Category: Family Activities & Outings

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip

When the calendar switches to September, I immediately begin planning our fall family outings: apple-picking, visiting the pumpkin patch, hiking local nature trails, driving to see the changing leaves, and more!

One of my intentions here at Rolling Prairie Readers is making learning fun for all families. The easiest way to do that is to include more family field trips in your calendar. While it can be tricky to fit one more thing on your to-do list, my suggestion is one family adventure each quarter. If that goes well, you can always add more trips as your schedule allows.

Now that we have moved to the Midwest, we are able to experience more “seasonal” activities.  When I mentioned I’d like to go apple-picking, a quick Internet search brought up several orchards within an hour of our house.


(If you don’t have an apple orchard near your town, keep reading to the end! I have lots of fun family ideas, including re-creating an apple-picking experience at home.)


Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

Last year, we visited Center Grove Orchard, close to Ankeny, Iowa.

The orchard offers a large variety of fun, fall, farm activities. On this trip, we decided to focus on picking apples. We took a tractor-pulled hayride out to the orchard, where we purchased our bag and got a list of the varieties available for picking.

We enjoyed seeing all the different types of apple trees in various stages of growth. Some of the trees were quite mature, while others were really young. We picked 15 apples from five trees: McIntosh, Gala, Blondee, Crimson Crisp, and Jonathan.

Before we left Center Grove Orchard, we made a stop at the restaurant to get a small treat (pie for me, turnover for my husband, and apple cider donuts for the girls) and purchase some apple butter for the fall!

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

Apple-Picking | Fall Family Field Trip Ideas | fun family activities, things to do, learning ideas, apple orchard, family adventures, Center Grove Orchard

If you are you are planning on taking your family apple-picking this fall, here are some tips and learning activity ideas.

Before Apple-Picking:

  • Check out apple-themed books from your library. (Here’s our book list, Best Apple Books for Kids.)
  • Visit pickyourown.org for a list of apple orchards nearby.
  • Look at a map with your child and choose a route to get there.
  • Discuss the measurement terms “bushel” and “peck.”

During Apple-Picking:

  • Discuss different parts of an apple and its tree.
  • Compare and contrast types of apples available.
  • Count apples as you pick them.
  • Talk about what an apple tree needs to produce fruit.
  • Meet orchard employees and learn more about the work they do.
  • Make a list of products that come from apples.
  • Watch an apple cider demonstration (or watch this video when you get home).

After Apple-Picking:

  • Set up a taste test of the different apple varieties.
  • Make a chart of attributes about each of the apples tried.
  • Cook a tasty treat together.
  • Plant apple seeds and watch them grow.

If you don’t live near an apple orchard, you can still do many of these activities! Go to the grocery store, choose several different varieties of apples, and set up a “tasting” on a picnic blanket in your yard or at the park.


40 fun family activities: apples | simple learning ideas for toddlers and preschoolers, learning at home

Looking for even more apple-themed learning ideas for your toddler or preschooler?

Get the first week of our Ultimate Family Activity Guide absolutely FREE!

Solar Eclipse Tips and Resources for Kids

Solar Eclipse Tips and Resources for Kids

If you’re like me, your newsfeed is FULL of news and updates about the upcoming U.S. solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st. There’s a lot of information out there, so I wanted to grab the “best of the best” for all of you to peruse quickly before Monday.

We like to use major events like these to pique our girls’ interest in new ideas (like the solar system!) and go deeper in our learning while interest is high.

What is a solar eclipse, and why is it such a big deal?

This video from SciShow Kids explains it perfectly!

How can I watch it (safely)?

If you live in this zone, you’ll be able to see some or all of the eclipse in your own yard!

Map of the 2017 solar eclipse, courtesy of NASA
Source: NASA

If you’re not able to see it outside, be sure to check out this live stream!

Know the Risks, Don’t Peek!

Note: Some scientists are disputing Dr. Schecter’s post, so use caution and make the best decision for your family. 

Helpful Idea to Try with Kids:


Other Ways to Watch the Solar Eclipse:

Learn more about the solar system with these great solar eclipse resources!

More Solar Eclipse Activities:

If your kids are like mine, they will likely be talking about the eclipse for days (or weeks!). Take advantage of their excitement to learn more about the sun AND take some time to preserve their memories of the day.

Solar System Book Recommendations | Solar Eclipse 2017

Book Recommendations:

My girls LOVE to read, so I always try to have a few non-fiction books available about the topic we’re studying. Visit your local library, or add a few new books to your collection. We have not found many eclipse-specific books, but are using the experience to learn more about the solar system in general. As an Usborne Books & More Consultant, I recommend these five great books:

Big Book of Stars and Planets from Usborne Books & More

The Solar System from Usborne Books & More

Sun, Moon, and Stars from Usborne Books and More

100 Things to Spot in the Night Sky from Usborne Books & More
Technically not a book, but a box of information cards.

Secrets of Our Earth from Usborne Books & More

Additional Resources:

  • NASA has set up a homeschool section on their solar eclipse website, including family activities and lesson plans for all ages.
  • I will continue to update this post as new resources become available!
5 Free Invitations to Play: Red, White, and Blue

5 Free Invitations to Play: Red, White, and Blue

It’s hard to believe that we are already in the middle of summer! If your kids are anything like my kids, the bickering has started and you are on the hunt for simple, FUN activities too keep their hands and minds busy for at least part of the day.

I am excited to share our all-new red, white, and blue invitations to play!

Scroll down for our freebie!

In case you missed the introduction to our invitation to play series (click here), let me give you a brief introduction to how we structure these fun, simple activities at our house.  

Lunch has ended, it’s raining outside, and you’re looking for a screen-free way to fill up some time so you can send an e-mail, unload the dishwasher, or (gasp!) read a book without being interrupted.

An invitation to play is an easy, open-ended activity that uses just a few materials found around the house. Keeping these activities set aside for special times keeps them interesting and intentionally engaging for when you need 10-15 minutes to get something else done! Best of all, these simple materials can be mixed and matched for countless other activities throughout the year.

This week, I have a freebie for you: a download with FIVE simple invitations to play, including a materials list!


Here’s a sneak peek at the activities:

  • Drop cut straw pieces into an empty Parmesan cheese container
  • Playdough* with colored gems & straw pieces
  • Sorting red & blue pom poms by color
  • Count pom poms and match to Uno cards (1-9)
  • Lace red and blue noodles* on a string

* Be sure to download the freebie for our favorite playdough recipe AND directions for dyeing noodles.


Grab your 5 FREE 4th of July learning activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarten students. | red, white, and blue | learning at home, tot school, July 4th, hands-on learning

Just fill out this quick form to let me know you want the freebie!


Melissa @ Rolling Prairie Readers

Don’t forget to share this freebie with your friends. Hit the Facebook button below or pin this image:

Grab your 5 FREE learning activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarten students. | red, white, and blue | learning at home, tot school, July 4th, hands-on learning