With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving right around the corner, the time to embrace autumn is rapidly coming to an end. I admit I’m kind of a purist. I love the season and want to savor it until December, despite the fact that Christmas decorations started appearing even before Thanksgiving this year. But life seems to have become so much busier in recent years! There was a time when my kids decorated place mats for every person in the family for Thanksgiving dinner, and we took walks by the lake to see the changing colors. But nowadays I need activities that my children can complete by themselves, and that don’t require supplies that aren’t already in the house. Here is my list of fun, easy, and fabulous activities for busy families.

1. Fallen Leaves

Forget about far flung walks to gather leaves of all shapes, sizes, and colors. You don’t need to take a special outing to see changing colors. Leaves are falling just about everywhere. Send your children out with a basket and have them collect their favorites. Back at home they can use string to create a garland of leaves to use for decoration. Alternatively, they can arrange leaves in a glass bowl, use them to decorate a mantle, or press them into an unused frame for display.

2. Fall-Ish Fare

On cold fall days, surprise your kids with hot apple cider, and make your house smell deliciously fall-ish at the same time.  Pour some apple juice or cider in a crockpot with cinnamon sticks and a little lemon, and serve it up in steaming mugs. It tastes (and smells) amazing, and provides a spicy taste of fall. In fact, keep the slow cooker out and make quick and hearty soups, stews, and chili to keep your busy family well fed.

3. Playful Pumpkins

By this point in the fall, most of us have accumulated a few pumpkins. It’s too late for carving, but you can encourage your kids use them for a variety of activities.  They can use paint, yarn, stickers, and other materials to create pumpkin heads, play a pumpkin stacking game, or (my personal favorite) set up disposable cups and use the pumpkin as a ball in a game of pumpkin bowling.

4. Gratitude Countdown

Create a new family ritual to celebrate Thanksgiving. During Thanksgiving week, have every member of the family think of things they are grateful for, and add everyone’s contributions to a poster board to create a family gratitude list. Let your kids decorate the poster with stickers, markers, glitter, and other craft materials. Save the poster, and create a new one every year.

I hope fall brings you happy times, despite the lack of it!