When I was little and people would ask what my favorite season was, my response was always fall! I’ve always loved everything about it–from the beautiful colors and the cooler weather that offers relief from hot summer temperatures, to the excitement for the holidays that are just around the corner. As a kid, fall meant doing all kinds of fun things with my family. Although we never did anything big, my mom always made a great effort to make the season fun for us, from the simplest of planned activities to just spending time together. As my own children are growing, I’ve decided that it’s time to start some traditions that we can all look forward to from year to year! So if you’re looking to fill your autumn bucket list with fun activities for the whole family to enjoy, look no further! Here are my top 21 ideas to help you create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime, plus some tips on how to implement those traditions so they’re extra special for everyone!
Tips for Starting Traditions
I always hated when my teachers in elementary school would ask about family traditions. I always felt like I had nothing good to share. Looking back, I have realized that this couldn’t be further from the truth! Sometimes I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to create these HUGE, extravagant traditions with our families, that we can quickly become overwhelmed. But some of the simplest things can be the most beautiful. Here are some things to keep in mind when starting new traditions with your fam this autumn!
Include Everyone in the Planning!
Kids LOVE to feel like they have a say in things. I’m sure all of us have had experience with this. Like when it’s time to get dressed and our toddler requests the most unique and mismatched outfit possible. Kids, just like adults, want to feel like their thoughts and opinions are valid and that they have a say in what’s happening around them. In fact, allowing kiddos to choose and involving them in plans that impact the whole family is extremely important to their development. Not only does it teach them that they are respected, but it can actually promote independence, encourage creativity, and build confidence!
It’s also so important to include our kids in the planning process so that we are choosing activities that our families actually want to do. Sometimes I get so caught up in finding activities that I think my family will enjoy, that I forget to stop and think about what would actually be enjoyed by everyone. If we want to create traditions that will build lasting memories, we should probably be doing things that everyone has fun doing, right?
So include those kiddos when planning out those fun fall activities. And include your spouse as well! Not only will it teach your kids they’re valued and you respect their opinions, but it will also ensure you’re doing things everyone will actually enjoy!
Use a Calendar!
Even with my best intentions, time gets away from me. I have a list of ideas and activities I want to do as a family, but all the stresses of adulthood and parenting can take me away from actually going through with the planning of said activities. And before I realize it, fall is over and winter is here! That’s why it can be so helpful to use a calendar. Once you decide as a family what activities you’d like to do this fall, schedule them on the family calendar so that everyone will remember.
Don’t Over Plan
I’m sure I’m not the only one who can get overwhelmed with all the fun things I want to do each holiday or season with my kids. But it’s important to leave time to just be. Our whole lives do not need to be scheduled out, and doing so can leave you with anxiety, stress, and even guilt when we don’t get to everything.
Remember, your kids WILL remember the things you do together even if it’s just one or two things that you end up doing this fall.
You Don’t Have to Plan Huge Activities
As parents, we may feel like we need something BIG for our kids to have a memorable or special childhood–big gifts, big vacations, big everything. But in reality, bigger is not always better. When it comes to building memories and creating traditions, it’s more important that we are laughing together and enjoying our time with one another.
Even the simplest thing like walking through the park and looking at the fall leaves can be the best way to strengthen your family bond.
21 Fun Fall Family Tradition Ideas
Now, let’s take a look at some super fun fall activities you can do with your family. Again, don’t feel like you have to conquer the whole list. Pick activities as a family you all will enjoy and make those your fall traditions!
1. First Day of Fall Gift Basket
Create an adorable gift basket for your kiddos and gift it to them on the first day of fall or the first day of September or October! Just find a cute little basket for your kiddos and include a new fall-themed book, some fall themed treats, and a new fall outfit!
For babies, you can include adorable new fall bibs or a snuggly new blanket with a fun fall print or color. If you don’t love seasonal prints, you can also just get your kiddos cozy new sweaters! You can do one basket for each kid, or a large one for everyone to share! Although the first day of fall recently passed us, this is a fun tradition your kids are sure to look forward to from year to year!
2. First Day of Fall Movie Night
Our family loves to have movie nights together! We go shopping and each pick out our favorite treats, then come home and plop down and snuggle into our blankets to enjoy a good movie together. Add a fall twist to this by making it a tradition to watch some movies that take place in fall or that revolve around fall holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving!
Hold your fall movie night on the first night of fall or on the first day of October if you love Halloween movies. You could also do a movie night each week and feature a different seasonal movie each time. Not sure what movies to stream or toss into your Blu-ray player? Here’s a list of 25 great family-friendly movies to get you in the mood for fall!
