A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Young child picking an apple off a tree

Unaltered image. Joseph Morris, Flickr. CC License.

Autumn is here! It’s a great season to awaken the five senses, and a wonderful time of year for the family to play outside together. At the apple orchard, there are so many activities children can do that require balance, strength, body awareness, and use of the five senses.

Start with a walk on the nature trail.

  • Have your child walk up and down hills and jump over sticks.
  • Bring your child’s attention to leaves on the trees. If the leaves have started to change color, ask your child what colors he sees.
  • Have your child squat down and pick up some leaves; it’s a good way to work your child’s leg muscles. Have him throw the leaves or make a pile and have him run through them. Ask him how they feel: wet, dry, smooth, crunchy? Ask him how they smell.

Pick some apples

  • Have your child look at the apple trees. Ask your child to reach for the ap­ples on the tree, which will get her to stand up on her tiptoes and reach high to get the apple.
  • Have your child twist it with her hand and pull it off. This is a great balance activity and also focuses on reaching and fine motor skills.
  • Fill a bag with apples, counting the apples and naming the colors as you put the apples in the bag.

Enjoy the scents and tastes

  • Ask your child to smell different goodies, such as apples, donuts, cider and pies. These are all great smells to help enjoy the day, and they taste really good, too.
  • Have your child try different flavored items and textures.

Play with hay

  • A hay bale maze can be great fun for hiding, running, jumping and climbing.
  • Some orchards have hay bales for climbing. Climbing to the top is good exercise.
  • Let your child jump from hay bale to hay bale. This takes a combination of strength and balance because he has to use a delicate balance of trunk and leg muscles or he’ll fall off the hay bale.
  • Have her jump down off a hay bale, where the ground is firmer. Next, have her jump into a pile of hay. Encourage her to feel the straw-like texture. It makes for a soft landing. Ask if she can feel the difference.
  • Have your child feel and smell the hay.

Pick a pumpkin

  • Let your child pick out a pumpkin, but ask him to carry it. It’s a good strengthening activity.
  • At home, clean out the pumpkin with your child and have him feel the gooey insides.
  • Have your child draw a face on the pumpkin and carve it with your help. It’s a unique and fun sensory and fine motor experience.

When taking a simple trip this fall, take time to appreciate all that you can see, smell, taste, touch, hear and do. Each adventure can be an incredible experience for a child, and as a parent, you have the opportunity to make these trips a great learning experience by bringing to your child’s attention the five senses and incorporating gross and fine motor skills.

– Amanda Froling, MPT, and Carol Julien-Buell, MPT, Pediatric Rehabilitation at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation

Picking Healthy With the Family: Pumpkins

Boy in pumpkin patch holding pumpkin

Fall is here! To me, fall is about three things: pumpkin spice lattes, leggings with boots, and most importantly, timeless moments spent with my family. I gather up my favorite recipes for things like homemade pumpkin pie, breads, muffins and even pumpkin ravioli! Seasonal recipes are always a favorite within families, yet many people may not know how amazingly healthy and pumpkins are in themselves.

When we visit Blake Farms, we make sure to stop at the pumpkin patch where we select our own pumpkins right from their birth places (although I feel as if the pumpkin is the one who chooses you).

Like apples, pumpkins come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. I enjoy growing my own pie pumpkins (the small, round ones) but you can certainly find these at most pumpkin patches, road side stands or cider mills as well. My daughter especially likes the little mini “baby” pumpkins used for decoration, while my boys boast over who found the biggest/most round/coolest looking pumpkin in the patch (and then leave me to do all the carving!).


While pumpkins are fun to decorate and carve, they are also really healthy (no that doesn’t give you an excuse to eat more pumpkin pie!). Almost all parts of the pumpkin are edible, too. In pumpkins, you will find:

  • Carotenoids. One example is beta-carotene, which is responsible for the bright orange color. The body converts this into a form of vitamin A that is beneficial to eyesight, especially in dim light.
  • Vitamin A – It’s good for sight, but also helps regulate and maintain the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of the RDA.
  • Polyphenols.  Just like in the apples, polyphenols or flavonoids are chemicals found in plants that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Vitamin C. A powerful antioxidant.
  • Vitamin E. This antioxidant has properties such as removing free radicals from the body.
  • A variety of B vitamins. Includes folate, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and B6. They are important for cell metabolism.
  • Minerals. Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, and Copper.
  • Dietary fiber. This keeps you full longer and gut healthy. It’s heart healthy and lowers LDL cholesterol.
  • Don’t forget those pumpkin seeds! The seeds also contain nutrients such as dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, protein, minerals and vitamins. Just 100g of seeds contain 110 percent of the RDA for iron, and also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that can help boost your mood by producing serotonin.

Wow! Who knew pumpkins were such a powerhouse of nutrients?

Selecting and Picking Your Pumpkin

As I mentioned before, pumpkins vary in appearance. Colors can range from red to yellow, and green to gray. They are closely related to squash and the names can be used interchangeably. The official “botanical classification” is actually based on the stem. Pumpkins have a more rigid, prickly stem that bends on an angle, while squash have more of a soft, rounded stem that flares where it attaches to the body. Here are some tips for selecting pumpkins at the orchard (or store) and storing them:

  • Look for a solid and attached stem that is dark green in color.
  • Make sure there are no soft spots or wrinkles.
  • Consistent coloring.
  • Listen for a “woody” sound when tapping on them.
  • If you are using your pumpkins as jack-o-lanterns, make sure they sit flat.
  • Never use the stem to pick up your pumpkin. You should always grab it by the body.
  • Pumpkin season ranges from September to November, with peak season in October.
  • Soak your gutted out pumpkin in a bath of ice water before carving. It will keep your pumpkin crisp for much longer when left outside.
  • Cut the bottom of your pumpkin out instead of the top so it stays upright as it gets old, instead of caving in.

