Free Fall Activities for Parents and Children
With six kids at home and only one income, I am always looking for fun activities to do with my family that don't cost a lot of money. I also really like those activities to be a little educational, so I love this time of year. There are so many cheap and even free options for family time. Here are a few of our favorite things to do this time of year.
Visit a Nature Center or State Park
Many areas have Nature Centers that are completely funded by the state's Game and Fish Commission. These places are great to visit anytime of year, but autumn is especially fun. They usually offer special workshops where kids can learn a little more about wildlife and conservation. There is usually a nice wooded area, so hiking is an option. My kids love our local nature center, because it has several aquariums and herpetariums full of fish, lizards, and snakes.
State parks are also fun to explore. Try to make a few visits. Visit right before the leaves start to change and make sure to point out the trees full of green, lush leaves. Make another couple of trips after the trees get their autumn colors. Finally, try to visit at the end of the season when the trees are nearly bare. Take a camera and pick a tree to photograph your child with each trip. You'll have a record of the tree's change, and the photos will make a great addition to scrapbooks and a cheap keepsake of your time together. If your children are fairly small, they probably won't remember previous years so this could be an exciting experience for them. If there are no nature centers or state parks around, just go to the park or for a walk or maybe even the backyard.
Jump in the Leaves
A rake, a pile of leaves, and a crisp autumn day can be the perfect recipe for family fun. I know, ideally, we rake those leaves so that our yards look nice, but why not have a little free family fun first? Piles of leaves just beg to be jumped in and what fun memories you can make with them. Make sure that mom and dad jump and roll around in those leaves, too. Maybe the kids will even have mercy on you and help rake the leaves back into a pile after the fun is over.
Okay, so it isn't free, but you have to eat anyway, right? If there are no burn bans in effect and you have a safe place for a bonfire, a weenie roast with just your family can be a lot of fun. Just make sure to have marshmallows on hand and follow all the safety guidelines.
Grab a basket and your favorite little people and go acorn collecting. It's a fun opportunity to teach the kids about squirrels and gathering for the winter. Acorns make great math manipulatives, too. Acorns are edible, too. People drink acorn coffee and use it to make flour. A little foraging and a trip to the kitchen might be fun for the adventurous family.
Look for Mushrooms
I'm not brave enough to eat a wild mushroom, but I know there are several edible ones ready to eat this time of year. Be very careful if you decide to add mushrooms to dinner, but it can be fun to go on a mushroom hunt. My kids and I have a look but don't touch policy. We are big Smurf fans, so the kids like to pretend they've discovered Smurf Village. Imagination is a wonderful thing, and it is free, too.
An Animal Trail
We live in the country, and nothing excites my kids more than seeing a wild deer or, as it is more often, deer tracks. This time of year is great for taking walks. Spend some time looking down. The kids will get excited when you discover animal tracks, and you'll be the hero of the moment. Deer, raccoon, or even canine tracks will be fun for little ones to discover. Libraries are great free resources, too, so go check out a book or two on wildlife to read together beforehand.
After a fun adventure outside, bring the fun in the house with some Fall art projects. Collect leaves to turn into works of art. The kids will love crushing leaves and glueing them onto their "trees" or doing a leaf rub with a pencil and tracing paper. You'll get some wonderful, seasonal refrigerator art, too.
Fall gives so many options for family activities that don't break the family budget, so have fun coming up with things to do with your kids. If you have some fun fall family traditions that I didn't mention please share them in the comments section.