshire bring to mind for you? Is it woodland walks with your family through crunchy, colourful leaves? Brisk walks on the beach in cosy clothes? Or do you like to spend time with the kids crafting, cooking, or reading?
One thing most children look forward to is Halloween. When mine were younger, excitement reached fever pitch, with their school chat all about what to dress up as, where to go guising and which house had the best pickings for a sassy joke! Mind you, I had boys, and they love a bit of cheek.
The change of season from summer to autumn has been marked in Scotland for thousands of years. Before the scary costumes and sugary treats of modern Halloween, our Celtic forebears celebrated the ancient tradition of Samhain, a pagan festival marking the end of summer and the harvest and to prepare for winter.
It was also a time when they believed that the boundary between the real world and the world of ghosts and fairies was at its weakest and that the power of bonfires and turnip lanterns would cleanse and give protection to their homes. No wonder it has captivated the imagination of children for generations since!
For someone like me, it’s a gift to have an excuse to engage with my imagination and in our increasingly connected yet disconnected world where we’re all glued to screens, this new season offers an opportunity for some good old-fashioned family at-home time. There’s got to be a healthy balance after all!
Why not propose a digital detox and get your family together to celebrate Samhain for just one night this autumn? Persuade your own little zombies to ditch their screens and you could embrace some simple activities that will bring you all closer, make for some great memories and decrease stress for everyone.
Here are some ideas of things to do:
This is a lovely activity to do with very young children – it’s so easy to do. If, for some reason, you’ve never done it before, simply place a leaf beneath paper and gently rub over it with crayons. It’s amazing to see nature’s intricate designs emerging. If you want to go further, children love cutting out the leaves, assigning one to each member of their family, and sticking them to a fresh sheet to make a family tree.
If your children are older, or in their teens, it’s a more absorbing creative challenge to get some wire, fashion it into a circle, and gather and attach lots of beautiful, dried leaves, flowers, pinecones, and berries to make a handsome autumn wreath for the front door. There are lots of professional supplies available in art stores if you want to get really crafty!
Do your kids like to pick brambles in the autumn? It can be lots of outdoor fun and will keep them busy for hours, but after you’ve filled a couple of tubs, what on earth do you do with all that fruit? To make a simple cranachan dessert, all you need to do is layer their stash with whipped cream, honey, and toasted oats. They will love serving it to you.
In my village, folk leave tubs of apples in their front garden with an invitation to help yourself. It’s one of the joys of living in a village and has always reminded me that there are lots of kind people in the world. You might not live in a village, but apples are abundant at this time of year. Core them, fill them with a blend of oats, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Bake them in the oven and serve them with vanilla ice cream – amazing.
Stories to Share
It’s such an easy thing to do, but the more you read to your children, the happier and smarter they will grow up to be. It’s a scientific fact. Not only that, but they’ll always remember reading as a very special time you spent together. Darker nights are an opportunity to get them to bed early, cosy up and enjoy some magical stories.
Here are some of my old favourites for some autumn inspiration:
Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Autumn Story from Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Or why not try a new book and support a very talented local lad? A Passing of Shells: 50 Fifty-word Poems is by Ayr’s very own Simon Lamb and has been illustrated by the famous Chris Riddell. This collection of poems is warm, witty, and perfect for sharing with little ones; many have autumn themes and will make them smile and laugh out loud. Signed copies are available at Waterstones in Ayr.
Getting out and about
We’re very lucky in Ayrshire, with so many spectacular beaches, riverside walks, and parks all around us. At this time of year, it’s nice to get cosy, but it’s equally lovely to step outside and appreciate fresh air, changes in colour and the beauty of nature. If you’d like some fresh inspiration on where to go, take a look at www.destinationsouthayrshire.com, www.east-ayrshire.gov.uk, or www.north-ayrshire.gov.uk to discover the best nature trails, community events and places to visit.