When the weather starts to cool down, it's finally time to really take advantage of the backyard. Fall gives the whole family the chance to enjoy being outside without the intense heat of summer, with plenty of activities to keep everyone smiling and excited about the season's shift.
Doing activities at home as a family creates strong and lasting memories of delight, and gives everyone the opportunity to collaborate and bond as a team. As cooler months approach, try these activities to keep the family feeling ready to take on any change that comes along.
Make raking an activity rather than a chore! Have your little ones grab whatever tools you have to gather up those leaves, with a jump into the pile as an exciting (and often hilarious) reward. If you'd rather not get your kids' sweatshirts covered in leaves, let the activity stretch out by creating a labyrinth or fun design with the leaves instead. You can work on one project together, or mark off everyone's art section and present your masterpieces to each other.
If fall doesn't offer up much change in your region, you can still use the backyard as a place to connect with nature. Host your own at-home leaf-peeping session by having your young explorers find every type of leaf they can. From there, you can create a collage with the leaves, preserve them for all kinds of art projects, or give a simple lesson about seasons and why leaves change and drop elsewhere in the world.
No leaves within sight of your yard? Take a walk in your nearest park, or wherever you know there are some leaves to find, and collect some leaves together. Don't forget to grab cardigan sweaters for yourself and the kids if the temperature has begun to drop. Once you're home, you can do anything from tracing or drawing the leaves to decorating the leaves themselves and framing them to display your family's artwork.
Whether or not you plan to go trick-or-treating this year, you can always make the house fall-festive with seasonal throw pillows and other accents. One of the best ways to spice up your fall decor is with pumpkins, big or small. Take the family to the nearest pumpkin patch, and make sure everyone is wearing their best flannel shirts for that perfect fall photo opp.
If there aren't any patches nearby, or you'd just rather not, buy a few of varying sizes at the grocery store! In the end, it will be more engaging for your kids to get the green light to get messy in the backyard. Use paints you can easily wash out of clothing and let them go wild! Bring out the paintbrushes, sponges, stamps, and anything else that will help them get creative. Go for a theme (think: animals) or let their imaginations craft something totally new.
Pumpkin painting can be a good test run for other creative backyard activities. Keep an eye out for giggles or grumps — if there are mostly smiles out there, you've got a sure-fire signal to continue arts and crafts outdoors. Fresh air, family time, and freedom to get messy are all great balms for anyone, at any age. You can always try out other crafty outdoor activities, from painting pet portraits to marbling paper to use as gift wrap for the upcoming holiday season.
While the age of your kids will often dictate which games are chosen, there are so many ways to play outside. Find ways to make the backyard an extension of your everyday activities, from the simplest of joys like tag or Simon Says to more hands-on activities like potato sack races or obstacle courses. Some other ideas to consider are backyard scavenger hunts, Mother May I? or even just doing daily exercises outside. Playing catch, cornhole, or capture the flag are also fun ways to include everyone, regardless of age.
You can start with crafts in the morning, competitions in the afternoon, and end the day by camping out with the whole family. With everyone's personalized sleeping bags in tow, you can snack on s'mores, huddle by the fire pit, watch a movie on a projector, or gaze up at the stars and tell each other bedtime stories.
Family time is fun regardless of what time of year it is, or where you're spending that time. Your backyard is an easy and personal space to try out all the suggestions above, and more! Once you've found some family favorites, invite the neighbors over and share in the seasonal delights. If you've got a few families living nearby, consider doing a round-robin activity weekend, where each house hosts a specific activity. Kids get to play, and so do the adults!