1. Gawk at gigantic pies and thousand-pound pumpkins at local harvest shows.
Boggle your kids’ minds with the fourteen-foot diameter pie and the thousand-plus-pound pumpkins on display at the annual Circleville Pumpkin Show in Central Ohio. If you’re too far away to attend the Pumpkin Show, check out your state’s tourism site for a listing of fall festivals in your area, or check out this list of the 10 Best Harvest Festivals in America.
2. Get creative with free crafting classes at Michaels and Hobby Lobby.
3. Register kids 5 and under for free at the Color Run.
Cooler weather is great for mini fun runs like The Color Run! Little runners 5 and under can register for free (without a participation packet), or parents can pay a super-low fee for the full kit. Participation kits vary by location, so check out the event listing at ColorRun.com for more dates and more information.
4. Attend free workshops at The Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Home improvement stores often offer free and creative workshops for children year-round, and their themes change each month. Lowe’s recently finished up cool Marvel character items, but you can check the schedule to see what’s being crafted next! The Home Depot offers free workshops the first Saturday of each month, and Lowe’s free clinics are every other Saturday morning.
5. Make a pressed flowers and leaves journal.
Kids always love picking flowers and finding unique leaves. Make a pressed flower and leaf journal, and record when and where you found each. Pressed flower kits can be purchased at any craft store, but you can make your own easily with items found at home! Directions here at BHG.com!
6. Watch hot air balloons take flight.
Who doesn’t stop to watch a big hot air balloon in the sky? With near perfect weather, autumn is an awesome time to check out HotAirBalloon.com. It lists hot air balloon festivals all over the world!
7. Discover nature’s wonders at outdoor museums and preserves.
Fall brings all sorts of cool changes in nature that can be experienced at outdoor nature preserves and museums. Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in New York, for instance, offers a unique (and cheap) opportunity for the entire family to help catch and tag Monarch Butterflies before they begin their migration to Mexico.
Dawes Arboretum and other outdoor preserves often offer free admission to their grounds for "strolling" and sometimes offered guided tours to showcase seasonal changes.
8. Have an adventure at a pick-your-own apple farm.
Visit PickYourOwn.org to find a farm near you, and grab a bushel of fresh apples that are prime (and cheap!) for the picking. You don’t even have to wait till Halloween to make caramel apples! Children love decorating these sticky, sweet treats with sprinkles, nuts and mini-chocolate chips any time of the year.
9. Kick off autumn with a fall-themed meal or treat.
Little ones love to get messy and help in the kitchen. Let them cut out cookie "chips" from pre-packaged pie crust with fall-themed cookie cutters and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. After baking, dip them in a mixture of cream cheese, vanilla and cinnamon sugar. Pampered Chef has a great recipe!
10. Take the kids on a fall scavenger hunt.
Crisp autumn weather is great for exploring the trails. Pack some hike-friendly snacks, print off a great fall scavenger hunt list, and have a fun discovery day! National Geographic has a list of the 10 Best Family-Friendly Trails.
11. Craft a cozy no-sew blanket together.
This is a great, cheap, simple, and fun fall project to do with the kids! Let them pick their own fluffy patterned fleece, and after you cut the strips for them, let them help tie the ends. Perfect for snuggling during a cold movie night! Easy-to-follow directions available on this YouTube video.
12. Go fly a kite you’ve made together.
Fall’s cool breezes make for great kiting weather! Help your kids craft a homemade kite using KCL’s easy instructions, then let them decorate it with stickers and markers. Find a place with plenty of unobstructed, open sky, and let it fly!
13. Visit a pumpkin patch with corn mazes and free hay rides.
Not only will kids love trying to find the biggest pumpkin in the patch, many farms offer free tractor-pulled hay rides and corn mazes this time of year that are fun for the entire family. Don’t forget to grab some cornstalks and Indian corn while you’re there for all your fall decorating. Check your local paper or social media for pumpkin patches near you.
14. Use old clothes to make a family of scarecrows for the front yard.
Scarecrows aren’t just for the garden, and they’re perfect all autumn long. Kids will adore spending the afternoon with you crafting a family of scarecrows from old clothes.
15. Design a "no cut" Mod Podge pumpkin with the kids.
Kids don’t have to sit on the sidelines while you carve their pumpkins for them. Give them their own pumpkins, some different colored leaves, and some Mod Podge (sparkly version, please). Let them dip the leaves in a small saucer full of glue and then smooth them out on the pumpkin’s surface. Or, just use festive foam stickers. Then they can draw faces on with puffy paint bottles or paint markers! This is a super-cute way to let them get into the pumpkin mood without all the risky knives and cutting tools.
16. Have movie nights with a DIY projector.
Forget the drive-in! For more dollars, you can turn your smartphone into a projector! This project is perfect for those colder fall days when kids can’t play outside. Simply hang a white sheet as a screen, add a few blankets for the ground, and you’re all set for your home-theater experience. May we add that homemade popcorn balls are the coolest snack for this?