Lovely fall days are made for jumping in the leaf pile, choosing the perfect pumpkin and drinking apple cider. They should also remind us to think ahead to winter and what our family might need for outdoor activities. Have your family sit down and make a list of which outdoor winter activities they want to participate in this year. Then make a list of the clothing and equipment needed for each family member.

Take time now — while the weather is still mild — to check on the size and condition of winter outerwear such as coats, hats, gloves, and boots for each person. If you are like most families, there will be at least one child who has outgrown all of their gear and you will want to plan now to watch for sales to outfit them for winter. As you check through your closets, make a note of any items that need cleaning, repair, or replacement before winter.

If boots or coats that have been outgrown are still in good shape, pass them down to a younger sibling, a neighbor, or donate them to a community program for those in need.

If you find yourself in need of help, Community Hospital’s Coats of Caring distribution will be this Saturday, October 21, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Anderson High School. I am thankful to live in a community that cares for its own with programs like Coats of Caring, the United Way of Madison County’s Operation Weatherization, and various local food banks.

Once you have made sure everyone will be warm while playing outdoors this winter, take time to enjoy the fall weather. The earlier sunset times mean that even the youngest members of the family can stay up to watch the sun set and the first stars come out. Fall offers both unique daytime and nighttime activities. As the earth shifts back to the winter part of its orbit, some of the constellations you looked for during the summer will change their locations in the sky. Younger children are often amazed at just how big the moon looks when it rises in the fall and the curvature of the atmosphere magnifies it. Go back to that favorite tree your family found this spring and check to see what color its leaves are turning.

If your children want to make leaf rubbings for Thanksgiving decorations, now may be their last chance to get good ones before the leaves dry out and crumble underfoot. If they find a few small colorful leaves they want to preserve for a while, try making a stained glass style sun catcher with clear contact paper, construction paper, and some string.

Remind your children that there is always something happening in the natural world right outside your door for them to watch and draw for their nature notebooks. Then rake that leaf pile up high and join them in jumping in — just for fun!

Carol Emmert lives in Anderson. She is a founding director of Heart of the River Coalition.