By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Like no other time of year, transitions visibly manifest all around us in the autumn: the nights grow darker earlier; a chill that makes you grab a sweater fills the air; the leaves turn their magnificent colors then fall. For those of us who are parents, fall’s transitions are marked by a number of rituals that both help us notice our children’s growth and also take us back in time to our own childhood: buying back-to- school supplies; taking first day of school pictures; adjusting to new schedules, teachers and routines. Starting to pack away my children’s shorts and bathing suits and looking at their cold weather wardrobe, I marvel over how much they have grown over the summer. Who were the children who fit into the pants and jackets that I packed away last spring?

Fall is also a season of change, celebration and abundance. The Jewish holidays that come in the month of Tishrei (including Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah) offer opportunities to share old and new rituals with our children. But throughout this season, even when the holidays have faded, there are ways that we can slow down and experience autumn’s beauty with our children. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Celebrate the Harvest: I feel lucky that being Jewish gives me two opportunities to enjoy and appreciate the delicious foods of the fall harvest~Sukkot and Thanksgiving are both holidays when we can prepare and eat special foods with our children. Visit a farmer’s market and check out all of the funky squash and pumpkins that are available. My kids and I like the sensory fun of scooping out a pumpkin and roasting the seeds with olive oil and salt. There are so many wonderful places in our area to go apple picking, too, and baked apple slices are a fun and healthy treat. Whether it’s visiting a farm or trying a seasonal recipe, you and your little ones can start a new tradition to celebrate the harvest.
  2. Notice the Beauty of Nature: I was born and raised in Pennsylvania and even though I have occasional fantasies of living in Southern California, I could never give up the beauty of watching the trees turn colors around us. In our Jewish tradition, we have so much wisdom and appreciation for trees. This is a great season to help your children notice and appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Take an afternoon hike on the weekend or just point out the colors of the leaves as you drive or walk to and from your child’s school or daycare. Gather leaves that you find as you walk~great for crayon rubbings, pressing in a book, or making a nature collage. (Look for fun fall crafts on our pinterest boards!)
  3. Find the Quiet Moments in the Busy Day: Fall accelerates the pace of our life; juggling my children’s school schedules, lessons and activities with my own work and family schedule feels like it requires an engineering degree. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the busy pace of our contemporary life. I make an extra conscious effort to exhale during the transition time when I am reorganizing my brain and body to feel at home with our new schedule. Even if it’s reading a few pages while you wait in the carpool line or meeting a friend while you watch soccer practice, don’t forget to make some time just for you. If life feels just too busy, take a close look and see what activities you might be able to shift.
  4. Meet New Friends: Just like children get to return to school and see friends who they may have been separated from during the summer, fall is a great time for parents to make new connections and discover people who have similar interests and are raising kids around the same age. At jkidphilly, we love to create opportunities for parents to connect~if you’re interested in connecting with other parents raising Jewish kids, reach out to us so we can help to make those connections.
  5. Embrace Shabbat: Whether it’s getting your kids into jammies early on Friday night and ordering pizza or spending Shabbat in a more traditional way, the cozy Autumn weekends are ideal for carving out family time. Shabbat can be a morning walk together, going to a favorite Tot Shabbat (check our jkidphilly calendar for a Tot Shabbat in your area) or meeting another family at a playground. Our Jewish tradition gives us a wonderful way to carve out time each week just to be~and to be together. Children and parents need that together time so much.

Wishing you and your family a beautiful season full of connection, growth and celebration!