11 fun fall activities to get the whole family (and pets) outside this fall

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: Four-year-old local resident Hailey Bruno plays with her father Joe on a pile of fallen leaves at the Tidal Basin on a warm evening November 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Unseasonably warm weather in the Eastern U.S. has made the first few days of November feel more like late Summer. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: Four-year-old local resident Hailey Bruno plays with her father Joe on a pile of fallen leaves at the Tidal Basin on a warm evening November 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Unseasonably warm weather in the Eastern U.S. has made the first few days of November feel more like late Summer. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) /

While it can be tempting to let the colder days of fall keep you in a blanket on your couch, the crisp air and vibrant colors of fall are too good to miss. Sometimes, you just need some creativity to get your family outdoors and encourage them to move around and take in the goodness of nature.

These 10 fall activities will help you schedule some time outdoors with your family and furry friends.

Fall-Themed Games

Ring in the new season with these three autumn games the whole family will love.

1. Treasure Hunt

Collect or buy fun fall items like cookie cutters, candy corn, squishy pumpkin stress toys, or fall-themed pencils. Then, hide them, show your kids the list of treats and have them rummage through leaf piles of different sizes to find the items. You can also find items for adults, like scented candles or jars of healthy cookies.

You can also have a treasure hunt for your pets — though you might want to keep this separate. Ask your kids to help you hide your dog or cat’s favorite treats and toys around the garden. Instead of leaves, you can use a sheet or a blanket. If you have smaller pets like rabbits or hamsters, create a forage tray or forage box, and add shredded paper and treats like apple slices and carrot with mint or parsley.

2. Leaf Pile Jumping

This is a classic activity the whole family will love. Gather everyone and rake up the leaves in your garden. When you’re done, jump! You get a clean backyard at the end of it and it’s a fun way to get everyone’s blood pumping. The benefits of jumping for your health include burning calories, building strength, improving heart health and a faster metabolism.

You can also put a spin on this activity by making a leaf pile trail for smaller kids to follow. Challenge them to jump into the small piles without touching the space on the ground in between. You can add other challenges like hopping on one leg, jumping backward or skipping.

3. Pumpkin Golf

All you need for this game is a mini golf kit, a carving knife and a pumpkin. If you’re not a fan of pumpkin guts, you can buy artificial carvable pumpkins.

Carve pumpkin faces with an expression long enough to touch the floor. Create different pumpkin faces and place them in different corners of your yard to create a golf course.

If you have kids younger than 8, you can use a strip of felt to guide the ball in and make it easier for them to putt. They will still reap the health benefits of golf, like good hand-eye coordination and improved muscle memory, even if it’s slightly easier. You can also turn the golf course into a night activity by placing small rechargeable lights or candles in the pumpkins.

Make sure you have a distraction or alternative activity for your pets. They might be fascinated by the golf balls and think it’s time to play fetch. You can use tennis balls or tug toys as distractions while people focus on making a hole-in-one.

Outdoor Adventures

Ready to get the family out and about? Try these three outdoor adventures so you can explore the great outdoors.

4. Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

Many indoor and outdoor scavenger-hunt sheets are available online that teach kids observation skills, and help them recognize and learn about plant, animals, and bugs in nature. Why not add a twist and make your own with landmarks and special stops in your neighborhood?

You could create a nature scavenger hunt with different types of trees, animals and plants, and stop at a local dog park to find more items and play fetch with your pets. Or, add drawings or pictures of interesting buildings or houses in your neighborhood and stop at the library. It will be great exercise for the whole family, and you can picnic in the park or borrow a few library books.

5. Camping

Look for interesting campgrounds in your area with hiking trails and take a weekend trip. Pack extra water and a light snack for your dogs. Throughout the hike, keep an eye on them for signs of overheating like excessive panting or drooling.  If this is your first time hiking with your kids, pick a short and engaging course, pack some high-energy snacks, and prepare games and songs for entertainment.

You can also camp out in your backyard. You’ll need some activities for this since exploration space might be limited. You could have a pumpkin carving contest between members of the family, or classic activities like the ring toss, apple bobbing and a sack race. In the evening, build a campfire, and tell spooky stories with smores and hot cocoa.

6. Fancy Outdoor Dinner

Set a theme and get everyone to dress up. You can get ribbons or bowties for your pets, and treat them to their favorite food in a special bowl to get them involved. Bring out your fine china and prettiest tablecloth to make the dinner special. You can have people decide on decor items like flowers or vases together, and set the table together before everyone gets dressed.

It’s an opportunity to make family memories and try new fall recipes like butternut soup spiced with cumin, curry powder, and ginger, or roasted sweet potato salad with arugula, avocado, red onion, nuts, seeds, dried cranberries and feta. You can also put those cookie cutters from the leaf-pile hunt to good use and find some nutritious autumn cookie recipes to bake as a family.

7. Outdoor puzzles

Puzzles are great mental stimulation for dogs and kids. You can buy a giant jigsaw puzzle for your kids to solve on the driveway or make your own.

To make a giant jigsaw puzzle:

  • Get a large format photo printed at a copy store or postage store.
  • Glue the picture to a large piece of cardboard.
  • Use a kid’s puzzle as a template to draw the jigsaw pattern on the empty side of the cardboard.
  • Cut out the patterns, separate the pieces and ensure all corners are glued properly.

You can fill up food dispensing puzzles with treats or peanut butter for your pets to play with.

Community Events

Connect with the locals in these two community-based fall events.

8. Farmers Market

Support your local farmers and visit a market for some seasonal favorites. You can find anything from fresh organic fruit and vegetables to pies and specialty desserts made with homegrown ingredients. Usually, farmers markets also have a local band playing or activities for the family to enjoy, so you can make it a day trip for everyone.

This is your chance to stock up on healthy snacks and treats. While it’s okay to treat your kids to pumpkin spice Dunkin’ Donuts occasionally, fast food can encourage your kids to become picky eaters, so you want to have equally delicious options.

9. Neighborhood Bake-Off

Consider hosting a fall-themed bake-off if you have nearby neighbors. You can ask families in your community to sign up for the competition, and bake treats with ingredients like cinnamon, apple and pumpkin.

This is an opportunity to share some of your healthy dessert recipes and exchange them with your neighbors. You can also get some people to sign up as judges to choose the best recipe at the event.

Garden Projects

Want to get your yard ready for fall? Get the family involved with these fun fall activities.

10. Plant Flowers

This is an all-inclusive family activity everyone will enjoy. Plus, it’s a great way to spend some quality time outdoors and learn more about gardening.

The cooler temperatures of the fall make it a great time to plant bulbs and flower bushes. If you want the plants to bloom in season, plant mums, nasturtiums and pansies. Tulips, daffodils and snow drops are flowers you can plant in autumn if you can wait for spring to see the fruits of your labor. If you don’t have a fence or separate garden area without pet access, you may want to choose pet-safe options to replace the tulips and daffodils.

11. Make Squirrel and Bird Feeders

You can use a pine cone and some string to make a bird feeder. Spread some peanut butter over the pinecone, roll it in some bird seed and hang the feeder where birds can reach it. For the squirrels, get the family’s handyperson to do some research and make a squirrel picnic table. You can feed squirrels seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Studies show bird watching can combat stress and improve mental well-being for up to eight hours. You’ll enjoy watching the birds stop by for a snack and make new squirrel friends who will occasionally visit you.

Spend Quality Time Outdoors With Your Family This Fall

Pull out your fall sweaters and boots, and try some fun activities to entertain the whole family. Whether it’s an outdoor adventure or a fall-themed game, your family will appreciate the opportunity to move around and spend quality time together.

Next. 5 fun things to do with your dog during the summer. dark