Autumn is a time to be spent outdoors. The days are cooling off, and Mother Nature is decorating with glorious shades of reds, yellows, and burnt oranges. When it comes to entertaining the kids, outside is the place to be, especially when looking to save a few pennies.
Pumpkin projects: Set up a backyard arts and crafts center with petite pumpkins, gourds, various squashes, and let them paint. If you're feeling really brave, set up a pumpkin carving stand, complete with aprons, carving tools and brave adults. Provide stencils for carving ideas, or let them carve free-hand.
Bobbing for apples: Kids (and adults) love bobbing for apples. Fill up a food safe galvanized bucket, fill with apples and let them go to town. Keep a chalk leaderboard to see who gets the apple with the least attempts and then crown them king of the apples, complete with a crown made of aluminum foil! To keep everyone nice and dry, head to the dollar store and pick up a few ponchos to have on hand.
A big pile of leaves: Who doesn't remember jumping into large piles of leaves as a child? The only downside is the leaves spreading all over the yard again. Keep little rakes on hand so when the leaves are everywhere, a game can be made up so they can use them over and over again. Find out who can rake the biggest pile, or who can get the most leaves in one swipe. All sorts of fun can come from this and really lets the kids use their imagination.
Scavenger hike: Set up a scavenger hunt combined with a trail hike. Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt, and you'll have even more to add to your list with the bounty of nature around you. Who can find a yellow, orange, and red leaf? Can anyone find a green leaf? How many acorns can you find on the ground? Can you find one still with a perfect cap? Maybe you live in a part of the country where there are migratory birds or Monarch butterflies. With a little imagination and a smidge of research, you can create a list that will be fun for the kids and a challenge for the grown-up helpers, too.
Make a scarecrow: Go to the thrift store for clothes and use old pantyhose to hold the stuffing inside—a pair for the legs and a pair for the arms and head. (Cut holes in the feet for the top of the body so that the hay sticks out for hands. Knot the waistband for the head and stuff from the bottom.) Make sure you have lots and lots of hay. The only tough choice will be where to put him once he's done.
Chilly nights: Staying warm can be an issue when it starts to get chilly at night, and if you aren't held back by local regulations, a campfire is a wonderful way to add warmth to your backyard. Chimineas or a propane-powered heater are fantastic for keeping little fingers warm. Drape throws around the chairs or pile them into a basket so that you have plenty on hand for frosty little shoulders. Since they will be ready for a snack after a day in the fresh air, add the makings of s'mores, trail mix and hot apple cider for a festive treat.
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