3. Create a Cozy Fall Reading Nook
Holiday and seasonal books are my favorite types of books to purchase. But sometimes they get all mixed in with our other books that we forget we even have them. Create a cozy reading nook with pillows, blankets, and a book basket to store all your fun fall themed books! If you’re like me and like displaying the covers, you can also find some great floating shelves that you can install at eye level that kiddos can grab and enjoy at their own free will.
Photo Credit: This Bliss Life
4. Make a Fall Garland
Creating your own décor for your home can be one of the best activities you can do as a family. My daughter loves to be creative and she especially loves to display her art, so why not combine the two by making your own fall decorations.
One of my favorites is making fall garlands. It’s a great, quiet activity you can do together, and young kids can work on their dexterity and fine motor skills in the process. Check out some of these other fun DIY fall decor ideas you can do with your kids!
5. Leaf Crafts
Leaves make some of the coolest designs when dipped in paint! Collect leaves with your kiddos, pour out some paint, and let them dip and stamp their leaves onto some paper or canvas. You can even buy canvas totes for fairly cheap at your local craft store and let your kids design and stamp their own fall library book bag!
Photo Credit: A Piece of Rainbow
6. Carve or Paint Pumpkins
Although this is a classic activity, it’s something we did every year without fail. My mom would grow pumpkins in our backyard, and we’d get to wander out and pick our own special pumpkin. We’d then proceed to think up the most complex design and force my dad to carve it for us.
Now that I’m a mom, I tend to opt for the simpler painting of the pumpkins. Not only is it less pumpkin mess, but my daughter loves to be able to pick out her paint colors and use her creativity to transform her pumpkin however she wants. This is a great alternative to carving, especially for younger kids, as it encourages independence and creativity. (Be sure to check out these other cute no-carve pumpkin ideas if you hate the pumpkin guts as much as I do!)
7. Fall Gratitude Pumpkin or “Grati-Turkey”
This is similar to decorating pumpkins, but adds a special touch that I wanted to include it as it’s own idea! Paint a large pumpkin, and have each member of your family take turns writing something they’re grateful for! You can do this as an activity on a single night or span it over the course of a month by having one person add something each day.
We love to do this in November using a turkey. We cut colorful feathers out of construction paper and each day we add a feather with what we are grateful for written on it. This is a great way to prep for Thanksgiving in November and encourage your kiddos to be grateful every day!
8. Soup or Chili Potluck
I’ve never been a huge soup or chili fan, but I definitely won’t say no to either once October hits and temperatures start to drop. Pick out a recipe together as a family, buy the ingredients and make it together. This also makes a really fun neighbor activity! Invite some other families and friends over and invite them to bring their own soup or chili as well as the recipe to share. Then everyone can enjoy each other’s creations together!
9. Pumpkin Hot Cocoa Bar
I love a good hot cocoa bar with all the toppings and treats that go along with it. After your favorite fall outing, come home and make some delicious hot cocoa together. Make it extra special by letting your kiddos pick their own hot cocoa flavors, from rich and creamy vanilla and classic chocolate to decadent pumpkin hot cocoa!
Grab some toppings at the grocery store and crazy Halloween straws from the dollar tree and allow your kiddos to customize and enjoy their own hot cocoa. I love to get Piroulines, cinnamon sticks, and of course whipped cream!
Photo Credit: It Happens in a Blink
10. Pie Baking
We LOVE pie. And some of the most iconic pie flavors are baked as soon as October hits. From fresh apple pie with apples straight from the orchard, to rich and delicious pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving! Baking together with your kids teaches them important skills and fundamentals of baking while also allowing them to be involved in creating something they get to enjoy with you later!
Don’t love pie? Apple crisp is a great option as well! And if you have kids that love to be extra creative, try some fun pie crust designs! Here are some cute pie crust designs for fall!
11. Caramel Fondue Party
I love a good caramel apple, but I always struggle to be able to eat them without making a huge mess. If you like the traditional caramel apple, stick with that! If not, make things simple and easy for you and your kiddos by slicing up some apples and having a fondue party!
Warm some caramel, milk chocolate, and white chocolate and let your kiddos dip their apple slices. (You could also get jumbo marshmallows, pretzels, or strawberries for dipping!) Make it extra fun by providing other toppings like sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, or mashed Oreos that they can dip their apple slice into.
Photo Credit: Simple Easy Creative
12. Decorate Sugar Cookies
As a kid, my mom would always make sugar cookies when it was a holiday. I absolutely loved to help decorate them once they were done cooling. You can find lots of adorable fall cookie cutters, from leaves and pumpkins to ghosts for Halloween! You can also buy really cute leaf shaped sprinkles to throw on top!
13. Homemade Donuts & Apple Cider
Anything warm and fresh is my go-to in the fall! Homemade donuts are not only delicious, but making them together after a morning of raking leaves is a great tradition your kiddos will remember forever! Don’t forget the fresh apple cider to go with it!
