Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean your kids have to bring their fun and games inside. Anyone with kiddos knows that cooler temperatures won’t stop kids from having fun — inside or out. Scroll down for 15 simple and easy ideas that will have your kids throwing on their jackets and heading out the door before you can say, “Go play!”
photo: Happy Hooligans
1. Make a leaf labyrinth. Before you rake your yard (and sweep all that amazing fun away!), let your kids push the leaves into pathways to make a labyrinth they can wander through again and again. Your kids will love running around their own mazes. Get the how-to from Happy Hooligans.
2. Speaking of leaves, there are so many things to do with fall’s crinkly cast-offs that your kids won’t need much! For younger leaf-collectors, a simple game of figuring out which tree the leaf fell from is a great intro to the outdoors; while older kids can collect whole piles of fallen leaves and make mountains, slides and more. Check out this perfect roundup of leaf-play ideas from Rhythms of Play.
3. Play Star Wars with sticks. We know. Sticks. But are they really that different than the $60 light saber they’re begging for their birthdays? Nah. (Pssst: Want to up the stick-sword ante? Buy one of these silicon “Sword Creators” that basically turn your plain old sticks into something way cooler.)
4. Have a TIC-TAC-TOE-style seasonal scavenger hunt. Make a few rows of squares and draw simple pictures of seasonal-specific items for kids to find. Then, give them a dot marker or a pen and let them go. The first one to finish a row (or the whole card) wins!
photo: Melissa Heckscher
5. Enjoy story time in the shade. Fresh air. Some blankets. A book. Perfection.
6. Play pickup sticks with sticks from the yard. Whether you go all out and paint the sticks you collect different colors or leave them au natural, this old-school game gets new legs with a larger-than-life game board—your yard!
7. Play Hopscotch. Forget the rules to the game? Get a refresher here. And, if you want some more fun yard games, here are some great classics to keep your backyardigans busy.
photo: Melissa Heckscher
8. Look for spiders and spiderwebs. Autumn is spider season! What better time to get your little bug-lovers out and looking for evidence of arachnids than the days leading up to the spideriest day of all (Halloween). Hint: Most spiders come out at night, so if you really want to spot some good creepy-crawlers, head out when the sun goes down… if you dare. Want some fun activities to turn your spider hunt into a full-on lesson plan? Check out this spider-centric activities post from the Montessori-inspired mom blog Carrots Are Orange.
9. Make a wish flower bouquet and give it to someone who needs a pick-me-up. Those spring and summer dandelions have likely long gone white. If you don’t mind spreading thousands of new seeds for next year, collect a bunch of these delicate “wish flowers” and tie them up in a bow to give to someone who needs a little extra luck.
photo: Jessica Lucia via flickr
10. Make an outdoor obstacle course. Get your Ninja Warriors crawling, running, and hopping away with a homemade obstacle course you can make with stuff you already have on hand. Ladders (laying flat on the ground!), couch cushions, cardboard boxes, and hula hoops, all make for perfect obstacles. Get inspired with these ideas.
11. Play hide and seek. Because no matter how many times your kids play it, they’ll still want to keep playing it.
12. Have a candy corn hunt. ‘Tis the season for that delicious orange-and-yellow candy. So get in the spirit by having this fall’s version of an Easter Egg Hunt! Put handfuls of candy corn into small colorful bags and hide them around your yard (or a playground) to get kids tearing through the terrain for sweets.
13. Get gardening. Not all flowers need spring and summer’s sunshine to thrive. Get your green thumbs into the garden and plant some flowers that will keep your yard popping with color even as the temps start to drop. Pansies, asters, and zinnias are all flowers that can brave colder days, according to this fun fall gardening how-to from Scholastic. Now is also a great time to plant bulbs that will sprout in springtime. Don’t know which ones will last the winter? Better Homes & Gardens has a great go-to list.
photo: Aikawa Ke via Flickr
14. Build a scarecrow. It’ll look great on Halloween night and may actually keep some pesky birds at bay. The DIY Network has an easy step-by-step (that’ll require a grown-up to supervise). Or, if you want to do something different (and, if you ask us, totally creepy), Hands on As We Grow has this great instructional on how to make a kid-sized scarecrow that’ll make it look like you’ve got a tiny pumpkin-headed toddler hanging out in your yard.
15. Make a fort. Hideouts have no season! Use sticks, leaves, blankets, and overhanging tree branches to construct a perfect fort (see some easy instructions here). Got a cardboard box and a whole lot of leaves? This blogger found a great way to use both for a totally camouflaged hideaway.
How do you keep the kiddos happy in the great outdoors? Don’t be shy. Tell us all your secrets in the comments section below!
—Shelley Massey and Melissa Heckscher
featured photo: lecates via flickr