Monday, September 3, 2012

Fall Family Activity Ideas

Our family in fall, 2009

Fall is my favorite season.  Even though it is coupled with school starting, I love the promise of crisp weather, football games, apples and baked goods, pumpkins, crafting afternoons and Starbuck's flavored coffees.  Now that I have kids, I have enjoyed introducing them to the fun aspects of fall, and I thought I'd share some ideas with you too!

Pumpkin Math--
I used to do this with my third grade students, but now that my son is in first grade, I can start doing this with him too.  Buy your harvest pumpkin and create a chart where you estimate the circumference of the pumpkin, the weight of the pumpkin, and the number of seeds you think might be inside.
After you all make your guesses/estimates, measure the circumference, weigh the pumpkin and carve the pumpkin--counting the seeds inside.  You can have a small prize for the winner of pumpkin math.

Family Pumpkin Decorating Contest--
We don't always carve our pumpkins.  Last year we did a black glitter monogram on our pumpkin.  If you have older kids, you can have each person decorate their pumpkin (you can even have a theme) by carving/painting/glittering/etc. and then hold a contest.  All the family pumpkins on the porch can begin a fun family tradition.  If you have younger kids, you can draw a pumpkin on paper and have them decorate the paper.  Have a coloring/decorating contest and put all the "entries" on the fridge or family bulletin board.
Pumpkins don't have to be carved to be festive and fun!
Neighborhood Fall Scavenger Hunt--
When I had just a young toddler, I would break up the day with neighborhood walks.  We would walk SLOWLY, so we started noticing all the lawn decorations, leaves, door wreaths and pumpkins.  Each day we would look forward to seeing all the fall decor markers at each house.  We would even see who could find the prettiest fall leaf each day.
If your kids are older, make a list of things you have to find on a neighborhood walk or run.  Make a list with wreaths, pumpkins (whole or carved), a black cat, a lawn scarecrow, leaves of various colors, corn husks, and any other decor that might be in your neighborhood.  See who can find the most items on the list!

Make Leaf Garlands--
Real or die cut leaves can make a pretty garland to decorate the border of your door or the banister of your stairway.  Plus, it is a craft that even my two boys would do with me.

Pumpkin Patches--
My boys count down to pumpkin patches all year long.  We have a free, community patch that has rides (those cost money), animals and tons of pumpkins.  When my oldest was very small, he just wanted to come sit on hay bales, look at the giant pumpkins, and feed the animals.  Now he wants to go on rides, but it is still tons of fun to take pictures on the hay bales and see who can find the largest, ugliest, or most perfect pumpkin.
A regional park near us also has a pumpkin patch, including a hay maze.  There is nothing more perfect than little boys running and giggling through a hay maze.  We love it.

Cooking with Apples--
Apple Cider is SO easy.  Have  a cooking and bonding time where you measure cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar into some apple juice.  It will make your house smell so good on a chilly day.
Apple Sauce is also very easy to make, and it is a favorite of kids.  Again, your house will smell delicious.
I also like to dip caramel apples with the kids and make them a special treat.  Who doesn't like caramel apples?

Thanksgiving Tree--
We buy the trees from Oriental Trading Company, but you can make your own.  Have a brown trunk and branches on your wall or door and have each family member add leaves each day that tell for what things they are thankful.  By the time you get to Thanksgiving, you have a beautiful, full tree covered in autumn leaves and notes of gratitude.
Here is the Thanks vertical garland we used last year instead of our traditional thanks tree.  You can read my tutorial here.

Our traditional tree on the inside of our front door. . .

Apple Picking--
Even in Southern California, we have apple orchards somewhat nearby.  A lot of the bigger apple picking places have gold panning and mine tours as well.  What screams fall more than apple picking?  Take a day to pick apples, eat warm apple pie from a bakery and do a photo tour around a historical town.  We love Julian, in Southern California. 

Watch a football game AT the stadium--
Whether you go to a college game or just your local high school game, take a fall night with your family to go watch a football game.  I love the sound of the marching band drums, the chants of the cheerleaders, the clap of the players hitting one another, and the cheers from the crowd.  I have such great memories of going to high school games to watch my oldest sister cheer.  It inspired me to be a cheerleader when I was in high school and to still love chilly, fall nights at a football game.  Take a Friday night and try it together!

Whatever activities you do, make family traditions that you can look forward to doing together, year after year.  Children love to know there are traditions in your family that you will do again and again.  Fall is a perfect season to make this happen!

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