Photo Credit: Bless This Mess
14. Canning Garden Goodies
Some of my greatest memories in the fall were visiting my grandparent’s home to help can, freeze, and dry all the goodies we harvested from the garden. We’d freeze corn and peas, can beans, and dry apples we picked from their orchard!
I loved helping my mom and grandparents even though I’m sure they did 98% of the work! This definitely became one of my most cherished traditions from my childhood! Even if you’re not a big gardener, you can often find local farmers selling fresh corn in the fall, or get fresh apples from the orchard.
15. Visit the Pumpkin Patch
Visiting the pumpkin patch is definitely a fan favorite in fall. Take your kiddos, let them pick their favorite pumpkin and bring it home for decorating. Then display that beauty on your front porch for everyone to enjoy! Just don’t forget that wagon when you head to the patch! Many pumpkin patches will also have hayrides, hay bale or corn mazes, or even fun activities and crafts for kids.
16. Fall Hike
One of the best things about fall is the gorgeous falling leaves. One of the best places to experience this is on a hike, where you’re literally surrounded with thousands of trees that are all shedding leaves of different colors and shapes.
Find a short little hike near you that your whole family can enjoy, grab your wagon, your warm sweaters and beanies and go immerse yourself in the beauty of Autumn. Make it extra fun for young kids by collecting leaves and comparing their different shapes and colors.
17. Rake Leaves
It wouldn’t be fall if we didn’t combine chores with fun, right? I always loved raking leaves because it meant we got to jump in the pile and throw them in the air. Turn this into a fun family tradition by raking the leaves together each Saturday. This can also be a great service tradition by going together as a family each week to help rake leaves for a neighbor that may need the help!
18. Visit a Vintage Market or Flea Market
Another activity I loved to do each fall was attend Vintage Market Days. You can find so many unique and fun decorations to fill your home with for fall while enjoying some time together as a family. If Vintage Market Days doesn’t come to your area, check out local flea markets to see what’s running in your area this fall. Then go home and enjoy some of that yummy hot cocoa.
19. Go Apple Picking
Go apple picking, then use those apples and bake those pies we talked about earlier. For young children, this is also a great opportunity to teach them all about apples, their life cycles, and how we can go from a seed to a pie, all while they’re involving them in the process!
If you’re not interested in apple picking, some “you pick” farms will have other items you can pick in the fall as well. Check out this U-Pick Farm Locator to find a great location near you.
20. Check Out Local Events
Almost everywhere you go, there will be local events you can attend yearly! When we lived in Northern Utah, our city held a Pumpkin Walk where businesses and organizations all over the valley could make a scene using pumpkins. Guests could then visit the park and walk the paths that were lined with these amazing pumpkin scenes. We loved to attend this free activity as a family each fall.
Many zoos will also hold Boo at the Zoo activities. Simply google what family fall activities are in your area, and you are sure to find some great events to attend each year.
21. Go on a Vacation
Sometimes it’s just nice to get away, and there’s so many gorgeous places to visit in the world during autumn! Decide on a budget and plan a getaway, big or small!
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, pick a nearby city or town and just stay in a hotel for a few days and attend the local fall events happening in that area. If your budget is a bit bigger, take a trip to Disneyland, where their fall decorations are out of this world!
Photo Credit: Polka Dots and Pixie Dust
Other Ways to Make Autumn Extra Special in Your Home!
Essential Oils & Fall Scented Candles
For those indoor activities, I love to always light a yummy fall scented candle! It can make any activity seem so much better when my home smells like pumpkins or cinnamon! There are also some great essential oils you can put in your diffuser that can bring the fall spirit if you don’t love candles!
I also love to have my daughter come with me to Bath and Body Works or Target to pick out some yummy fall hand soaps and dish soap. There’s just something about delicious smells that can trigger good memories and make the season so much sweeter!
End All Outdoor Activities with a Warm Drink
Although I think hot cocoa makes a great activity in and of itself, I feel like every outdoor activity in the fall should end by going home, sitting in front of the fire, and enjoying some delicious warm apple cider, wassail, or hot cocoa. No need to go super fancy every time with all the mix-ins and toppings, but simply drinking some delicious fall drinks can warm our spirits and end an activity on the right note!
Decorate Your Home
No matter what season or holiday, I always looked forward most to getting out our boxes of decorations. It always gives me a boost in spirit, and allows me to freshen up my home just a bit. You don’t need big bins of decorations to do so. Even just picking out a few cute pieces and decorating together can be one of the best traditions for any season!
No matter what fun fall activities you have on your family bucket list this fall, you’re sure to create some incredible memories that your kiddos will cherish for a lifetime. And who knows, maybe they’ll continue those traditions with their own kids someday, even those simple and seemingly insignificant activities you plan for them!