Fall is finally here, and when you’ve got little ones, that means it’s time to spend as much time as possible outdoors before being cooped up for the winter! I love to host parties for the neighborhood moms and their kids, and since my son gets so excited for arts and crafts, I thought it would be fun to throw an educational Fall Festival this season, instead of a traditional Halloween Party.
For me, it’s important that our parties include educational activities, so kids aren’t just playing with toys while the parents eat and drink. I’m always looking for a way to teach my kids through hands-on activities, and parties are the perfect opportunity for them to learn — while having fun at the same time!
Here are five activities I included in our Fall Festival:
1. Wax Paper Leaf Placemats
Nothing says fall like beautiful, vibrant leaves, and this simple craft will capture them in all their glory. These placemats can be used as table settings or even as window decorations.
A few days before the party, I like to take the kids outside to collect some colorful leaves and twigs — this in itself is an adventure! I’ll point out the green leaves still on trees and those that have fallen to the ground, then explain why this happens in the fall. My son has a ball racing to grab the red, orange and yellow leaves as they flutter to the ground, and we take the opportunity to practice his colors. Eventually, we head home with our findings and store them in a plastic bag, then press them between two pieces of newspaper overnight to dry before beginning our crafts.
To create the placemats, you’ll need some wax paper, fun washi tape and an iron. Begin by sandwiching the leaves in between two pieces of wax paper, then take an old towel and place on top of the wax paper. Iron them on high heat until the wax melts and the two pieces fuse together. Finally, seal the edges with colorful tape. Now you have cute placemats for your table!
I love how festive the placemats turned out and we’ve been using them for all our meals. You can find a detailed DIY tutorial here.
2. DIY Spiced Playdough
This craft is a great opportunity to teach kids about the way spices taste and smell — and to get their hands a little messy! You probably already have all of the ingredients in your pantry, and mixing them up is fun for kids of any age — even if it does tend to get all over the place.
Simply combine flour, salt, cream of tartar, vegetable oil and boiling water to create a non-toxic dough that can be used to create sculptures. Add food coloring to make the dough pretty fall colors such as orange, yellow, red or brown. Then choose a seasonal scent for that special touch — my son loves cinnamon, so we use the spice along with a bit of red food coloring.
I’d recommend using this activity as a make-and-take for party guests so kids can choose their own scent, or make a variety of colors and scents ahead of time and give them away as party favors. This great blog post provides all of the details you need to get started.
3. Woodland Animal Masks
Do your kids like to play pretend? My son is really into rabbits right now, and he wanted to be able to dress up as one for the party. For our Fall Festival, we created woodland animal masks out of felt for guests. All you need is colored felt, a sewing machine, interfacing and ribbon. To get started, use the template provided in this sewing tutorial.
The masks are not only cute, but they offer a great opportunity to teach kids about woodland animal behavior and hibernation. During the winter months, certain animals like bears, skunks and even some turtles will rest as it gets cold. At the party, you can explain to kids why this happens and which animals they may not see again until the spring.
4. DIY Painted Leaf Luminaries
The sun is setting earlier, so you might have longer periods of darkness when kids are awake. Colored twinkle lights are always a hit in my house, but luminaries are a fun way to light up a party too, both indoors and out. You can use them to line your driveway, pretty up your porch, or even keep them inside to use as table decorations. Making your own is a fun DIY afternoon project, but I will warn you it’s not a great activity for smaller kids — especially if you choose to use paint like I did for these leaf luminaries.
First, purchase brown or white paper bags from your local grocery store. Be sure to get the traditional paper kind, and not the gift bags with the waxy coating. Lay these out on a table covered with newspaper. Next, find an old spray bottle and fill it with acrylic paint in a seasonal color along with about 1 Tablespoon of water, then mix it together.
Lay out some leaves across the sandwich bags — these will act as stencils. Using the spray bottle, squirt your paint over the surface of the bag. Once the paint has dried, remove the leaves and you should see a silhouette of the leaf shape left behind. Allow one side to dry completely before flipping the bag over to paint the other side. Once the bags are completely dry, fill the bottoms with sand or pebbles to keep them from falling over. Finally, drop in tea lights or small battery-powered lights to light up the darkness.
5. Make-Your-Own-Granola Bar
Any kind of assemble-your-own-food item is great for both kids and adults. Our house is known for having all kinds of different Make-Your-Own Bars at our seasonal parties. It allows for everyone to customize their snack based on diet and food preferences. For the Fall Festival, I went with a simple granola bar with colorful toppings for guests.
Begin by making a basic granola ahead of time using this recipe. Leave out any fruits or seeds, since these are going to be added by guests later.
Then, gather an assortment of yummy, seasonal toppings — think dried cranberries, golden raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon and sugar, and dried apples. Pour each topping into a small bowl, and don’t forget to add a cute spoon to each dish! Invite your guests to make their own granola and take it home in a mason jar as a thank-you party favor. Attach a fun sticker and you’re all set!
How do you celebrate the fall season with your kids?