Pumpkin Fun Facts

  • They are native to North America, and date back to 7000 and 5500 BC.
  • Antarctica is the only continent unable to grow pumpkins.
  • The biggest producer of pumpkins is the United States. Canada and Mexico are second and third, respectively.
  • There are 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins grown each year in the United States.
  • Illinois produces the most pumpkins, followed by Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.

– Joohi Schrader, is a nutrition and food science major at Wayne State University, a mother of three amazing children, and a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor. She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.



“Eight Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin”. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/04/pumpkin-health-benefits_n_1936919.html

National Institutes of Health: U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

Self Nutrition Data. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2601/2

Picking Healthy With the Family: Apples

Photo of 3 kids holding apples

Fall brings cooler temps and changing tree colors, but nothing says fall more than a trip (or few trips) to the cider mill.

Cider mills and orchards are a big part of our family tradition and have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I grew up with family who owned apple orchards in Mason County, so I was always around them. In fact, my great uncle used to own “Mason County Fruit Packers” or what I think is now called “Indian Summer”. My dad even worked there and I always had lots of apple juice and sauce around the house.  Being around cider mills (and even talking about them) makes me feel like a kid again!

Now that I have my own little family, every year my husband, kids and I go to various cider mills around our area. Sure, apples are available year round in most grocery stores, but there’s something special about going out together as a family and picking them fresh from a tree or farm. They just seem to taste so much better than the ones sitting under fluorescent lights in a grocery store.

Apples come in many sizes and colors. There are actually around 7,500 different varieties, with the United States growing 2,500 of those! The United States is second on the list of top producers of apples, with China as #1. You can find a decent variety at many u-pick cider mills and orchards, ranging from around five to more than a dozen different varieties.


Most people are aware that apples are nutritious. We all know the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” all too well. There’s a lot of truth to that statement! Apples are a low calorie treat, with no saturated fats or cholesterol; 100g of an apple contains only 50 calories. When eating apples, be sure to eat the peel as well, since most of the nutrients below are found there.

  • Vitamin C. Apples are loaded with vitamin C, which is needed for the growth and repair of your tissues. It’s also an antioxidant that can help your body develop tools to fight off infections. Further, it helps to find and eliminate harmful free radicals in your body that can lead to aging, and possibly cancer or heart disease.
  • “Phyto-nutrients” like polyphenols and flavonoids. If you’re not sure what polyphenols or flavonoids are, they are chemicals found in plants that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. More research is needed to see if they actually play a beneficial role in the body, but in cell cultures they are shown to be effective.
  • B vitamins. This group of vitamins includes riboflavin, thiamin and B6, which are all co-factors for cellular metabolism and synthesis. More simply put: they turn the food you eat into energy.
  • Minerals. Nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus and calcium, can help regulate body fluids and help control heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Dietary fiber. Also known as insoluble fiber or “roughage.” This is a carbohydrate that slows digestion and allows you to feel fuller longer, helping you control your weight. It increases stool bulk and aids in preventing constipation.
  • Pectin. This soluble fiber draws water from your intestinal tract and forms a gel to also slow digestion. It helps prevent the body from absorbing LDL (bad) cholesterol leading to the prevention of coronary heart disease. Pectin is also thought to keep your intestinal flora healthy and in check, which means better nutrient break down, absorption and ability to fight off any viruses of bad bacteria.

Selecting and Picking Your Apples

Metro Detroit offers many locations for fresh apple picking. Our personal favorite is Hy’s Cider Mill in Romeo, Blake Farms in Armada, and Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills. Here are a few tips when selecting and picking your apples:

  • Look for firm, bruise-free apples.
  • Ripeness is not color dependent.
  • Apples ripen from the outside of the tree to the center.
  • Apples on the sunny side of the tree ripen first.
  • To pick an apple from the tree: Roll the apple upwards towards the branch and twist. Don’t pull straight down. If the apple falls, it’s fine!
  • Apples stop ripening once they’re picked.
  • To store apples : Keep them at room temperature for a few days, or store them in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. Apples also like to be kept in the cool garage or basement.
  • Don’t wash them until they are ready to be eaten.

Fun Apple Facts (That even I didn’t know!)

  • Apples are members of the rose family.
  • The study of apples is called pomology.
  • Lady apples are the oldest variety still in existence.
  • Apples originated in an area between the Caspian and Black Sea.
  • Pilgrims planted the first apple tree in Massachusetts.
  • In 2006–2007, 44,119,244 metric tons of apples were grown.
  • It takes 36 apples to make 1 gallon of cider.
  • A “Peck” = Approximately 10.5 lbs.
  • A “Bushel” = About 42 lbs.
  • They are grown in all 50 states.
  • Eight percent of all apples commercially available are grown in Michigan.
  • Apples are ranked #1 in antioxidant activity compared to 40 other available fruits and vegetables.
  • Red delicious most commonly grown variety in the United States.
  • Indians in the northwestern territory smoked apples to preserve them for the winter.

To find a cider mill or U-pick near you, visit pickyourown.org. It’s a great site that also includes recipes, and other interesting info on fruits and vegetables.

Where does your family like to go apple picking? Do you have a fall family tradition or recipe to share? I’d love to hear about it!

– Joohi Schrader, is a nutrition and food science major at Wayne State University, a mother of three amazing children, and a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor. She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.



“Apple Picking Tips”.  http://www.pickyourown.org/applepicking.htm

“Five Health Benefits of an Apple”.  http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/5_health_benefits_of_an_apple

National Institutes of Health: U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

Self Nutrition Data. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2