By Kresha Faber, Contributing Writer
These days, most of us are busy. Crazy busy.
Life is helter-skelter, to-do lists are never-ending, and we have to schedule dates with our spouse.
So in the midst of all the busyness, it’s vastly important to take time to do activities together as a whole family. Common activities strengthen family bonds and build a strong foundation for nurturing, communicative, healthy relationships. Could there be a better way to nourish joy in our families?
I’m also a firm believer that families who laugh together regularly can weather nearly any storm. And you can’t laugh together if you don’t spend good, quality time together!
So with that in mind, here are 10 fall-themed activities to do with YOUR family this autumn. May the joy in your family be nourished!
1. Go Apple Picking
This one may be ubiquitous, but it can be delightfully fun and very easy no matter what the age of your children.
Once you bring your bounty home, make it a family activity to wash the apples and cut them up, then together make your family’s favorite apple treats or stock the freezer: apple pie, apple pie filling, apple crisp, apple “groaning” muffins, apple crumble bars, or even honey caramel apples. Roll up your sleeves, put on your favorite music, and have a blast!
2. Do a Service Project Together
Whether you want to help those in need in your community via an organization (a food bank, drop-in center, soup kitchen, Meals on Wheels, or a church) or less formally (delivering a meal to a neighbor in need or picking up litter in your neighborhood), make time to volunteer as a whole family. Service is a wonderful way for children and young adults to begin to engage in a lasting practice of helping the community.
Volunteering as a family can happen any time of year, but many organizations request extra volunteers during the fall as they prepare for a season of higher demand for their services through the winter. Also, some organizations, such as soup kitchens, may need extra hands for serving on holidays, such as Thanksgiving.
3. Visit a Farm
Visiting a farm during harvest season while the weather is beautiful can be incredibly rewarding – you get a real picture of the crops and methods used to grow food, which helps your kids be able to picture where their food comes from.
However, due to the busy harvest season, most farms are exceedingly busy through the fall, so many don’t accommodate visitors. However, there are an increasing number of farms that host “farm days” or have standing “visiting hours,” so find a farm you’d like to visit in your area and see if they host tours, have a farm stand, or if they have a “u-pick” pumpkin patch.
4. Take a Drive Through a Rural Area
Pack a picnic and don’t allow any iPods, video games, DVD’s, or other distractions along the drive. Encourage kids to look for something new and depending on the length of your meander, play road games together (I Spy, find the alphabet in order, 20 Questions, etc). The key here is to enjoy each other and enjoy the scenery.
5. Take a Nature Walk Together
Hold hands, skip, tell stories, or create a scavenger hunt by looking for autumnal items, such as red leaves, a tree with no leaves, rakes, pumpkins, acorns, squirrels, geese, etc.
At Home Activities
6. Do a Creative Project Together
For younger children, make several batches of homemade play dough in autumnal colors (e.g. yellow, orange, red, brown, black) and gather the whole family for a creative modeling spree. (See options for natural food dyes if you’re wanting to avoid commercial food coloring.) Add a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or cocoa powder for autumnal scents if desired.
For older children, do more sophisticated projects, like learn how to whittle, make survival bracelets, or work a jigsaw puzzle together.
Whatever it is, be creative together and enjoy each other.
7. Rake Leaves Together and Enjoy a Warm Treat
Celebrate the accomplishment of your common task! Honey Caramel Apple Cider or hot chocolate are perennial favorites.
8. Build a Scarecrow
Make a scarecrow together using at least one piece of clothing from every family member. This can be especially fun if you find old pieces of clothing that have a story or a special memory attached to them. And this can be extra-fun if you together take advantage of #3 above first (visit a farm) and are able to bring home a couple of bales of straw to stuff the clothes and set around as props.
9. Make an Autumnal Themed Dinner
Your meal can be centered around a seasonal food, such as apples or pumpkins, or around a fall event, such as back-to-school, harvest, or giving thanks. This could also be themed around a character trait you’d like to instill or nurture in your children, such as serving others or compassion.
For example, Thanksgiving and Christmas are difficult holidays for some rather than celebratory (“Blue Christmas”), so in late autumn/early winter, make a “Blue Dinner”. Make all blue foods (blue mashed potatoes, anyone?), set the table all in blue, and discuss ways to bring comfort, grace, and cheer to those who are having a “Blue Christmas.”
10. DIY Audiobook
Cozy evenings inside on a chilly autumn night can be truly delightful. Curl up with blankets and hot chocolate and choose a book from classic literature that (at least partially) takes place in the fall and read the entire thing out loud as a family over the course of a week or two.
Have all the literate members of the house take turns reading and younger children can draw pictures of what they hear in the story if they need help focusing (please note: some of the books recommended below for young adults may not be appropriate to be read aloud if there are significantly younger siblings present).
This is not only a great way to enjoy each other’s company, but it’s also a great way to allow topics you’d like to discuss with your children to come to light – issues of good and evil, of making wise and foolish decisions, of the influence of friends, of love and romance, of honor, of truth and lies, etc etc etc.
Book ideas (please add your book ideas in the comments!):
For young adults:
- The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
For older children:
- The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
For younger children (assuming they are old enough to sit and listen to a chapter book):
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
- The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- Charlotte’s Web or The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler