As the days begin to shorten and a crispness penetrates the air, as school buses populate the streets and the scent of pumpkin spice can be found, well, everywhere, the signs are clear. It’s time to have some fall family fun.
Regular traditions are so important to family life and a sense of wellbeing in our kids. They provide a sense of predictability and security, they make for lifetime memories, and are a way to bond and maintain a strong sense of family identity.
After the summertime, when schedules and routines are thrown out the window and the mindset is one of freedom and unpredictability, the fall provides a welcome contrast. Routines resume and the familiar drop in temperature and change in foliage signal that recognizable sense of what’s to come.
From harvest-time traditions to Halloween and everywhere in between, the autumn provides many opportunities to enjoy family traditions and togetherness.
So, grab your pumpkin latte, snuggle into your favorite sweatshirt, and think about these 16 activities to enjoy this and every fall with your family.
Take in the Leaves
Mother Nature puts on quite a show this time of year and there are a plethora of ways to appreciate this beautiful change in nature.
1. Collect the leaves. Get out there to enjoy the colors. There is no better time than a clear, fall day for a nature walk. As the leaves fall, collect them with your family for crafting and decorating at home.
2. Jump in the leaves! Rake up a giant pile when the time is right and jump in with your kids!
3. Make leaf rubbings—the original leaf craft. Place a leaf under a piece of paper. Gently shade over the area with a crayon. Watch the elements of the leaf appear to the delight of your kids.
4. Learn about leaves. Dive in deep with a full-fledged field guide for your area or check out this blogger’s free printable leaf identification cards, perfect for younger naturalists.
Pick Your Own
5. Go pumpkin picking. (Of course!) This rite of passage each fall makes way for future pumpkin carving, decorating, and eating.
6. Go apple picking, too. This is such a great activity for families to enjoy together and results in so many delicious treats later.
7. Keep picking! Other in-season produce that epitomize fall include winter squash, Brussels sprouts, pears, and grapes. Enjoy the harvest and get creative in the kitchen.
Hay is not just for horses, despite what you may have been told.
8. Enjoy a hay ride. It’s bumpy; it’s usually a bit smelly; sometimes it’s a little scary. But it’s a classic must-do activity your kids will remember fondly and likely share with their kids, too.
9. Decorate with hay. Bring some of the farm home no matter what setting you live in, with some decorative hay for the porch, or to go with the pumpkins you’ve picked, and perhaps a few colorful mums. Or put hay to work in your homemade scarecrow. This is a fun craft the whole family can do together, and one you can appreciate all season long.
10. Nothing says fall like the wafting aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon. Now that summer has gone, turn that oven back on, involve the kids, and whip up some homemade treats. Bake a pumpkin pie. Or an apple pie. Oooh! How about an apple crisp? Pumpkin muffins? The seasonal options are endless.
11. In the Fall? Yes! It’s time to plant your bulbs and a great time to establish a windowsill herb garden to enjoy throughout the colder months.
Take a Trip
12. Check foliage maps online like the one at http://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map/ for the best prediction of colorful leaves to enjoy in different parts of the country.
13. Or, you could go the other way, and visit a popular summer destination in the early off-season and basque in the lack of crowds and comfortable temperatures. Either way, fall is a great time to travel.
Take a Family Photo
14. Say cheese! Fall is a nice time to take an outdoor family photo. Whether you set up your tripod and do it yourself or hire a professional for your portrait, the weather makes it comfortable, the lighting is often conducive to a good shot, and you’ll have your photos just in time for your holiday cards.
Prepare Halloween Costumes
15. Halloween is around the corner. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, now’s the time to have the kids decide what they’ll be and start to gather the pieces to their costumes.
Head to a Festival
16. Visit your local harvest festival or check out some of the most popular ones in the U.S., like:
Nebraska City, NE
September 18th – 20th, 2015
Sonoma County Harvest Fair
Santa Rosa, CA
October 2-4, 2015
Bayfield Apple Festival
October 2-4, 2015
Stone Barns Harvest Festival
Pocantico Hills, NY
October 3, 2015
Santa Fe’s Harvest Festival
Santa Fe, NM
October 3-4, 2015
Cranberry Harvest Celebration
October 10-11, 2015
Hood River Valley Harvest Fest
Hood River, OR
October 16-18, 2015
Reading Terminal Market Harvest Festival
October 17, 2015
Harvest on the Harbor Festival
New Hampshire’s Pumpkin Festival 2015
October 24, 2015
North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival
November 5-7, 2015
Maine Harvest Festival
November 14-15, 2015
Here are some great ones in the New York area:
The Adirondack Balloon Festival
Glens Falls, NY and Queensbury, NY
September 17-20, 2015
Pumpkin Picking at Historic Richmondtown
Staten Island, NY
October 4, 2015
The Long Island Fall Festival
October 9-12, 2015
Harvest Fest and Pumpkin Patch
Queens Botanical Garden
October 18, 2015
Children’s Fall Festival
Queens County Farm Museum
October 25, 2015